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Thursday, April 29, 2010
Lowe gets reprieve with star-studded class

By Eamonn Brennan

For a minute there, Sidney Lowe's job was hanging in the balance. NC State athletic director Lee Fowler was faced with an unfortunate decision. Folwer could either fire Sidney Lowe based on Lowe's first four years, in which the Wolfpack experienced almost no success, or Fowler could keep Lowe around long enough for the coach to welcome his first impressive recruiting class and the sudden promise of immediate success.

In the end, hardly wavering, Fowler stuck with Lowe. It paid off.

Yesterday, Lowe got an all-important commitment from the second-best remaining unsigned recruit in the class of 2010, C.J. Leslie. Leslie is an uber-athletic 6-foot-9 power forward who plays "way above the rim," according to his ESPNU and Scouts Inc. evaluation notes. The recruit is the No. 11-ranked player in the class of 2010; his recruiting decision had been narrowed to Kentucky, Connecticut and NC State. In the end, Leslie, who hails from Word of God Academy in Raleigh, N.C. (the same school as former Kentucky star John Wall), chose his home state Wolfpack and delivered a major boost to Lowe's program in the process.

Leslie is the athlète de resistance in Lowe's out-of-nowhere 2010 class. The coach will also welcome Ryan Harrow, the No. 8-ranked point guard in this class, as well as Lorenzo Brown, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Hargrave Military Academy. The class is small but balanced and talent-rich.

What's more, despite Lowe's lack of success in 2009-10, that talent won't join a completely hapless squad. Led by one of the ACC's best big men in junior Tracy Smith, NC State made sincere strides at the beginning of the ACC season. Smith will return for his senior year, providing both scoring and senior leadership to what should be an atypically freshman-heavy squad. With Smith back and this class on the way, the Wolfpack have a chance to not only finish in the top half of the ACC but compete with Virginia Tech for the conference's second tier. (Unless something goes horribly wrong, Duke isn't losing the ACC next year. Sorry.)

But the larger story here is that with his time running short and Wolfpack patience running thin, Sidney Lowe needed to pull a rabbit out of his hat. He did, and it couldn't have come at a better time.