RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – N.C. State head basketball coach Kevin Keatts could see something in Manny Bates that maybe others could not.
“He’s going to lead the ACC in shot blocks,” Keatts predicted of Bates. “And they (Wolfpack assistant coaches) were ‘like no way.’ And he did it his first year playing.”
Bates blocked 83 shots in his redshirt freshman season – which did indeed lead the ACC while ranking sixth nationally.
Amazingly, it took only 15 games for Bates to set the school record for blocked shots by a freshman.
“It’s just always been a fascinating thing to be a shot blocker,” said Bates.
The ability to block shots didn’t come without a bit of help watching those who perfected the art, according to Bates.
“The majority of the time it was Dwight Howard during his Orlando Magic days,” Bates confided in who he studied. “Lately Montrezl Harrell, throwbacks like Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) and Dikembe Mutombo. So it just always been a fascinating thing to be a shot blocker.”
Outstanding on the defensive end of the court, Bates though, had his struggles on the offensive side a year ago.
The Fayetteville native averaged just five points per game. Being more of an offensive force is where Bates has put his focus.
“Ever since we shut down in March, I’ve been working on like me shooting and building my confidence,” said Bates. “Lately my confidence in practice has been through the roof. I’m calling for the ball more and not being affraid to go to my moves and score the ball.”
His teammates have taken notice.
“Manny’s a great post player,” said N.C. State senior forward D.J. Funderburk. “This year he’s got a whole lot more confidence in his own abilities and it’s going to attract defenses because he’s a problem down low.”
Bates was not a factor offensively a year ago and that made it easy for opposing defenses to focus on just four players.
Keatts feels that won’t be the case this year.
“He’s coming along offensively,” Keatts bragged. “He’s starting to get a lot more confident around the basket. His development has been really, really huge for us this summer. He’s starting to believe in himself.”
And Bates has a belief in his team as well.
“Honestly the sky is the limit for us,” confided Bates. “We’ve got a lot of experienced guys in Devon (Daniels) and D.J. who know what’s going to happen through any situations and we can go to them in any tough situation.”
And now, for the first time, Bates feels his teammates can count on him as well to deliver a basket when needed. And those spectacular shot blocks from a year ago?
Well, that’s not about to change.