Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #3 ACC
2007-08: 17-13, 7-9, 7th
2007-08 postseason: none
All five starters return, as does every major bench player. As if that was not reason enough for Wake Forest to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, the Demon Deacons have one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. Coach Dino Gaudio stepped into a difficult situation heading into last season with the death of former Coach Skip Prosser. But he managed to rally the troops and keep his young team surprisingly competitive. Now Wake Forest has high expectations. And those expectations are not just to reach the NCAA Tournament, but to make noise once they get there.
Matt Smith played in two games for a grand total of one minute. That is the extent of the losses in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Al-Farouq Aminu has it all. The 6-9 Norcross, Georgia product has the size of a big man and the skills of a guard. He can back down or shoot over smaller opponents or dribble around bigger players. Either way, it leads to points and lots of them. His shooting range extends beyond the three-point arc and it is widely assumed that he will be around for one year and a lottery pick in the NBA Draft next year. The frontcourt gets more of a lift from centers Tony Woods and Ty Walker. While neither are as highly touted as Aminu, both are still great prospects that any team in the nation would be happy to have. Woods is expected to be a solid contributor as a freshman. The 6-11 Rome, Georgia native is a superb athlete who can score attacking the basket and score around the rim. Walker, a seven-footer, has a little more work to do on the offensive end, but he is a big body who can block shots and play solid defense right away.
Who to Watch:
Until those three came around, the Wake Forest frontcourt lacked some depth. But they still do have James Johnson, who led the team with 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, and all that was as a freshman. Now Johnson, who is also a solid shot blocker, is ready for a big year. Chas McFarland started at the five spot besides Johnson most of last season and the seven-footer had a surprisingly great sophomore campaign. He averaged 8.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a sophomore and nobody really expected that. Jamie Skeen and David Weaver provided the depth at the four and five spots last year and now they will have to compete with the newcomers for minutes off the bench.
With the addition of Aminu, the Demon Deacons backcourt is also going to have a great influx in talent. L.D. Williams started 25 games last year and was third on the team in scoring, but he will likely lose his starting job at some point to Aminu. Jeff Teague will not be losing his job. The 6-2 sophomore averaged 13.9 points per game and hit nearly 40 percent of his attempts from long range. Teague was the go-to-scorer on the perimeter as a freshman and that will not change as a sophomore. Ishmael Smith is the veteran of the starting group on the perimeter. The junior point guard dished out 4.7 assists per game last year and can do some scoring as well. The Demon Deacons are a little older and wiser this year and it will be Smith’s job to make sure the new guys fit in and get their opportunities. Senior Harvey Hale and sophomore Gary Clark provided a majority of the minutes off the bench last year. They have some more competition this time around, but Hale is a good shooter when he takes a smart shot and Clark has the potential to have a breakout season after being limited as a freshman. Wake Forest has enough talent to be an Elite Eight team. The question is how well they can pull everything together…this is still a young team and a team that has not known success for a few years.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ishmael Smith, Junior, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Jeff Teague, Sophomore, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Al-Farouq Aminue, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
James Johnson, Sophomore, Forward, 14.6 points per game
Chas McFarland, Junior, Center, 8.4 points per game