Originally written on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 10/21/14
RALEIGH, N.C. -- C.J. Leslie may finally be turning a new leaf. As the most ridiculed basketball player along Tobacco Road the last two years, and with good reason, Leslie is showing signs of maturity, growth and even the instincts of a great player. Look no further than last Saturdays rout of visiting St. Bonaventure as the latest and perhaps greatest example of his ascent. The long-armed, 6-foot-9 super-talent recognized a Wolfpack need with senior forward Richard Howell in foul trouble, then showed the kind of controlled aggressiveness that can make him a star on the collegiate level and desired high draft pick by the NBA. Leslie totaled 33 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots, a pair of assists and one steal. As important, however, is that Leslie did this all within the framework of the Wolfpacks philosophies. He didnt set out to put on the C.J. Leslie Show like he has in the past. This was a mature 33 points. It was about scoring when the team needed based on what was there. It was about recognizing teammates. It was about having a feel for a game that can one day make him a lot of money. It was about being an All-American. I just saw I had to hustle and step up, Leslie said. Richard was in a little foul trouble. The thing is, Leslie didnt launch his new-and-improved self once Howell went to the bench. This process began several games ago and dates back to a two-point performance in a blowout loss to Oklahoma State in November. Leslie, who leads the Pack with 15 points and is second with 7.5 rebounds per outing, has been in double figures in the seven games since, grabbing 8 or more rebounds in five of those contests. Yet, it really wasnt until the Stanford game last week where Leslie appeared completely invested into the game during every minute he was on the floor. Even in a victory over Norfolk State on Dec. 15, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried jumped all over Leslie during a timeout because he just wasnt playing with focus or intensity. He appeared almost aloof and disinterested on the court in stretches. And that wasnt the first time. But Gottfried, whose most compelling and public effort at changing the culture in the N.C. State program since taking over nearly two years ago has been his handling of Leslie, whom he refers to as Calvin, the players actual first name, had to try something different. The former Alabama coach has understandably treated Leslie different from other players. No special treatment, but let's face it, Leslie is a unique case. Watching him give effort for a few minutes reveals the reality that he can dominate a game almost any time he wants, yet that want is sometimes buried so deep inside that not even Gottfrieds efforts can extract it to the surface. With respect to the coach, its generally up to Leslie. Thats why Leslies recognition of the teams needs in the 88-79 win over Stanford and the rout of the Bonnies was and is so important. Leslie didnt force things against the Cardinal and played perhaps his best team game since arriving at N.C. State. He finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds, but he defended, was unselfish with the ball, even set a couple of real screens and communicated on defense. And then Leslie showed last Saturday what he can do just about every night if his disposition matches the Wolfpacks needs. I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, he said after the St. Bonaventure game. We have some important games coming up. We gave to be a little more serious. Im not saying I wasnt serious before, but its just time to buckle down and be ready to play. He knows. He understands. And if the last week is any indication, Leslie may finally get it. If so, thats great news for the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack (9-2) and bad news for the rest of the ACC, including top-ranked Duke, which visits PNC Arena on Jan. 12. A dialed-in Leslie with a healthy Wolfpack team can develop into one of the more dangerous teams in the nation. A Sweet 16 team a year ago, it could advance further this coming spring. And Leslie playing with a purpose is vital in N.C. State reaching those goals.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Robert Klemko given four-week suspension from The MMQB

Michael Vick: Percy Harvin won't be a monster here

Robert Griffin III 'guaranteed' to be back in Week 11

Urlacher: Cutler paid like elite QB, hasn’t produced like one

Hoyer doesn’t think about getting benched for Manziel

Cardinals kicker blew $1,500 signing bonus on headphones

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ainge: Draft lottery reform would be 'better for the game'

Royals take Game 2 to even series with Giants

Report: Roger Goodell will have to testify in Ray Rice case

Blake Griffin accused of slapping man in Las Vegas club

Ronda Rousey to face Cat Zingano at UFC 182

Report: Zach Mettenberger to start for Titans over Locker

Jimmy Howard unveils pink mask for 'Hockey Fights Cancer'

Louisville Athletic Dept. asking for donations at gas pump

Falcons make huge mistake with London infographic

DeMarco Murry surprises Cowboys linemen with iMacs

Jimbo Fisher's son reps for Winston on 'Superhero Day'

WATCH: Steve Ballmer freaks out while shown on Jumbotron

AUDIO: Rex Ryan pranks Sammy Watkins on conference call

Top storyline for each Week 8 NFL game

WATCH: Giants pitcher yells at Salvador Perez after HR

Will Muschamp's head coaching job posted on Craigslist

Miss California USA would like to date Eric Hosmer

WATCH: Eric Bledsoe sends Clipper flying with sick move

Wolfpack News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Brian Urlacher rips Jay Cutler

Top NFL storylines: Week 8

Kiffin's mom worried for son's safety

Report: Goodell will have to testify

Penguins do 'O Canada' following tragedy

UEFA Champions League midway report: Groups A – D

Porn star: No one parties like Janikowski

Report: Expect Florida to make a run at Bob Stoops

The San Francisco Giants are zombies

10 bold predictions for NFL Week 8

Pitcher's wife leaves generous tip

Nicklaus defends Jameis Winston

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.