LAST SEASON: 21-13; lost to Kansas in NCAA round of eight.
GOODBYE TO: 6'11" Chris Washburn; g Nate McMillan; g Ernie Myers.
SUPPORTING CAST: f Bennie Bolton; g/f Walker Lambiotte; g Vinny Del Negro.
INTRODUCING: Juco transfer g Kenny Drummond; Indiana transfer 6'9" Mike Giomi.
SEE YOU IN THE SUPERDOME IF: A point guard emerges and Charles Shackleford sharpens his elbows and learns to box out.
To shoulder his burden this season, Charles Shackleford could use a back as broad as his size-19 feet are long. Last season Shack could roam the court unshackled. That was because opponents had their hands full with center Chris Washburn. Shackleford had no complaints playing second fiddle to Wash. "Shack liked to wander, check things out," says coach Jim Valvano. "He was our ranger out there."
No more. Washburn took an early exit last April to "that other division of the ACC,"—a Valvanoism for the NBA. It will be up to Shack to pick up the slack.
Valvano calls his big-footed center Radarman, explaining, "He's mastered the art of shooting without looking at the basket." But Shack's four 20-points-or-better outings as a freshman left no doubt that he can take the rock to the rack. On defense, though, Shack does a splendid imitation of a matador sans cape.
Shackleford sat out the first five games last season to firm up his academic footing. Unleashed against Kansas on national TV, he put up what Valvano called his "OAB" (obligatory air ball), then settled into a starting role. Certain ACC seers had slated the Wolfpack's Walker Lambiotte, rather than Shack, as last season's freshman of impact. But Shackleford's starting, and starring, came as no surprise to his coaches. They had kept tabs on him since 1982, when Shack was a mere shed, a 6'6" ninth-grader at Kinston (N.C.) Junior High. Shackleford showed up at an N.C. State camp that summer in a North Carolina-blue T-shirt and was promptly asked to remove it. He left with a Raleigh-red shirt and committed to State two years later.
A new paisan on Valvano's roster is Indiana transfer Mike Giomi, who is sure Shack's defensive woes are curable. "And coming from Indiana," he says, "I can help out." Yes, but enough? And quickly enough? That may determine how Wolfpack fans spend next spring: marveling at Shack's marked progress, or thinking of Washburn—and what might have been.