No matter what happens, let’s keep it real: Wake Forest basketball is on the rise. What feels like a snowball of high profile commits that started with Chaundee Brown for the coming season and has since included Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, and Sharone Wright Jr. for 2018 demonstrates a clear upward trajectory. And that’s most certainly not to discount the rise of John Collins, who went from relatively under-the-radar player to an NBA first-rounder looking likely to make noise in only two short years. That’s also not to discount the continued growth of Bryant Crawford, who is most certainly looking at a shot at the big time within the next couple of years, or the underappreciated heart and grit of the entire 2016-17 squad who, to a man, helped raise the Demon Deacons from the darkest era in program history back to the big dance of the NCAA Tournament. So yeah, it’s all good. But it could be GREAT, and that could be helped along by one Ayo Dosunmu.
When I came to Wake Forest, it was as a second generation Deac in the year 2005. The basketball program was reeling from the departure of Chris Paul, and football really hadn’t been sustained in its relevancy since, well, ever. When I got to campus though, I didn’t care about sports. I didn’t “get” sports. I still went to games, though, more as a social experience than anything, and then gradually, largely thanks to the brilliance of Riley Skinner and others on the football field and the likability of basketball Deacs like Ish Smith and L.D. Williams, I began to build passion for my teams, which gradually ballooned out to a general love of sports, and now I’m just a straight up sports lover. I have the spirit of Wake Forest to thank for that.
When I came to Blogger So Dear, it was in the dawning of the Bzdelik Era. I’ll never forget it; I found BSD because I was curious to see reactions online about the loss to Stetson out of morbid curiosity, and our venerable then editor Martin Rickman had posted a recap in haiku with the all-time great title, “Hatters Gonna Hat”. I then began commenting and writing admittedly histrionic fanposts about how we couldn’t give up on Bzdelik and his group of players. Why? Because they were my team. They were my family. I believed in them.
In my 12 years of following Wake Forest sports, I have never felt like we were in a better position to usher in a new era of Wake Forest athletics. Dave Clawson is carving the words Deacon Tough into the soul of this university game by game. We lived through the darkness of the Bzdelik Era and we are once again on the rise. Danny Manning and his staff have done a remarkable job of spotting talent and molding it, and there is a buzz of energy and hope around everything Demon Deacon. Our family banded together and got through a long winter, from the death of Skip Prosser (which I truly believe we are only now recovering from) to the gradual decline of the Jim Grobe era, and spring is here once again. Why did we cheer? Why did we continue to believe? Because that, Mr. Dosunmu, is the spirit of Wake Forest. Wake Forest has never been a blueblood. But we’re fine with that. Because we’re a black-and-goldblood instead. And I’ll take that 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. Why? Because we are Wake Forest, and the very moment an athlete commits to being a Demon Deacon, they are a part of that forever. They are a part of that passion, that soul, that indomitable spirit that will only ever be understood by people who have gone into a fight never given a chance and who are part of a family that will never, ever give up and never, ever take a single moment for granted.
The 2018 class is already elite. We are poised to make noise regardless. But Ayo, if you’re reading this, which I hope you do, I’m here to tell you that your presence in the black and gold could shake college basketball to its core. Many blueblood programs are under a cloud of uncertainty right now, and while I don’t want to dare cast aspersions in the event that our rapid rise had any sort of untoward boosts (not to mention karma is a harsh mistress), Wake Forest certainly doesn’t seem to be involved. These other schools being involved, though, it presents an opportunity. The time is right for Wake Forest’s stars to finally align and have the firepower to not just open doors to success, but to kick them down and change the landscape of college basketball for the foreseeable future. You, we, the Demon Deacon Nation, are poised to turn the noise we make from a rallying cry to a scream.
Ayo, I know your Illinois visit is this weekend. I genuinely hope it goes well. For all I know, you may decide to commit to the Illini the moment you step on campus and this article will mean nothing and look foolish in hindsight. And if that happens, I genuinely hope you kill it in the Big 10 and find nothing but joy and success. But if you do read this, first off, thanks for even taking the time, and second, consider this. You identify yourself on Twitter as “Mr. WhyNotMe”, and your header is, near as I can tell, someone sleeping on your chances to make it. I’m here to tell you there may not be another campus, another program, another family in this nation that understands that better than the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. So my question to you, Ayo, is very simple.
Why Not Us? Enjoy Champaign. Let’s get it. Go Deacs.