AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown said Thursday he's ready for the NBA.
The junior point guard held a news conference with coach Mark Gottfried to announce his plans to skip his final season with the Wolfpack.
"I just kind of figured it was my time to leave and just step up to something new," Brown said.
Gottfried says he spoke with representatives of about 15 to 20 NBA teams and believes that Brown can be a first-round pick. He pointed out that Brown has only played the point for the past two years after bouncing between the point and the off-guard positions during his freshman year under Sidney Lowe.
"I think guys like the fact that they would potentially get a player that's kind of on the front end of all the growth that may happen for him," Gottfried said. "I know there's a lot of teams that like him a lot. ... I think he's going to have a good future."
A second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick by both the media and the coaches, the 6-foot-5 Brown averaged 12.4 points and a league-best 7.2 assists per game. Brown's value was most apparent with his ability to push the ball in transition, though he was also a capable defender who frustrated league player of the year Erick Green throughout N.C. State's ACC tournament win against Virginia Tech.
His departure wasn't a huge surprise considering Brown and junior C.J. Leslie were both mentioned as likely candidates to jump to the NBA all season. The coaching staff had prepared for Brown's departure by signing McDonald's All-America point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber for next year and also returns rising sophomore Tyler Lewis, a McDonald's All-American in 2012 who signed with Lowe.
"We've planned," Gottfried said of Brown's departure, "yet at the same time you know that we'll miss a player of his magnitude."
N.C. State already knew it was losing seniors Richard Howell and Scott Wood before Brown's announcement, and Leslie could be the fourth starter to depart from a team that fell far short of preseason expectations and lost its NCAA tournament opener against Temple.
Gottfried said he expected Leslie would make a decision "in the next week or so."
N.C. State entered the year as the ACC favorite for the first time since the 1974-75 season, while the No. 6 preseason ranking was the program's highest in 29 years.
Though N.C. State started 3-0 in league play, the Wolfpack struggled with inconsistency all season, particularly on the defensive end. Things got tougher when Brown suffered a sprained left ankle in the first half of a loss at Virginia on Jan. 29, sidelining him for the rest of that game followed by the next two. N.C. State lost all three to essentially end its ACC regular-season title hopes.
The Wolfpack fell to top-seeded Miami in the ACC semifinals, failing to win the program's first tournament title since 1987.
N.C. State ended up with a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament to set up last week's season-ending loss, though it still matched last year's 24-win total -- the best for the program since 1988.
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