All the hype surrounding the upcoming basketball season at Wake Forest has been about the youth, and for good reason. Freshman forwards Isaiah Mucius and Jaylen Hoard look to be key contributors early on, with the latter potentially being a lottery selection in next year’s NBA draft.
The staff has also done its job in the recruiting department recently as it was able to scoop up four-star recruit Ismael Massoud over top programs Florida State and Xavier. It’s clear that coach Danny Manning has made significant progress in the youth department as it develop their games over the next few seasons.
However, that isn’t the focus of today.
Instead, we’re looking at the established veterans who have made their way to Winston-Salem this upcoming year. Through the transfer program, Wake Forest picked up two players in the off-season to don the Old Gold and Black this year.
Here’s what we should expect from those two players.
We must first explain how we got here. Johnson hasn’t had your average basketball career in college. This was because, after his redshirt freshman campaign, he wasn’t fully developed enough to play efficient minutes. During his freshman year, because of the injuries suffered by his Northern Arizona teammates, he was put out there by the NAU coaches to help provide his team on the offensive side. He was essentially thrown into the fire too early, and his adjustment for the game suffered as a result. The season after that, he tore his ACL in the summer of the 2016-2017 season, forcing him to miss that entire campaign. He was still in the recovery stage during the 2017-2018 season as he didn’t look 100%. However, he does appear to be that he’s all set to go.
On the court, Johnson is the prototypical combo guard of modern basketball. He isn’t going to beat you with his facilitating ability, but he’ll do all the other things that will help his team win. Per KenPom, he played most of his minutes at the shooting guard, while occasionally moving over to the point.
One of those ways is his defense. At 6’3” with an above-average wingspan, he has good height and length to be able to defend other guards in college basketball. He also looks to be back in his pre-ACL state, meaning that his incredible athleticism should be a major asset on that side of the ball.
Although his individual numbers may not show his prowess, (0.3 career defensive win shares), that could be the fault of his team overall. Throughout his two years active on the team, the Lumberjacks had a winning percentage of a nonchalant sixteen percent. As a result, his team was never able to help capture his full potential defensively as they were getting beat up constantly by opponents.
On the offensive end at Northern Arizona he did a great job of drawing fouls, ranking 95th individually at 5.9 fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He also shot 33% from behind the arc on 80 attempts.
He is an attack-first guard who loves driving inside to score. This is why he averaged 5.1 attempts from the free throw line last season. Of course, going from a weak conference in the Big Sky to the powerhouse of the ACC will pose a tougher threat for him inside. There are more establish centers that he will face this year, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts.
Outside of the paint, Johnson’s outside shot has been streaky. Although his jump shot has to be the fastest on the team, his efficiency hasn’t been up to standards. He has shot just 33 percent from three in his two active seasons, and his mid-range game hasn’t shown to be effective.
I expect Torry Johnson to be a key contributor on the defensive end for the Deacons bench. His tall size and athleticism, assuming its fully back, can provide great help in preventing threes. Look for him to score in bunches from the inside, and could potentially become the team’s sixth man as a result.
Smart will have a much bigger role than Thompson will for the Deacons this season. This is because the team has a whopping eight different guys to choose from for the backup guard slot, a complete and utter logjam. This will no doubt cause a battle for proper minutes between the group.
For Smart, he essentially wins his spot by default. The center position is only filled by one person on the entire depth chart for the Deacons, Olivier Sarr. Other than that, the team has no designated man to fill that role. That’s why at
6’8”, (6’10”) Smart will have to fill in as an undersized backup center.
But, I believe that he can strive in this role. The time at Buffalo was a key representation of how he should play for the Deacons.
On the defensive end, he won’t kill you in the stat sheet. He hasn’t shown the ability to be a perennial shot blocker as he has only averaged 0.44 rejections per game. However, he has shown great footwork to be matchup up with players posting up on him. His 225 pound is also a key factor into why he’s able to maintain his ground against opposing bigs. Throughout his career, he has maintained a very respectable 103 defensive rating. In all, Smart has proven to be an above-average defender, even if his numbers don’t completely show that.
Offensively speaking, Smart has a well-developed game, even if he doesn’t shoot anywhere from the perimeter. He has developed a lethal post game at UB, which is where the majority of his points come from. Between up-and-unders, post spins and hooks, he has many ways to beat opposing players in the paint. However, that’s the limit of his offensive game as he hasn’t shown the ability to develop any sort of game outside of ten feet. This shouldn’t be a problem this year as the Deacons have many outside shooters who can compliment Smart’s presence down low.
In all, both Torry Johnson and Ikenna Smart should be great additions for the Deacons bench. Both players have shown the defensive intensity to complement their effective offensive play-styles. Both will have chances to prove to the coaching staff that they deserve a lot of minutes, and it will be interesting to see how Manning balances two of the older players on a roster full of younger guys.