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With Black and Gold Madness tonight, and basketball beginning to creep in my mind (oh basketball, how I missed you), I decided that I would write a pre-season hoops piece in the form of an open letter. All opinions expressed are exclusively mine, but read on if you want to know what those are. Oh, and a lot of this stuff is tongue in cheek unless otherwise stated.
I missed you a lot. I really think the offseason is too long. Can the ACC start sanctioning pick-up games now? Can some intrepid TV executive bring back SlamBall and put it back on TV during the summer? Can we perfect cryogenics so I can just freeze myself every summer?
No? Really? Fine, I guess I'll just try to settle on the platitude that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and just say that I'm glad to be back in a reality wherein the ACC is not the butt of literally every sports-related joke for about four months or so. Now it's the SEC for a while, or maybe the Pac-12, because at least the FSU or Virginia Tech of SEC basketball (read: the team that does pretty darn well year in and year out despite the rest of the conference more or less being a wacky misadventure) actually wins championships.
Whatever the case, I like this reality better.
To the ACC,
Wow, busy offseason, huh? We got Notre Dame, or will soon anyway, and Pitt and Syracuse seemingly are taking steps to join the conference even sooner than expected. We're using a pretty generous definition of Atlantic Coast if we're including South Bend, but it could be worse, at least we're not trying to act like San Diego has anything to do with the direction East.
To NC State,
Man, you guys are cleaning house with recruiting! Pretty soon I won't be able to make fun of your fans anymore for hilariously overrating their teams, especially with Coach Gottfried at the helm. I'm not sure how I feel about that, because it means less schadenfreude, but I guess I'm pretty okay with the possibility of a genuine challenger to Duke and UNC for the foreseeable future. Of course, that's contingent on the assertion that there's not some unbelievable collapse involved, but Sidney Lowe isn't at the helm now so I think you'll be alright. Be careful though, pride comes before the fall. We would know. Insert 2009 here.
Being a second-generation Deac, but one who grew up in New Jersey and really didn't care about sports until my freshman year at Wake, I really don't hate you guys as much as a lot of other Wake fans do, at least not lately. Not sure why that is to be honest, but I think this past year it had something to do with how awesome Kendall Marshall is. That dude rules.
Sorry, kinda hate you guys still. And by kinda, I mean really. Of course, you'll probably school us this year, but at least I have the comedic ammo of Greg Pau...uh, Jon Schey...uh, Kyle Singl...uh, hold up. Who're we making fun of this year? Surely there's somebody. I dunno, come back to me on this one. I need to do my research. In the meantime, keep plugging away on that research to try and figure out how to put Coach K's brain into one of the assistant coaches, or barring that, a robot. Oh come on, everybody knows by now. Quit trying to keep it a secret.
To Virginia Tech,
Spoilers: First Four Out, sorry.
Oofah. That point guard situation seems all too familiar. I hope Coach Bennett can hold things together for you guys. Partly because a beloved family member of mine is a UVA alumnus, partly because I kind of like Coach Bennett, and partly because, well, I'm just a big softie. Hang in there, Hoos.
To Boston College,
Hey! I think you guys will actually be not hilariously bad this year! The main problem last year was the youth of the team. You guys have a trusted, proven coach and some talented players. Sadly, your fans will still hardly care. Seriously, I'm in a glass house here right now, but any BC game I saw last year sounded like it was being held in a library. Get that stuff right Eagles. Or don't, it's pretty nice to have a home game not in Winston every once in a while. Your call.
To Georgia Tech,
You guys FINALLY got out of that Paul Hewitt contract, hooray! Good for you, but less comedy for us. Seriously, that thing made Coach Grobe's contract seem weak and cool-handed. Besides, at least we had the credible possibility of Coach Grobe leaving at the time, and Coach Grobe still does pretty well and never squandered top recruits. I have no idea what the Hewitt-less future will hold, but just some friendly advice: you don't need to name the library after Coach Gregory if he wins the ACC Championship.
You guys are the ones with the most comparably chaotic set off-seasons to ours recently, so I'm not sure what else to say other than good luck, but if Nick Faust goes pro after a solid but underwhelming season, I will never stop laughing. (Seriously Jordan Williams, talk about a bad call).
I've heard, generally speaking, you guys are going to be pretty good. It wouldn't surprise me, but then again neither would some ridiculous NCAA scandal. I hope not for you guys' sake, but come on, you know chances are pretty good. Also don't feel bad about the whole "Frank Haith suddenly being awesome" thing. I didn't see it coming either.
I would make fun of you guys but I still can't get over the fact that you got dumped for DePaul of all places. Seriously, that's brutal. If you guys ever need to talk...
To Florida State,
I'm sure you guys will still be good. I think Bernard James graduating brings down the average age of the team by about seven years, though.
And now here's where I ditch the comedy and put on my serious hat.
To Coach Bzdelik,
This is the year, Coach. I'm not saying you need to win the championship or anything (but by all means, do if you're so inclined), but the cards are finally starting to fall right. I know I've been harsh on you before, but I believe in you pretty strongly right now and wish you nothing but the best. Good luck.
