ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 08: C.J. Harris #11 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons drives for a shot attempt against Mychal Parker #11 of the Maryland Terrapins during their first round game of 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Philips Arena on March 8, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Well, first off let me apologize to the BSD faithful for being scarce lately; this week has been madness of an entirely different kind for me, for better and sometimes for worse. But enough about that. The basketball season for the Deacs is mercifully over, and I felt like someone should give the season a proper send-off with a recap.
I'll talk individual players, low points, bright spots even amidst the darkness, and potential things to look forward to. Of course, there will be additional discussions from a variety of angles in the coming days, but giving this season a send-off is a dirty job that somebody has to do.
Read more after the jump...The Wins
Okay, so unfortunately, wins were hard to come by, especially quality ones. Still, we ended up with 13 of them, which is five more than last year, and we got three more ACC wins, in addition to one on the road, which we didn't get last year. Even if it was against a historically bad Boston College team, it was at least a convincing win, and any win on the road in the ACC comes at a premium. Or it's supposed to, anyway.
I'd say my favorite win of the year was the last second win at Nebraska. That was a game I really didn't expect us to win, it was on the road, and it made me wonder if this team was going to have more to them than anyone would have expected. That game is in a close race with the Virginia Tech win at home, which had us smiling and burying the demon of whether or not we would go winless in the league in the very first game. Coincidentally, both of those games were won on go home shots by sharpshooter C.J. Harris. We'll talk more about C.J. later, but suffice to say that without the hometown hero, I think this team would've been absolutely unwatchable at all times.
We have far more of these to discuss, unfortunately. I would say the worst loss was either the loss by four at home to Wofford (not coincidentally at all the only game this year when C.J. Harris did not play), by 28 to an absolutely woeful Arizona State team on a neutral court, or the game that will live in infamy, a 76-40 loss to NC State at home. The point is that we took our fair share of lumps this season, but (to me anyway) somehow it still didn't seem as bad as last year most games.
This isn't to say anything of the coaches or the players in particular necessarily, but it was what it was. This was a bad season that, while not as bad as last year, is still the kind of season that I have an extremely difficult time trying to swallow.
Here's where things will get a little bit meatier. I'm going to talk about every player on the team in this section. I'll discuss pros, cons, roles, what to look for, expect and even hope for going forward, and finally, a grade for their performance this year.
-C.J. Harris was, straight up, an absolute monster this year. The junior guard from Winston-Salem played 35 minutes a game, and averaged 16.7 points per game (hereafter abbreviated as PPG), 3.1 rebounds per game (RPG) and 2.5 assists per game (APG). C.J. also chipped in 1.1 steals per game (SPG) as well. He shot 47.7 percent from the floor, and 42.2 percent from beyond the arc.
C.J. scored from absolutely everywhere: off the dribble midrange jumpers, blow-by easy layups, spot up shots from deep, and even the occasional thunderous dunk. C.J. also got about 6 free throws a game, and shot 84.4 percent on the year. C.J.'s eFG%, which factors in his deep shooting, was an impressive 55.3, and his True Shooting Percentage (TS%), which factors in free throw shooting as well, was an absolutely tremendous 62.1, good for 77th in the country, which, when you factor in the sheer number of guys playing DI hoops (probably well over 3,000 when you consider the fact that there are 345 teams) is pretty insane.
C.J. scored double digits in EVERY GAME BUT ONE this year, and scored 20 or more ten times. Truly remarkable.
Honestly, C.J. is a guy that we should build the team around next year. There's so much that C.J. is capable of, he's gotten so much more physical and diverse in his game, plus he'll be a senior. A bit over a week ago, I heard a rumor C.J. might go pro, but thankfully that appears to be false. C.J. was an unquestionable leader this year, and I can't give him any less than an A+.
-Travis McKie is the other guy that springs to mind when you think "leader" on this squad, and he had a hell of a year as well. The Virginia native averaged about 35 minutes per game, and almost averaged a double-double, with 16.1 PPG and 7.1 RPG. Travis was the closest thing we had to a guy who could do anything, as he played a lot at the 4 but also had some games where he was a threat from the perimeter. Travis shot 47.8 percent from the year, 37.9 percent from beyond the arc, and 73.7 percent from the line. His eFG% was 52.3, and his TS% was 56.6.
Travis is a guy who plays his heart out EVERY play. He's far from the prettiest player, and his game lacks finesse, but there's just so much desire in everything that he does. If he can spend the offseason working on his mid-range and perimeter games, then the second half of his career as a Deac could truly be legendary. I've heard him described many times as a "garbage man" on offense, and while that's a pretty decent descriptor for Travis currently, I have no doubts that Travis will work like a mad man on his game in the offseason, so I'm tremendously excited to see where he goes from here.
