CHARLOTTE, NC – With just 12 days until Wake Forest’s season-opening game against Elon, and four days from an open exhibition with Alabama, one would think the team is close to knowing its personnel. Not the Deacs. In the new age of the two-time transfer-waiver, they face a similar plight of many NCAA squads — a blindingly large question mark.
Seven-foot center Efton Reid, a former five-star recruit, transferred to Gonzaga after a year with LSU, a team at the time coached by Will Wade, who faces a 10-game suspension this season for multiple rules violations. Reid’s time with the Zags did not go as planned — he averaged under five minutes and two points per game behind consensus first-team All-American Drew Timme. That led him to a cross-country move to Winston-Salem.
But, that change leaves him at the mercy of the NCAA, who is left to decide whether he can play the 2023-24 season. A resolution to Reid’s case has yet to be issued, and there is no indication of when one might come.
“I don’t think you want to read into that stuff,” head coach Steve Forbes said at the ACC’s annual tipoff event. “I think you just wait and be patient. I just keep preparing. I just control what I can. I can’t predict things. I really don’t have any control.”
Reid and Wake Forest have made their case for the junior to play, and they believe the reasoning is sound.
“We feel very confident about what we provided to the NCAA,” Forbes said. “We had a lot of people on it — Efton, his mom, [Wake Forest deputy athletic director and COO] Lindsey Babcock, [senior associate AD, compliance] Daren Koudele, [Wake Forest alum] Stu Brown as outside counsel.”
“We provided over 100 pages of documentation. They asked for some more, we provided it. We feel good about it. I’m just waiting to hear what they have to say.”
According to a September release by the NCAA, “there are 21,685 student-athletes who entered the transfer portal this year.” Of that large number, “3% would be multiple time transfers who would require a waiver to compete immediately for this academic year if enrolled at a new school.”
As those individual cases are adjudicated, there has been a prevalence of comparisons in the public and media. Forbes recognizes that no case is the same.
“I’m not one of those people that’s gonna point fingers or compare somebody’s case from this case because they’re all different,” he said. “We don’t know the intricacies of everyone, and you’re not going to because they’re private. People have asked, ‘what about so and so?’ I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t know what their deal is.”
Reid’s long-awaited transfer decision is highly impactful to Wake Forest’s season. He’s a skilled player who has competed in the SEC and at one of the best programs in the country. For a team like the Deacs that is looking to make its first NCAA Tournament since 2017, Reid would be a serious game changer.
“Defensively, he’s a true anchor as a five-man,” senior captain Andrew Carr said. “He does a great job of organizing us. Offensively, he gets us into [the] entry, dribble handoff and things from the top of the key. Efton’s…done a really great job of playing out on the perimeter a little bit…giving a different look to the defense. He’s been awesome for us.”
“He’s awesome,” Forbes added. “He’s incredible. Oh my god, like a guy that fits in at Wake Forest. Unbelievable student, one of the best communicators I’ve ever coached on the floor, great teammate, named captain. [He’s a] difference maker for us at the rim. He’s a problem down there.”
“I think he’s got a chance to play for a lot of money someday. It’s just a matter of getting him on the court.”
Getting him on the court — a seemingly simple idea now dominated by uncertainty. That unknown leaves an impact on a team on the precipice of a new season.
“Of course everybody thinks about whether he is or whether he isn’t gonna get it,” Carr said. “I think it’s important for all of us to prepare like he isn’t going to get it.”
Preparing for good news and not getting it would make moving forward even harder for Wake Forest.
“If we are preparing like he is going to be there, and then he isn’t, that’s going to cause some disruption on the team,” Carr said. “But, if we prepare like he isn’t going to get [the waiver], and he does, it’s just a plus.”