To C.J. Harris,
Ah C.J., the lone senior. The elder statesman. The only guy left who was on campus when I still was as a student. I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but lead. I know you can. You're a hometown hero, and you deserve it, C.J. All-ACC or bust man.
To Travis McKie,
Where'd that range come from?! I can tell you've been working hard this off-season, and it's exactly what this team needs. You've got two more years, and I'm sure you hope just as much as anyone that the second half of your campaign is better in the win/loss column than the first. Do me one favor. Dunk on some more fools this year, would you? I missed that.
To Chase Fischer,
I liked what I saw out of you in the Pro-Am. Keep up some of that passing and driving. But don't stop shooting, either. Not that I suspect I need to tell you that.
To Daniel Green,
Holy frijoles, are you sure you're really Daniel Green? You beefed up more in one off-season than any Wake player I can remember doing in that same span of time. It's boss, but make sure you remember you're 15-20 pounds bigger. I know you're in the ACC, but don't let anybody push you around. Get a bit of a mean streak. Not too mean, though. Technicals are bad news.
To Codi-Miller McIntyre,
I sure hope, like your Twitter handle, Wake is on the rise. You're a freshman, but you're going to need to lead. I know it's a lot of pressure, but I also know you can handle it. That performance in the semis of the Pro-Am was the most excited I've been at anything even tangentially related to Wake hoops in two years. No pressure, though. In all seriousness, I for one have faith in you.
To Madison Jones,
You were the latecomer to the class, but you showed me something in that summer league. Make sure you show that to everybody, especially any critics. I think I'm gonna call you Shifty Change, because you're sneaky with those dimes, man. Okay, maybe not, but the point stands.
To Tyler Cavanaugh,
I haven't seen you play yet, but it was fun freaking out with you on the bench during the Pro-Am playoffs. Thanks for that. It was fun.
To Andre Washington,
I'm sure you get this a lot, but you're huge, dude. I know you need to bulk up, and don't worry, that'll come with time, but you dominated inside this summer and showed some real smarts for the game. I like that. Also I hope the fact that you and Codi were teammates at Hargrave translates to on-the-court chemistry. Oh, and your Twitter handle is some pro pun work. Hats off to you.
To Devin Thomas,
Get well soon, big man. We need you inside this year, especially if you play how you did at the Pro-Am. Also, thanks for saying hey any time we see each other at the football games. Finally, a challenge. Do something to make Weezy call you again.
To Arnaud Adala Moto,
You showed some pretty freakish raw athleticism at the Pro-Am and I like that a lot. But don't be afraid to get more aggressive, too. If it helps, remind yourself that you have a really really awesome name. Seriously, I defy anyone at another school to try and tell me they wouldn't love to have the name Adala Moto plastered across the back of one of their school's jerseys. That's right, you can't. Because it's awesome.
To Aaron Rountree,
Tree, I saved you for last because I have the most to say to you on an individual level. I genuinely believe you bleed Black and Gold. Your Twitter name had Deacon in it before you even stepped on the campus. I have a lot of respect for that. Thanks for always talking to me on Twitter, and for the hellos whenever we run into each other. It's good to know you're embracing the "Wake=family" attitude so fully. Your game is so diverse I think you're going to be a match-up nightmare, and I want you to exploit that. Whether you know it or not, you're also a leader. In the Pro-Am semis, you urged some opponents to "keep talking". And as I said in my recap of that event, you made them pay that night. I want you to go into every game imagining all those doubters of you and your teammates and think just one thing to yourself: "keep talking".
To the team as a whole,
You guys aren't just a family, you're our family. Not just the players, the coaches, too. To the players, be prepared for the worst but hope for the best in terms of fandom. Listen to the coaches, trust in each other, play hard. Have fun. Keep your heads on straight and stay out of trouble (not to get all dad on you, it's just...we've had enough trouble lately). Show some people exactly what the Deacs are made of. I know you can. To the coaches, I'm sorry things have been a little (okay, maybe a lot) ugly recently. I'm sure I don't need to tell you gentlemen that this is a potential crossroads, but just know I believe more than most, and I hope you convert many more people.
I've heard many a "seasoned" Wake fan assert two things. One, that I don't know how bad bad really can get. Two, that I expect too much. Well, as for the badness thing, at least in terms of hoops, I can't imagine too much worse than the past couple years. As for expectations? Well, I think low expectations are for people who try to convince themselves they don't care that much. I'm not saying they don't care, merely that I'm honest about it.
It's not that I expect ACC or National Title contention every single year. I don't. But I believe in the staff, the players, the history, and the spirit of this program. We SHOULD expect or at least encourage new heights for our beloved teams, because that's the only way they'll be reached. I'm not saying we'll get there this year, or next, or maybe even the year after. But we shouldn't settle.
We're Wake Forest, and we're the team nobody sees coming. Let's get it.