It was just announced that Dinos Mitoglou will forego his senior season at Wake Forest to sign a lucrative deal with the reigning Greek League Champs Panathinaikos.
This is a sudden and full departure from just Wednesday when the staff confirmed to Les Johns that Mitoglou would be returning. It also came as a shock to several people close to the situation, who were told that Dinos would “absolutely be returning to Wake”.
First of all, congratulations to Mitoglou for fulfilling his ambitions to be a professional basketball player. Understandably, the money (reportedly over $2M over 4 years) is fantastic and hard to turn down.
Let me be clear that I wish no ill will at all towards Mitoglou. I can say with a lot of confidence that I would likely take that deal in a heartbeat as well. It provides immediate financial security for himself and his family, and also allows him to return to his native Greece.
That being said, the timing for this could not have been worse for Wake Forest and the staff. It is incredibly late in the game to try to sign anybody else for the class of 2017, and the grad transfer market is all but depleted at this point.
It is unclear whether or not this had been in the works in a while, but multiple outlets in Greece and European hoops reported that it was all but done last week. If this was the case it is unknown why he would have told the staff that he was planning on coming back, or at least not let them know as soon as he knew something. Every day matters at this point and it would have provided the staff with a better chance to get an additional player for the upcoming season.
It leaves two options with what happened: the money was changed/upped if Panathinaikos thought that he was returning to Wake, or the people close to DInos and the Wake Forest staff were mislead as to what Mitoglou’s real intentions for this season were.
The Demon Deacons were already extremely thin in the front court with the departure of John Collins (drafted 19th by the Atlanta Hawks), and now it looks downright depleted based on who was expected to be playing this year.
This leaves Wake with just 11 scholarship players, and 3 players on the entire roster over 6-9: junior Doral Moore, sophomore Sam Japhet-Mathias, and freshman Olivier Sarr.
These guys were primarily supposed to eat up the 40 minutes at the center position, but it now makes it likely that Olivier Sarr will be asked to play some stretch four for at least a few minutes a game.
Quite frankly it’s unclear who will start at the four right now. The options on the roster as it currently stands are either true freshmen Melo Eggleston, or sophomore Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell played in just four games last year, totaling 7 minutes.
Should the roster remain like it is without any additions, the most obvious answer seems to be that Wake will be forced to play a lot of small ball. The good news is that Danny Manning doesn’t have a lot of problems with this, but the bad news is that the roster is ill-suited to play this given the lack of experienced players in the 6-6 through 6-8 range.
There is a chance that Wake Forest could still land a grad transfer, primarily Jack Whitman, the former William and Mary big man who enrolled at Kansas, but abruptly left a couple of weeks ago. There is speculation that his departure could have been tied, at least in part, to make sure there was room for Kansas to land No. 1 2018 prospect Marvin Bagley should he choose to reclassify (which he started the process of last night).
Whitman averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds for the Tribe last season and we wrote about him back in March.
A quick look at this guy indicates that he is exactly what Danny Manning should be looking for as a grad transfer. Whitman played 55% of the Tribe’s minutes last year, presumably limited a bit by his 5.1 FC/40 rate.
In those minutes he showed great skill around the basket, shooting 66% from the field, but only 60% from the free throw line. Given his 94.9 foul rate (he gets to the line A LOT), that’s something that would likely need to be improved upon.
I actually thought he was the best fit for the team from a graduate transfer perspective even before Wake lost Collins and Mitoglou, but now he would be an absolute huge get for the team. In an ideal world there are likely between 25-30 minutes available at the 4 right now for somebody to come in, and Whitman would be a perfect player to fill that void.
It isn’t certain if Whitman is even looking to play another year or simply move on from college basketball, but Danny Manning should be on the phone with him right now to see if he wants to be a Demon Deacon. It’s an amazing fit for both Whitman and Wake Forest and should be the number one priority for the staff in my opinion.
In the next couple of days we will also take a look at some other guys out there who could possibly fill the role, as well as a look at the 2017 class to see if there is anybody out there who could be added to this year’s roster.
There’s no real good way to sugarcoat Mitoglou leaving as far as what it means for Wake Forest this year. It without a doubt makes Wake Forest a worse team for the 2017-18 season than it would have been with him here.
While arguments can be made that it will allow Eggleston and Mitchell, as well as some other younger guys, a chance to get a lot of minutes under their belt to produce in the future, it is a bad thing in the short term.
This takes Wake Forest from a team that was looking at a very good chance to make a second tournament appearance in a row given the schedule, to a team with a big hole in the front court that needs to be filled one way or another. At this juncture I think it is unlikely that Wake would make the tournament again if there are no additions to the roster.
Once again, congratulations to Dinos Mitoglou on signing his professional contract, as he has worked hard for this. This also gives the staff another notch in its belt with production of professional players. Manning landed Mitoglou in 2014 around this same time, and he was an immediate impact.
From a Wake Forest standpoint short-term it is horrible timing, and leaves a lot of questions for the staff to answer if the Deacs are going to dance for the second straight year.