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Jeff Eisenberg

C.J. Leslie rewards NC State's faith in coach Sidney Lowe

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NC State athletic director Lee Fowler made an unpopular decision two months ago, giving embattled coach Sidney Lowe a vote of confidence for next season in order to preserve next year's formidable recruiting class.

Today that decision is paying off.

Raleigh native C.J. Leslie, Rivals.com's No. 14 recruit in the class of 2010, committed to NC State on Wednesday, the maraschino cherry on top of a class that is expected to elevate the Wolfpack from the depths of the ACC to the upper tier. Leslie also considered Kentucky and UConn among others.

That Leslie is joining guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown at NC State gives the Wolfpack three top-40 players in next year's class to bolster a team that also returns leading scorer and rebounder center Tracy Smith. NC State went 5-11 in ACC play last year and is just 20-44 in Lowe's disappointing four-year tenure, but the Wolfpack are now in prime position for a quick turnaround.

Elsewhere, the aftershocks of Leslie's mildly surprising decision are significant.

For UConn, it concludes a disappointing 2010 recruiting class that includes several solid players but likely not the centerpiece the Huskies needed to atone for this year's unusually mediocre season.

For Kentucky, it increases the pressure on John Calipari to land highly touted senior forward Terrence Jones to complement a 2010 class that already includes guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, wing Stacey Poole and big man Enes Kanter.

And for Washington, it complicates their quest to land both Jones and high school teammate Terrence Ross. It's still possible both may commit to the Huskies on Friday, but Jones would have been more of a shoo-in for Washington if Leslie had gone to Kentucky and the Wildcats had no longer been an option.

Don't expect NC State fans to shed any tears. They've endured more than their share of adversity since Herb Sendek left a few years ago, and now with Leslie on board, brighter days may be ahead.

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