It's a hot June today in North Carolina, and inside the Dave Budd Practice Gymnasium on Wake Forest's campus is the 2015-2016 version of the Demon Deacons men's basketball team. The 2014-2015 squad went 13-19 in Danny Manning's first season at the helm. While the results on the court were not what the fans, players and coaches wanted, there was no denying the increased competitiveness of the team and increased enthusiasm surrounding the program. What will be different about this year's team? The biggest difference might just be the three youngest scholarship players on the team - Bryant Crawford, Doral Moore, and John Collins. Those three came to Wake Forest to play in the best basketball conference in the country, and they are going to make Wake Forest competitive in it.
This recruiting class represents hope for a Wake Forest fan base, who hasn't seen their beloved Demon Deacons in the NCAA Tournament since 2010. Yes, it's June and the schedule this season is hellacious, but there is hope for the future. Danny Manning's additions of Mitchell Wilbekin, Dinos Mitoglou, and Cornelius Hudson to the 2014 recruiting class were average on paper, but very quality in terms of what transpired on the court this past season. Manning's first full class - the 2015 class - is even better, at least on paper. Bryant Crawford, Doral Moore, and John Collins were all four-star prospects.
There will be far more work taking place this summer than the NCAA permitted two hours of full instruction and six hours of strength and conditioning allowed per week over the course of eight weeks. These freshmen, and every other member of this team, will put in the work to take this program to where it needs to be.
I had the opportunity to catch up with the three coveted freshmen.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/TieDyeNation">@TieDyeNation</a> 's freshman trio....Doral Moore, John Collins & Bryant Crawford...<a href="https://twitter.com/301BC_">@301BC_</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/2talldemondeac">@2talldemondeac</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Jc__20_">@Jc__20_</a> <a href="http://t.co/w35DGSOOI7">pic.twitter.com/w35DGSOOI7</a></p>— Brian Hall (@bhallwfmy) <a href="https://twitter.com/bhallwfmy/status/614173919164108800">June 25, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Crawford was the first recruit in the 2015 class to commit to Wake Forest, and for that reason alone he's arguably the most important commitment in this class. He may represent a pivotal turning point for this program. After Manning offered him last spring, I watched his junior highlight video, and fell in love with his game.
Crawford has incredible instincts and feel for the game. He is a natural point guard, but told me that he's also comfortable playing off the ball. In the summer he is focusing on "getting stronger, and getting familiar with playing styles of teammates, and the systems." His goal is to make the NBA, and I believe that the former D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year can get there one day.
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Doral Moore, in my opinion, has the highest ceiling of the three players in this class. He's 7'1" and 250 pounds, yet still has the frame to easily add 20 more pounds to his upper body. He's also agile, can block shots, step out and shoot, and has a developing post game. From his highlights, it's easy to see why Danny Manning spent so much of last summer watching Doral's AAU games. Moore chose Wake Forest over a host of impressive offers to "learn from Coach Manning." He also "felt comfortable around the community and college." Moore praises the level of competition and says that they make each other better every day.
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John Collins is the lowest rated of the three recruits, but that does not mean he will not have an impact in his first year on campus. He's "comfortable stepping out, but can also step inside." His versatility will be a tremendous asset to this program. Collins was incredibly productive as a high school senior, as he averaged 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds. For his efforts, he was named Palm Beach Post Player of the Year, Gatorade Palm Beach Player of the Year, and Florida Class 4A Player of the Year.
Collins came to Wake Forest because of the "amazing academics, experienced coaching staff, and the opportunity to learn from Coach Manning." In the summer he's working on being as "physical and intense as I possibly can be." Collins went on to say, "That's what Coach Manning demands out of us. That's not something I really had to do in high school, but that's something I have to do here."
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