Kevin Keatts said he “didn’t want his mind to go to the worst situation” on Tuesday when addressing the status of star center Manny Bates following NC State’s season-opening win against Bucknell.
Friday, he had no choice but to deal with it.
The “worst situation” became a reality when it was announced that Bates will miss the rest of the season because of a right shoulder dislocation suffered less than a minute into the Wolfpack’s season, an eventual 88-70 win over Bucknell at PNC Arena.
“I’m just heartbroken,” Keatts said in a statement. “I’m heartbroken for Manny because he’s overcome so much to become the incredible player he is. He does everything the right way. He doesn’t take shortcuts. He’s a prime example of everything I want an NC State basketball player to be on and off the court.”
Bates, a 6-foot-11 redshirt sophomore, missed his senior year of high school and his first season at State because of shoulder injuries that required surgery.
He suffered his latest malady while chasing a loose ball on one of the game’s first few possessions. Bates could be seen holding his shoulder as he was taken into the tunnel just off the court. He was clearly in pain and visibly frustrated as medical personnel assessed his situation.
Bates has led the ACC in blocked shots in both of his first two seasons with the Wolfpack and was poised to become the first player since Duke’s Shelden Williams in 2004-06 to lead the league three straight years.
His 147 career blocks are fourth on State’s all-time list and just three away from third place.
In addition to his shot-blocking prowess, Bates has vastly improved his rebounding and offensive skills. His 61.1% field goal accuracy last season set a single-season school record.
In his absence, the Wolfpack will be forced to rely on untested second-year freshmen Ebenezer Dowuona and Jaylon Gibson. Dowuona got most of the work against Bucknell, posting career-high totals of 10 rebounds and two blocks to go along with two points.
“I know Manny has the work ethic and positive mental attitude to come back from this,” Keatts said. “I know he’ll come back stronger and I know Manny’s best basketball is still ahead of him.”
This is the second time in the past seven years that a key player was lost for the season in the first half of the opening game. In 2015, Terry Henderson was sidelined with a torn ligament in his ankle.