North Carolina State’s J.J. Hickson said his college debut wasn’t perfect - but it was awfully close.
The freshman forward looks to build on a sensational performance when the 21st-ranked Wolfpack host New Orleans on Sunday.
Hickson made all 12 of his field-goal attempts and scored 31 points in N.C. State’s season-opening, 66-47 win over William & Mary on Thursday. The points were the most ever by a Wolfpack (1-0) freshman in his debut, and he also set a school record for most field goals without a miss.
Hickson finished with the second-best scoring day for a freshman in school history, trailing only Ernie Myers’ 35-point effort against Duke in January 1983. He fell two points shy of the school record for most points in a varsity debut, set by sophomore David Thompson in 1972.
“It feels good,” Hickson told the Wolfpack’s official Web site. “It boosts my confidence up a little bit.
“I still have to learn from my mistakes. I didn’t play a perfect game or anything like that. I just want to not make the same mistakes next game, like not getting loose rebounds and things like that.”
Hickson’s emergence does mean that second-year coach Sidney Lowe will have to figure out a way to work in all of his frontcourt players. Forward Brandon Costner had 13 points and 12 rebounds, but Ben McCauley - who averaged 14.4 points last season - played just 14 minutes and had two points.
“Certainly I know what Ben is capable of doing and his time will come,” Lowe said.
N.C. State’s frontcourt is considered by many to be among the best in the nation, and the addition of Hickson has only raised expectations for a Wolfpack team that returns four starters from last season’s 20-16 team.
“I’ve been telling y’all he was a beast in all these interviews,” said senior forward Gavin Grant, who had four points and five rebounds. “But nobody would listen to me. I can’t wait to see him play against a bigger and stronger opponent, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to have his way with pretty much anybody he faces this year.”
Despite recording their 14th straight season-opening win, the Wolfpack still have questions at point guard. Iowa State transfer Farnold Degand started and had two points, five rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes. Freshman Javier Gonzalez, who is coming off a thumb injury, had a point and a steal in 12 minutes off the bench.
Tennessee transfer Marques Johnson will also compete for minutes when he become eligible in the second semester.
The Privateers (1-0) also won their season opener, beating Northwestern State 72-66 on Wednesday. Junior transfer Kyndall Dykes had 19 points and senior guard Bo McCalebb added 16 for New Orleans, which began the season with a road win for the first time since Nov. 29, 1974.
The Privateers, who are opening their season with three straight road games, lost 92-58 to N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. on Nov. 17, 2004, in the only other meeting between the teams.
“This will be a challenge for us, but I know our guys will not back down,” first-year coach Joe Pasternack told his team’s Web site of facing the Wolfpack. “They will be one of the biggest teams we will face.
“Rebounding is going to be a key for us. We’ll learn a lot about ourselves on Sunday.”