The biggest indictment I can have for Travis as far as his performances this year is that there were games where he really seemed to disappear and/or let his frustrations get to him. I hope that with further experience this is something that he can minimize, but still, there's absolutely no doubting that Travis had a tremendous season and that if his work ethic so far is any indication, things will only look up from here. I'd give Travis's season a really solid A-.
-Tony Chennault had a tough year. The point guard clearly has lots of raw talent, and tries really hard, but the unfortunate thing is that so far, he seems to only have one speed. His shots are usually far too hard. He drives into the lane and tries to force things, often leading to turnovers. When on defense, he tends not to fight through screens very well. Stat-wise, in 30.2 minutes per game, he averaged 9 points (with a season high of 20), 3.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, in addition to an average of a steal per game and 2.2 turnovers. He shot 40.1 percent from the field, 25 percent from three, and 64.8 percent from the free throw line.
If Tony can develop any manner of finesse next year, we might actually have one hell of a player on our hands. Well, that and learning to fight through screens. For the love of god TC, please fight through screens. I expect Codi Miller-McIntyre to start sooner rather than later next year, but Tony could prove me wrong, and considering this was really his freshman year and he had some occasional flashes of brilliance, I've gotta give TC a solid C+.
EDIT: Kind of ironic given today's news that I wrote this section last thing before going to bed last night. Best of luck to TC with his future. He's got genuinely nothing but love from me and I wish him success. This changes a lot, particularly with regards to another player I will discuss below.
-Nikita Mescheriakov. Oh Nikita you crazy, awkward, wild so-and-so. There were times this year when watching him play wanted to make me scream, but the dude busted his ass (there's no other way to put it, really) more than perhaps anyone else on the court from the standpoint of sheer will to do more with less. The Russian Assassin had modest statistical contributions, averaging 8.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 25.5 minutes per game. He only shot 38.7 percent on a little over seven shots per game, 23.4 percent from three and 73.8 percent from the line, but he had a nice little mini-surge at the end of the season with three straight double digit scoring games including a career high 18 points against Duke on Senior Night.
More importantly, what TC seemed to lack in effort, Kita made up for in spades, seemingly treating each game like it was his last, and playing with a fire that would've been nice to see from many of the guys on the rest of the team. I am genuinely amazed by Nikita's unrivaled ability to look incredibly skilled one second and hilariously awkward the next. It was endearing to me by the end of the season, I'm not joking at all. He'd make some absolutely bonkers spin move to the basket and then absolutely whiff an easy shot for example.
All of Kita's work averages out to a B- from me. I'm just going with my gut on this one, honestly. I'll miss him, and I think the team will too.
-I hesitate to talk at length about Ty Walker. I will simply say that Ty showed flashes of brilliance this year, the kind of play we had hoped to see from him from the very beginning, but his late surge was marred by his eventual dismissal from the team. Much as it pains me to do so, I have to give Ty a D+. I refuse to give him a failing grade because he stuck with Wake through thick and thin (and vice versa), but Ty is so clearly a tragic case of wasted potential due to a variety of unfortunate circumstances and happenings that it cannot be understated just how much his career here will remain a "what if?"
-The other man in the middle, Carson Desrosiers, thankfully had a much more auspicious season. The sophomore from New Hampshire had modest averages, chipping in 4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 1.9 blocks per game in an average of 25.1 minutes. His shooting percentages were similarly anemic, going 44.1 percent from the field, 34.3 percent from deep and 60.5 percent from the line.
The GOOD news is that Carson definitely had a late season surge, finishing with seven or more points in four of the last five games, including two double-digit scoring games in that time frame. Additionally, Carson began to get confidence in his deep shot later in the year. If Carson can spend this off season bulking up and working more on his aggressiveness and inside game, I very much see Carson as a very very solid presence for us inside. \
The other thing I noticed is that Carson generally speaking plays defense without fouling too much. He only fouled out of three games this year (including the game at Maryland where he fouled out in only eight minutes of playing time; no that is not a typo, yes I triple-checked ... how does that even happen?), and one of them was at Seton Hall, wherein our front court had to contend with match-up nightmare Herb Pope.
Thanks to his late season surge and what I believe to be his future potential, I'm going to give Carson Desrosiers a B+. If he can get stronger inside, he's going to be a very skilled, very valuable, very versatile basketball player.
