Since the commitment of five-star recruit Jaylen Hoard, the spotlight of Wake Forest Basketball has almost entirely been on him. That’s not his fault, as he looks to be ready to lead the team and become one of the focal points of both ends of the floor.
As a result of this hype, many analysts and fans alike forget other key players who may have “slipped through” the attention as a result.
One of those players who has managed to fall through that spotlight is Melo Eggleston. Melo had a limited first year for the Deacons as he was held up in a heavy backcourt roster. He never had the chance to fully show what he’s capable of displaying.
That’s all changed now though. From personnel moves to scheme changes, a new opportunity has been presented for Melo to showcase what he’s truly made of.
Here are the three reasons why Melo can and will have a breakout year this upcoming season.
One of the main issues last season was the defense that Melo displayed. At 6’8”, 170 pounds, he was, to put it frankly, too light to match up with forwards in the NCAA. His small frame allowed him to become the victim of post ups attacks. This liability was one of the main factors why he only managed to play five minutes per game during the entire 2017-2018 season.
That has hopefully changed. Over the offseason, Melo has transformed his body in becoming more physically imposing. He managed to gain over thirty pounds and now stands at a hefty 204. This is a great addition to his game as he should be able to withstand and hold up against heavier opponents that used to destroy him inside before.
This will also help him against stronger guards as he can gain the “upper-hand” physically and become a high-level perimeter defender.
On top of all of this, he should have the ability to switch more on the pick and roll due to his increased size. This will create more versatility in the Deacons’ defense that head coach Danny Manning is counting on this season.
As I mentioned previously, one of the main causes as to why Melo never got a chance to shine last year was because of the Deacons logjam on the wings. The team had a total of five players at small forward and another five at shooting guard. Since Melo came into last season as a freshman, head coach Danny Manning, similar to former Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, favored playing the guys with more experience in front of new and inexperienced ones.
That could change this year too. First of all, Melo has now seen the style and flow of college ball and should be more equipped to play at that pace. His year of experience also gives him an knowledge into how Manning runs his offense.
Personnel changes also occurred during the offseason that give Melo a chance at more playing time. Bryant Crawford left for the NBA and Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State.
As a result, two more guards who were eating up Melo’s playing time in Childress and Chaundee Brown, have moved into the starting lineup. The addition of the two freshman forwards in Isaiah Mucius and Jaylen Hoard also see a dramatic shift in the starting lineup. From there, either Mucius or newly transferred guard/wing Torry Johnson are the only wings who would fight for minutes with Melo.
If the choice is Mucius to the bench, then Melo would serve at shooting guard. If it’s Johnson, then Melo moves to small forward. Either way, Melo could be in line to be the number one reserve man off the bench for one of the wings position. This fifteen minutes per game increase, as a result, can dramatically help Melo develop and contribute his skills to the Deacons.
On top of defensive question marks, one of the main concerns for Melo was his lack of an outside shot. During his freshman season, he only attempted a total of three 3-pointers, while not connecting on any of them. But it looks like that shot is closer to coming around than previously thought. He spoke to the media during the team’s summer workouts and said this.
The jump shot part is very intriguing. If he’s able to become at least respectable from beyond-the-arc, then the Deacons bench scoring opens up even more.
People may forget that Melo still has a very good first step and has proven time and time again to be a great slasher to the basket at the high school level. If he’s surrounded by enough shooters on the perimeter, then cuts inside could turn out to be the go-to move if his jump shot doesn’t reach that potential this year.
All in all, Melo has a lot to prove this upcoming season. He has been putting in the work to be a guy who could thrive off of the bench and the question becomes if he’s ready to take that next step.