Ladies and gentlemen, with the first Wake Forest basketball game of the year coming up on Friday night in exhibition form versus UNC-Pembroke (No. 13 in DII polls), it is time to brush off some of the rust and get back into the swing of things.
We thought we had a pretty good idea of who would start for the Deacs' on Friday, but then came the news of the suspension of Cornelius Hudson, who most thought would start at the 3 (or at least be in a battle with Greg McClinton to do so). The suspension of Rondale Watson, while certainly nowhere near the level of Hudson, also causes a lot of problems in the backcourt.
Currently the only scholarship guards healthy and eligible to play for Wake Forest for the time being are freshman Bryant Crawford, sophomore Mitchell Wilbekin, and newly appointed scholarship junior Trent VanHorn. With all due respect to VanHorn, who will probably receive minutes in the out-of-conference schedule due to necessity, Crawford and Wilbekin will both be asked to carry extremely heavy minute-loads to begin the year.
The good news is that Crawford, the 6-3 point guard out of Gonzaga College HS in D.C., had glowing reports from the scrimmage on Saturday night. I don't have a lot of news on that front other than Wake looked pretty good overall, sans Miller-McIntyre, Hudson and Watson, and that Crawford and Greg McClinton both stood out among players on both teams.
Given the current circumstances of the Codi Miller-McIntyre injury and the suspensions, those two being standout players are probably best case scenario for Deacon fans early on.
Right now there is really an eight man rotation of scholarship players that head coach Danny Manning has at his disposal to run out there if he wants to avoid playing walk-ons.
Guards: (Fr) Bryant Crawford, (So) Mitchell Wilbekin
Forwards: (So) Konstantinos Mitoglou, (RS So) Greg McClinton, (Sr) Devin Thomas
Centers: (Fr) John Collins, Doral Moore, (Sr) Andre Washington
Turning an eye to the starting lineup for Friday, I would guess that we roll out the following:
While it is really good news that Danny Manning brought in 6-10 forward John Collins, and 7-1 center Doral Moore, I still believe that Devin Thomas will see some time early on at center. According to an recent interview with Winston-Salem Journal's Scott Hamilton, Devin has lost a few pounds in the off-season, and is ready to play the more traditional forward spot.
This will be beneficial as Wake Forest faces bigger teams, but against a presumably smaller UNC-Pembroke squad, having Thomas at the center position will allow both Dinos Mitglou, and Greg McClinton to see the court for the Deacs.
The most interesting thing that I am waiting to see is how the minutes will be broken down at the point and shooting guard positions. Even if Crawford and Wilbekin are able to play 30 minutes a piece, that still leaves 20 minutes unaccounted for at the guard spot with just VanHorn remaining. The most likely scenario will be sliding McClinton down to the two, allowing a three-headed attack of Mitoglou, Thomas, and Moore/Collins at the center position.
I am really excited for the freshmen to get out there and demonstrate what they can do. Given the circumstances entering the year there is no doubt that the minutes will be there to show out and get immediate playing time/experience.
The bad news is that Wake Forest has an extremely thin roster to begin the year. Getting CMM back from his injury will help tremendously, but losing him for the first month of the season, especially if he can't play in Maui, is a big blow to a young team with post-season aspirations.
I have no inside knowledge of what exactly transpired behind the Hudson and Watson suspensions, but if they are out of a lengthy amount of time (the first semester per se), the staff will really have its work cut out to keep bodies fresh and everybody in a role they can succeed in.
That is my best guess at the starting lineup, but I would love to see what everybody else thinks Coach Manning has in store for Friday. We will be rolling out player profiles this week to get everybody refreshed on returning players, as well as knowledgeable about the freshmen making their debut. I will also see what I can drum up on UNC-Pembroke so we all have some information on our first opponent of the year.