-Chase Fischer was arguably our MVP with regards to reserves, as I'd consider Carson Desrosiers a sixth starter more than a bench player/reserve. In 26.1 minutes per game, Chase averaged 6.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and more or less a steal per game. Chase only averaged 1.1 turnovers as well, which is solid ball handling. Admittedly, he wasn't asked to handle the ball as much as a point, but any time you run an offense like we do and a guard of any kind averages only one turnover every 26 minutes, that's pretty strong.
Chase only shot 35 percent from the field for the year and 32 percent behind the arc, but here's some quick math. Chase only attempted 55 two-point shots all year, and made 23 of them, meaning that his two-point shooting was a much better 41.8 percent. Chase also shot a very strong 82.1 percent from the free throw line.
Chase showed a lot of versatility this year, at least in flashes. He often chose not to, but when he did decide to switch up his game, he was extremely good at it. He showed his ability to bass the ball and slash to the basket with surprising effectiveness, given his (rightfully earned) reputation as a spot up shooter. The other noteworthy thing is Chase was extremely active on the defensive end and never lacked for hustle. I would say that Chase was quite possibly our best perimeter defender this year, or at least was tied with C.J. in that regard.
If Chase can learn to balance his game a little better, I really think he can be a spectacular bench player for the Deacs next year, and quite probably crack the starting lineup after C.J.'s graduation next year. I'd be doing a disservice to give Chase Fischer's freshman campaign anything less than a B+, since all the pieces seem to be there, he just needs to put them together.
-Daniel Green and Anthony Fields are both in similar positions in that neither of them really played enough to fairly be able to assess their potential, and there's not really enough of a body of work to grade either of them on for this year. I will say that I think we saw flashes of what Green can be (and he was advertised as a project player before coming onto campus) and Green has a lot of potential.
With regards to Ant, I certainly hope he doesn't transfer now that Tony Chennault has departed. Codi-Miller McIntyre is going to need a backup, and if energy is ANY indication at all, then Ant has the ability to be extremely capable in that regard, and I would like to publicly congratulate Anthony on what seemed to me to be an extremely positive and proactive attitude despite rarely getting a chance to play. I give Mr. Green and Mr. Fields both an INCOMPLETE with a cautiously optimistic edge towards both of them.
I'm not going to go too far down this path. I personally have talked about it a lot already, and I have very little interest in discussing it further at this time. Additionally, I'm reasonably certain that some of my colleagues may be writing pieces on that situation themselves sooner than later. All I will say is that there are still serious question marks, and that I think next year will be pivotal in answering some of those questions.
There's good news and bad news. The bad news is many of us are filled with trepidation about the future, and rightfully so. Some of us are sad, despondent, we dread the prospect of things not improving. Some others are angry, prone to calling for action on a level way above our pay grade. Most of us probably have some mixture of these emotions. I'd be lying if I said I don't know if all the talent in the world would get us to where I believe we can be.
Truthfully, maybe my expectations are too high; this is something I've heard many times before, particularly this season, and I'll certainly do all in my power to temper these expectations as much as possible going forward so as to avoid pain, frustration, and sorrow.
The good news is twofold. Firstly, it's undeniable that Wake is getting a HUGE influx of talent next year, much of which sits exactly in places of need. The class is comfortably in the top 25 in the nation, and I genuinely believe that a player like Codi Miller-McIntyre has the potential to be a truly transformational talent, and that's only Codi. There are five other guys coming in, all with a lot of possibilities, and all with plenty to bring to the table. While we shouldn't get our hopes up too much of course, I'd call it needlessly pessimistic to not get them up at all.
The second piece of good news, if my fine readers will allow me a digression, is a little more abstract and existential. Without going into too much detail, there are times lately that I have, rather appropriately, felt a lot of connectedness to the Wake Forest Men's Basketball program in the worst possible ways. I wondered if what I was doing was worth it. I frankly wasn't at my best. I was down, I was struggling.
But then something clicked. The long and short of it is that over the past two weeks or so, I have been a house afire, a workhorse that has been opening doors and seizing opportunities all around me, driven to a level that I haven't felt in a long time. I'm going to get to a better place. I'm going to succeed. And I'm going to turn that success into everything from motivation for others to direct aid to them to joy and validation for myself. Things will be better, because I'm going to make them that way, regardless of what it takes.
The reason I mention this is I realized something else. I felt at home at Wake Forest University, and love the athletic events so much, because the nature of the university is much the same as my own. Of course, there are question marks to who, and how, and when, but Wake Forest basketball will return to a place of prestige, quality, excellence, excitement, and respect. Because regardless of the players (and I use the phrase in a Shakespearean sense in this instance) the tradition exists, and is much bigger than any of us.
The spirit of Wake Forest University may be down, but it's not out. Because it's invincible.