Wake Forest Basketball Preview: #44
Overall Rank: #44
Conference Rank: #6 Atlantic Coast Conference
2008-09: 24-7, 11-5
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Dino Gaudio (41-20 at Wake Forest, 109-144 overall)
Jeff Teague and James Johnson left early for the NBA, but it could have been worse for Wake Forest and this is still a team with enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament. Losing their top two scorers will make things difficult, but there were talented reserves who are now ready to step up and a few newcomers who can contribute right away.
Key Losses: G Harvey Hale, F James Johnson, G Jeff Teague
Ari Stewart highlights the group of newcomers. The 6-7 small forward is a superb athlete who can finish around the basket and plays great in the open court. More importantly, he fills a need and that means he might be forced into a starting role right away. Shooting guard C.J. Harris is a good finisher too, but at 6-2, he could end up playing the point guard position down the road…and he is certainly capable of doing that. But for now he will likely provide an offensive spark off the bench. That is because Konner Tucker will likely be the team’s backup point guard for the next two years after transferring in from Jacksonville Junior College in Texas. Like Harris, Tucker can play both guard spots, but his experience gives him an early lead on the backup point guard job.
It is last year’s super sub Ishmael Smith who will be running the show most of the time. Last year he averaged 3.4 assists and added 6.2 points without starting a game. Whenever the Demon Deacons needed a steady ball handler on the floor, they called on Smith. Now Smith will get to do it on a full time basis. L.D. Williams will remain at his shooting guard spot, although he is not much of a shooter. Williams, who averaged 8.0 points per game last year, did most of his scoring by getting to the basket. That leaves Wake Forest with very little outside shooting and players like Gary Clark and the newcomers will have to provide a spark off the bench with their outside shooting or this will be a team that will become predictable on offense.
But even if they are predictable, it is not easy to stop Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland. Aminu, who could have gone to the NBA and been a likely first round selection, will be the dominating force under the basket. After averaging 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds as a sophomore, Aminu will be in for a huge year. McFarland is not as intimidating as Aminu, but he is a steady big man who can grab some rebounds, block a shot or two and score under the basket. Unlike Aminu who can consistently hit the mid-range jumper, McFarland will stay under the basket most of the time on the offensive end.
Who to Watch:
Wake Forest knows what they are going to get out of Aminu and McFarland, so the most important players to watch are the other frontcourt players. David Weaver has experience and Tony Woods was pretty productive last year when he was given the opportunity. And there is sophomore Ty Walker who is full of potential and is expected to at least turn into a great shot blocker at some point in his career. Aminu and McFarland will not be able to play 30 minutes a game and at least one of those three has to step up and become a major contributor off the bench.
This is not a Wake Forest team that will be ranked #1 in the nation during the regular season like they were last year and it will take some time to overcome the loss of Teague and Johnson, but the cupboard is certainly nowhere near bare. If the newcomers can contribute and some former roleplayers become stars, this team should be back in the NCAA Tournament…and probably lose in the first round again.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ishmael Smith, Senior, Guard
L.D. Williams, Senior, Guard
Ari Stewart, Freshman, Forward
Al-Faroq Aminu, Sophomore, Forward
Chas McFarland, Senior, Center
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