While thinking about what the 2016-2017 Wake Forest basketball season may bring, it’s tough not to spend most of your time feeling excited about the development of the 2015 class. All three members of Danny Manning’s first full recruiting class showed flashes of dominance at some point this season, with Bryant Crawford leading the pack as WF’s All-Freshman team representative. If there is one thing that stayed constant throughout the second half of the year it was that fans wanted to see all of them get more playing time to really show off their game.
John Collins led the team in Offensive Rating and was third in Offensive Win Shares despite playing just over 20 minutes a game. Doral Moore shot an incredibly efficient 65% from the field and had the best Defensive Rating of any player in the rotation and it wasn’t really that close. Of course, you probably already know of the star power Danny Manning got with Bryant Crawford and his deep threes and passing game flair.
I, like many other Deac fans, was very pleased with the production from these three newcomers, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t simply biased by what was in front of me. Were Moore, Crawford, and Collins actually BETTER than the other targets we were heavily after in the 2015 cycle? Is there anyone who we seriously missed out on in this class?
Devin Thomas says given time and patience the class of Bryant Crawford, John Collins and Doral Moore will engineer a turnaround at #Wake.— Adam Smith (@adam_smithTN) March 8, 2016
To assess this, I took the top eight targets who the staff also seemed heavily interested in in the 2015 cycle and analyzed their seasons. To be considered, the target had to either have Wake in his final list before selecting another school (Eliminating long-shot targets like Brandon Ingram, Dwayne Bacon, etc.) or a player Wake was rumored to be heavily targeting late in the year after Aaron Rountree’s scholarship opened up. Here are these targets’ stats compared to the 2015 Deacs:
If you’re reading those numbers like me, the first thought that may come to mind is "Wow, Wake dodged some bullets."
Samir Sehic was a 3* big from Texas who took an official visit to Wake Forest on September 6, 2014 after the staff showed considerable interest in the crafty big. He then took an OV to Vanderbilt the following weekend and committed to the Commodores just three days later, leaving Wake Forest still in need of its first commit for 2015.
Sehic’s commitment led to Danny Manning prioritizing John Collins the following few weeks on the recruiting trail before finally landing the FL Power Forward on October 11th. Looking at their freshman seasons in review, I don’t think there’s any doubt who Wake fans would rather have now. Sehic attempted just 21 field goals on the entire season; Collins had eclipsed that total by halftime in the opening game of Maui. Enough said.
Wake Forest missed out on Samir Sehic, but batting .500 ain't too bad this week. Tacko Fall & Doral Moore up next on docket for Deacs— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) September 22, 2014
The other name that really stands out to me is NC State wing Shaun Kirk. If Kirk sounds familiar, it’s likely because he was a part of potentially the most unjustified soar in recruiting rankings the industry has ever seen. With Aaron Rountree’s unexpected departure leaving Wake Forest with an open scholarship for the 2015-16 season, many expected the staff to add to the incoming freshman class in the form of an uncommitted recruit.
Rumors swirled that Team Loaded NC wing Shaun Kirk was a top target for Wake Forest, and given Wake’s struggles in grad-transfer recruiting at the time, it seemed like a commitment was just a matter of time.
Reclassed senior F Shaun Kirk says he will meet with Wake Forest next week, hopes to get an offer. Deacs would become favorite.— Rob Harrington (@Rob_Harrington) March 28, 2015
However, no visit occurred, the rumors slowed, and Kirk committed to NC State on the spot after Mark Gottfried offered him a scholarship looking to fill his depleted roster. The story turned more bizarre after John Calipari extended an offer to Kirk just hours later on a whim based on showcase highlights after striking out with multiple blue chip recruits.
Within a day, a 180+ recruit was now a consensus 4* and had scouting analysts like Jerry Meyer claiming they always knew he was star material. All of a sudden a recruit that was undoubtedly Wake’s to lose was now ranked as highly as any WF target in the last five years, but would not be wearing the black and gold.
.@frieze_goku @TheCount_23 Shaun Kirk is four-star all the way in my book. No. 73 in Top247 http://t.co/CQMUWEed8a— Jerry Meyer (@jerrymeyer247) April 29, 2015
Keyshawn Woods ended up filling that open scholarship just a few weeks later, and many expect the Charlotte transfer to be the starting SG and leader for the Deacs next season. I think it’s safe to say Woods will out-perform Kirk’s struggling 1st ACC season when next winter comes around. In fact, if a healthy Woods doesn’t average more than .8 PPG in 16-17, all your Bojangles trips are on me for the next year. Though, to be honest, there are not enough Cajun Filet combos we could eat to drown our pain if Wake's starting SG is averaging less than a point a game next season.
Taking a minute to realize how good this class for Wake is...Crawford, Moore, Collins, and Keyshawn Woods transferring in. Thanks Danny.— Riley Johnston (@BSD_RaJohnston) December 30, 2015
Tacko Fall you might remember as the 7’6 3* Center that we prioritized Doral Moore over in September 2014. He shot 75% from the field and had multiple double-doubles throughout the season, including a 13 point-14 rebound-5 block game against Temple. Those stats we’re quite impressive for a freshman who still needed a lot of polishing coming into college, but I’d personally rather have Moore simply based on potential alone.
