Wake Forest hopes to take the pivotal first steps of its transition period on Wednesday when the Demon Deacons tip off against Delaware State in the Wake Forest Classic in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Former East Tennessee State head coach Steve Forbes was named to the same position with the Demon Deacons in April. Forbes replaced Danny Manning, who guided Wake Forest to a 13-18 overall record and 6-14 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2019-20.
Forbes, 55, hopes his success at the mid-major school translates to the ACC. He posted a 130-43 record in five seasons with the Buccaneers and helped East Tennessee State capture two Southern Conference regular-season titles.
Forbes stresses the importance of playing with intensity on defense, and he plans to use a tried-and-true method of enforcing that to his new charges.
“It’s called the bench,” he said, per The Times News. “I think Bobby Knight said this a long time ago: When you sit down on the bench (it) sends a signal to your brain that I better do something different. It just takes time. They do understand how important it is to me and how that relates to their playing time.”
The transition along the sideline isn’t the only one for the Demon Deacons, who lost senior guard Brandon Childress (team-leading 15.6 points, 4.6 assists). It also saw guard Chaundee Brown (12.1 ppg) and 7-foot center Olivier Sarr (club-best 9.0 rebounds) transfer to Michigan and Kentucky, respectively.
Junior forward Isaiah Mucius, who is the top returning scorer from last season at 7.3 points, said he is up to the challenge of taking on an expanded role in 2020-21.
“I’ve kind of just launched at the opportunity to become a leader on this team,” Mucius said. “I’m the one guy on the team with the most ACC experience, so now I’m able to get ready for battles and tell them how the ACC is and how tough the conference is.”
Wake Forest will conclude play in the tournament against Longwood on Friday, one day after the Lancers tangle with Delaware State. Alabama State is also part of the four-team event.
Senior guard Pinky Wiley will be looked to step up for Delaware State, which posted a 6-26 overall record (4-12 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) last season.
Wiley, who was named to the Preseason All-MEAC Third Team, finished sixth in the conference in assists (3.1 per game) in 2019-20.
Forward Ameer Bennett (team-leading 5.8 rebounds) and guard Myles Carter (club-best 42.2 percent from 3-point range) also return for a Hornets team that won three of its final five games.
“We’ve got to overcome adversity. Conditioning, because it’s been a long time off and being able to build back per COVID protocols,” coach Eric Skeeters said recently. “Guys are working and doing the best they can (to get back).”
–Field Level Media