Some summer vacation that was.
Time was, a school's summer break was at least three months long, culminating in one reconvening of the masses some time in August. Not so for the men and women of Wake Forest basketball, who returned (or, for the freshmen, arrived) to campus last weekend and began classes on Monday. At least for the men, there is the distraction of the annual Triad Pro-Am Summer League to soften the blow of a summer, interrupted.
The six-team league plays twice weekly over a period of three weeks and is made up of area college and professional basketball players, including the Deacs. Those arriving early to the gymnasium on the campus of Forsyth Country Day School on Thursday got to see senior forward Travis McKie drop 33 points in a victory over a team made up of Quakers from Guiford College, some of them having yet to play a college game.
McKie, who had 15 at halftime, played with determined aggression and was clearly the best player on the floor, as he should have been. Just like last year, McKie spent much of his time with the basketball putting some of his offseason work into practice. Unlike last year, that work doesn't have much to do with shooting the ball.
"I always could shoot the ball, but I want to be an efficient shooter," McKie said. "This time, I'm working on creating with my left hand. My left hand is not where I want it to be, so I'm doing a lot of stuff for my left hand, doing a lot of off-hand finishes. I'm just trying to make the game more complicated to I can get better."
An improved McKie would be welcome news to the Deacon faithful, many of whom are still smarting from last season's 13-18 record that included only one win away from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. McKie insists, though, that there is one key element that this year's squad will have that was not present last year: belief.
"I think a lot of our young guys, they didn't believe their first year," McKie said. "I think they believe they belong now. They're comfortable, on the road and at home. And I think we're going to make a big jump from last year."
Unlike many athletes, McKie has remained in Winston-Salem since the spring semester ended, working out and trying to prepare for one last run through the ACC. After coming to Wake Forest with high expectations as a freshman, he is looking to make some noise along with his teammates in 2013-14.
"I've been here all summer, just trying to work on my game and getting ready to go out with a bang for my final year. I think these last couple of years, I tried to put too much pressure on myself to try to get it done. I think I just want to enjoy my senior year, and let everything play out."