We all saw how Moore can takeover a game at times and I only expect those moments to increase in frequency over the next few years. When it is all said and done, Moore should be a better contributor at the ACC level than Fall is.
Wake Forest HC Danny Manning is at Liberty Christian Prep (FL) mtg w/ Elhadji Tacko Fall (@tackofall99). Fall will visit WFU Sep 20— Russ Wood (@RussHoops) September 10, 2014
Josh Reaves was a fringe 4* SG that was one of the first targets to choose a school in the 2015 cycle. He played for HS powerhouse Oak Hill Academy and held offers from Maryland, GW, Wake Forest and Penn State. He ultimately chose the latter to continue his basketball career on July 1 and never looked back despite receiving heavy HM interest throughout his senior year.
Missing out on Reaves at the time seemed like a decent blow, mainly considering we didn’t seem to be making any substantial progress with other 2015 recruits at the time and he was a prospect in our range. Added on to that was the fact we lost to Penn State in a recruiting battle, which was not particularly confidence-lifting given all of Danny Manning’s 2014 recruits were either 2*s or unrated.
Danny Manning is wasting no time on the recruiting trail with Wake Forest 2015 offers reportedly issued to Allonzo Trier and Josh Reaves.— Hoopniks (@Hoopniks) April 17, 2014
Reaves went on to have a decent freshman season for PSU, but I’m not sure he would’ve added anything truly significant to our roster this year. For one, he shot an abysmal 7.7% from 3 on nearly 1.5 attempts per game, which falls into the category of "slightly unhelpful" for an offense. His shooting was never his strong suit in HS and I’m not sure adding another piece to our rotation that struggled from deep really would’ve been a positive. He also is only 6’4 and not big enough to play the 3 consistently, so that doesn’t exactly help our defensive matchup problems either. Overall, Reaves may turn into a solid 10 PPG Guard for the Nittany Lions, but I’m not losing any sleep over missing out on him two years ago.
Josh Reaves is now 3/34 on the year on 3s. Isaiah Washington (4/31) somehow not the worst outside shooter on the team.— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) February 7, 2016
Malik Ellison is probably the most interesting player listed above for a number of reasons. His WF recruitment picked up last March when Wake was looking to fill its open wing scholarship after Aaron Rountree graduated early. St. Johns, Minnesota, South Carolina, Rutgers, and Wake Forest were the five schools that were after him hardest before he decided to stay close to home to play college ball.
Malik Ellison will make a decision this month. Cal, Minnesota, Rutgers, South Carolina, Temple, Wake Forest all in the running.— Matt Jessen-Howard (@mjessenhoward) April 9, 2015
He averaged 7.3 PPG (5th on team) for a miserable St. Johns team last season and did a little bit of everything for Chris Mullins as a freshman. His shooting percentages were fairly average across the board (37%, 32%, 65%), but he was extremely good at getting into the lane and drawing fouls on opponents. Despite being 8th on the team in total minutes (He was injured for a few games), he was 2nd on the team in FTA by just one attempt. That type of aggressiveness is something I feel as though Wake Forest could've really used this past season on the perimeter considering Rondale Watson, Mitchell Wilbekin, and Cornelius Hudson rarely got to the line.
Speaking of Hudson, the two had nearly identical freshman seasons for their respective programs:
Hudson: 7.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 21.9 MPG, 36% FG, 32% 3PT
Ellison: 7.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 21.3 MPG, 37% FG, 32% 3PT
So while you could argue Ellison would've been a worthwhile addition last year, you also have to realize that Wake had a nearly identical player already on the roster at the time. Not only that, but Hudson was talked about as being the player that improved the most over the offseason and was expected to be a huge contributor. Whether you would rather have Ellison over Hudson now after all of the disciplinary issues have come up is a completely valid argument to make, but it would've been hard to foresee that last spring.
Woods ended up taking that open scholarship and the real question is not "Will Ellison develop more than his freshman-year-twin Hudson did?", but "Will Woods outperform the St. Johns wing?" Not me or any of the public has seen Keyshawn play enough over the last twelve months to determine whether that could happen at this point in time. We'll have to wait until November to get the answer.
As for the others listed, Malik Beasley and Tevin Mack (For his first commitment) listed Wake Forest on their final lists, but I’m not sure how much they really considered attending the school. Beasley, of course, is the gem of the crop and a projected lottery pick at this point. Mack didn’t have quite as dominant a season for Shaka Smart as some expected, but he should be a solid four-year contributor. As for Camron Justice, his 3-point accuracy would’ve been appreciated here in Winston-Salem, but again hopefully Keyshawn Woods fills that void next season.
RT @vsmgllc: 2015 Dreher (SC) wing Tevin Mack has a final five of South Carolina, VCU, Georgia, Clemson & Wake Forest.— Alex Kline (@TheRecruitScoop) August 22, 2014
Here’s one last graph that helps demonstrate the targets’ HS rank and their overall PPG as a freshman. On the far right you can see John Collins far exceeding some higher rated prospects. For all those who love seeing evidence of HS rankings meaning very little, this graph is for you.
So there’s my "Where are they now?" piece for the 2015 targets for the WF basketball program. If there’s anyone else you would like me to look up from that recruiting cycle, comment below and I’ll be happy to provide you an update. For more frequent WF recruiting updates you can follow me on Twitter@DeacFan3 .