ACC Summer Recess: Wake Forest Demon DeaconsPosted by KCarpenter on July 18th, 2012
Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Wake Forest.
Where They Stand Now
It’s a rare thing when you can be tied for last place in the conference and still be hailed for taking a big step forward. Wake Forest went 4-12 in in league play, part of the four-way tie at the bottom, yet last season can’t be rated all that poorly. When you go from 1-15 to 4-12, it’s certainly a nice step forward, but it’s also a clear sign that you are being graded on a curve. Wake Forest hoops got a lot better last season, but make no mistake: This team is still far from good.
What’s the best way to describe the state of this program? The highlight of the Demon Deacons’ last season is debatable: It’s either a three-point home win over Virginia Tech (a team that finished below WFU in the conference standings) or a one-point home win over Yale (who had a great year… for Yale). There wasn’t a lot to cheer about this season, but the step away from the soul-crushing precipice of the 2011-12 season is enough to chalk up last year as an incredibly mild success.
Outside of team highlights, the past season was also a remarkable showcase for C.J. Harris, who had a terrific year shooting the ball from distance. Harris combined with Travis McKie formed one of the deadliest scoring tandems in the conference. Of course, it ended up not mattering too much, but it was one sign of genuine hope for a program that has fallen on lean times.
One thing that hasn’t improved with this program? The rapid hemorrhaging of players. Nikita Mescheriakov has graduated, which is terrible news for people who hate efficient scoring from their big men. Troubled seven-footer Ty Walker was dismissed from the team midway through last season. Promising seven-footer Carson Desrosiers is transferring to Providence. Meanwhile, last season’s starting point guard Tony Chennault is Villanova-bound, while his back-up, Anthony Fields, has also decided to transfer to a different school. In short, over half of last year’s rotation is gone, leaving just four rotation players. Though many of these players saw significant minutes, none of them appeared to be huge talents. These are losses that hurt the team’s size, depth, and experience more than the actual amount of basketball talent put onto the floor.
The core of the team is the one-two punch of wing scorers C.J. Harris and Travis McKie. Harris is a senior coming off a break-out season and while there can be little doubt that he wants to finish strong, some regression to the mean is to be expected. McKie, meanwhile, was in a bit of a holding pattern last year, incrementally improving on his sensational freshman campaign but failing to make a big leap. Both players will be expected to do a lot for this team, but this could be the season that McKie makes a bigger impression on the entire nation. Beyond these two, freshmen Chase Fischer and Daniel Green offer some more outside shooting and some interior size (if not bulk). As the only “true” big man left on the roster, Green will be expected to seriously contribute and set the tone for the Demon Deacons’ inside game. It’s a tall order for a guy who was only sparsely used in the past season, but a lot of WFU’s potential hinges on what kind of production coach Jeff Bzdelik can generate from the low post.
Recruiting Check -In
Apparently, they are being called the Sensational Seven, but whatever the name, Wake’s incoming class of freshmen has a tough job in bolstering the Deacons’decimated rotation. The highlight of the class is Codi Miller-McIntyre, a four-star point guard who will almost certainly be expected to start right away in place of the departed Chennault. The other six players are made up of solid if not necessarily game-changing recruits. Small forward Arnaud Moto is a great talent, but unfortunately also plays at Wake’s most stocked position. Still, he is too good too soon to not fit in for a sixth man type of role (if that doesn’t become Chase Fischer’s role). The rest of the class is rounded out with some solid back-ups and some decent size, including Devin Thomas at the power forward position and Andre Washington at center, who could both potentially start if Bzdelik goes to a more traditional lineup instead of the four-guard group he ran much of last year.
It’s true that Wake Forest lost a lot of its rotation. It’s also true that it might not matter. Despite the loss of so many players, WFU held on tightly to its two stars while bringing in what appears to be a talented supporting cast to back them up. The upcoming season might be one of setback or progress, but it doesn’t ultimately matter. Wake Forest is rebuilding and appears to be headed in the right direction (that is, until all these recruits also transfer away or get suspended).