#137 Wake Forest: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #137
Conference Rank: #12 Atlantic Coast Conference
2009-10: 20-11, 9-7
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (First year at Wake Forest, 107-104 overall)
Many thought the hiring of Jeff Bzdelik was an odd one for a program that has had so much recent success and probably could have gotten a bigger name coach. But those who follow college basketball closely already know Coach Bzdelik has worked some miracles in his day, most notably at Air Force. The most important thing for the Demon Deacons new staff was to hold onto their solid recruiting class and that is exactly what Coach Bzdelik has done.
Key Losses: F Al-Farouq Aminu, C Chas McFarland, G Ishmael Smith, F David Weaver, G L.D. Williams
Wake Forest lost a ton of talent and this group of newcomers will all be looking for playing time right away. By most accounts this is a top ten class and the Deacons have every position covered. Point guard Tony Chenault is the least heralded of the newcomers, but should be forced into a role off the bench right away. Shooting guard J.T. Terrell will not be afraid to jump into the starting lineup and hoist up some long balls and that is something this team needs. Travis McKie may be the most talented of the bunch and should flourish in the new up and down offense. Melvin Tabb will give the team another big bodied forward. Carson Desrosiers is a center who wants to be a point guard. Usually that is a bad thing, but in this case the 6-11, 210 pounder has the skills to back it up. And if that was not enough, forward Nikita Meshcharakou will be eligible after the first semester after playing for a year and a half at Georgetown.
This is suddenly a very young team. Shooting guard Gary Clark is the only senior on the roster and he averaged a mere 9.3 minutes per game in 24 contests last season. His experience will be very valuable, but eventually the newcomers will likely send Clark back to the bench. However, Clark is a good outside shooter when he has the chance. On a poor shooting team, Clark was a nice, consistent option and that could be the case again this year if the youngsters struggle. But the backcourt is really about sophomore C.J. Harris. After averaging 9.9 points per game as a freshman and showing plenty of potential, it is time for Harris to take over the team. Last year Harris was a shooting guard who really did not shoot very well. This year he will likely take over the point guard duties. If he can keep the turnovers down and improve his shooting, he could turn into a great player sooner rather than later. Yet, if there is no help around him, that will make his job much, much more difficult.
The other bright spot among the returning players is another sophomore. Ari Stewart never earned a start during his freshman campaign, but he was the team’s most prolific outside shooter. He will need to be more aggressive getting to the basket and use his 6-7 frame to do more than just shoot over the opposition. A year of experience should help in that regard and the Demon Deacons expect big things from Stewart. Without Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland it would also be helpful if Stewart spent more time in the paint so he could help out on the glass. McKie and the other newcomers will help too, but rebounding should not be an issue on a team that has a couple 6-7 forwards and a 6-4 shooting guard, but it could end up being that way if Stewart spends a majority of his time beyond the arc.
Who to Watch:
The hopeful new star in the post is Tony Woods. At 6-11 and 245 pounds, Woods has the size to make a big difference. When given the opportunity to play last year, Woods did a solid job on the glass and on the defensive end. He could even emerge as a decent scoring threat now that he will actually be looked at to do some scoring at times. He may have to hold off some of the freshmen, but Woods is one of the more experienced players on this team and he should be an unsung hero for Wake Forest, much like McFarland has been for the past couple of years.
It all depends on the freshmen. Harris and Stewart are a nice core to build around, but they need help and certainly are not proven leaders. This will be a great team soon and Coach Bzdelik will have them playing smart basketball, but it will take at least a year before they are good enough to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Yet, by March this group could be very dangerous and nobody will want to face Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
C.J. Harris, Sophomore, Guard, 9.9 ppg
J.T. Terrell, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Ari Stewart, Sophomore, Forward, 7.3 ppg
Travis McKie, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Tony Woods, Junior, Center, 4.6 ppg
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