In the past few weeks, the Demon Deacons have been shuttled around campus by the Sports Marketing Department to personalize the members of the basketball team. The Deacs spoke at several Greek life organizations and a variety of different clubs. The players introduced themselves, spoke briefly about their background and discussed how important it is for students to attend games. Then, they took any questions from the group and high-fived their fellow students.
Think about it, in high school, if you had a friend on the football team, you went to the games. Same logic stands here.
In the three seasons under Jeff Bzdelik, there have been complaints that the players appeared distant to students. There are a few reasons for the diminished relationship between the students and players. Firstly, the constant revolving door of players has hindered the continuity. Center Carson Desrosiers, for example, was well-known among non-athletes, but transferred to Providence this season. Overall, eight players were dismissed or transferred from the program. This year's roster has only one scholarship senior and one junior. Secondly, Bzdelik is often characterized as aloof--which is maybe harsh-- but he does not sufficiently express his passion about Wake Forest hoops to students and fans. One of his weaknesses is his ability to galvanize fans--something Skip Prosser thrived at. Thirdly, their has been a dearth of publicity events like these on campus in recent years.
It is a promising sign that the hoops hierarchy learned from its recent failures and reached out to its biggest supporters, the fans.
And look at the results? The first home game following their campus-wide media tour was Bzdelik's biggest win in his three years, a monumental 86-84 upset of rival NC State. The student turnout was unbelievable. The entire bottom level was filled, something that has been a rarity in recent years. Also, the diversity of the students was evident. I never saw so many sorority girls and theater majors at a sporting event.
When talking to the Screamin' Demons, C.J. Harris explained that a cacophonous student section provides the team with a pulse and a greater sense of motivation. I think that statement held true in the tremendous upset of the Wolfpack. This was the loudest the Joel has been in recent memory. I would be remiss to dismiss the great performances of the Deacs (see: Devin Thomas, the man child), but it is no coincidence that this is the Harris and the senior class's first win against an in-state ACC foe.
Games like these are moments that the players and students, alike, won't ever forget. Whether the student is an avid fan or this was the first game they attended, there are few experiences like storming the court. These great memories bring fans back to the Joel. And more importantly, these memories foster a sense of community. Moments like these unite students together and make Wake Forest the great institution it is.
After the game, hoards of ecstatic students rolled the Quad. The thrilled fans turn around and who do they see? The entire basketball squad. The players still soaking in the euphoria, seized the moment and joined their peers in pictures and high-fives and tossed toilet paper into the trees.
Trailing the pack, a suited man appeared, eager to embrace the festivities. He, too, took pictures and high-fived fans.