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Breaking down Steve Forbes’ opening summer press conference

Forbes discussed returners, transfers, injuries, Wake Forest baseball and more

William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since the Demon Deacons’ loss to Miami in the ACC Tournament. He covered numerous topics over the course of 45 minutes, including the team’s returning players, transfers, freshman, injuries, Efton Reid’s waiver process and the accomplishments of Wake Forest women’s golf and baseball.

Read a full breakdown of the press conference here:

On the success of Wake Forest women’s golf and baseball:

“Congrats to Coach Lewellen and her staff, [who] won a national championship. And, congrats to Coach Walter and his staff — No. 1 team in the nation, advanced to the Super Regional. We’re very fortunate to get a chance to watch that team again here at The Couch over the weekend against Alabama. They’re a great team, fun to be around, highly competitive and great reps of Wake Forest.”

The story behind the viral baseball video:

“I was just minding my own business, sitting up there in the Diamond suites just waiting. I was waiting on this weather change. When I played, if you didn’t get struck by lightning, then you kept playing. Depending on who gets struck, maybe we still keep playing.

I was just kind of minding my own business and [they] asked me if I’d go do a video to get fans back. I’m like, ‘sure,’ so I went downstairs and got with the guys and had a great time there. They’re unbelievable. They’ve got great character, they’ve got great fire. Great spirit.

I get to come back and watch Rhett Lowder pitch. You don’t have to beg me to do that.”

Excitement surrounding the players returning to Wake Forest:

“I’m really excited about our returning players. Damari Monsanto, guy’s averaged 13 a game. Made 87 threes in 27 games, and if you really look at it, probably was less than 27 because he didn’t play a lot early on in the season. He’s first in the ACC in made threes, third in three-point field goal percentage [with] 40%. [He’s] working really hard to get back on the court. He’s out there today, shooting on the gun stationary. He’s making really good progress.

Cameron Hildreth, I thought, had a really good year — averaged 12.4 [points], had 94 assists. I thought he was our most consistent player in the spring, showing leadership. And I look forward to him having a big year.

Same with Andrew Carr — averaged 10 and six. He was an All-ACC academic. He showed his toughness and commitment throughout the year playing injured with his wrist. He also went all the way through spring workouts before he had surgery on our last day of spring workouts. He’s a week away from being released to play. He weighed, according to him on Saturday, up to 237. At the end of the year, last year was at 214. And so he’s worked really, really hard.

Matthew Marsh [is] back averaging six and four, All-ACC academic, shot at 88% from the field. Most of you guys couldn’t do that in the gym by yourself.

Zach Keller really improved. His body, he’s close to pushing in on 250 when he went home, I’m looking forward to seeing him this weekend, looking forward to a big improvement out of him.

And then Jao Ituka came back and started working out first in April.”

Damari Monsanto returning from injury:

“According to Dr. Damari — I didn’t realize he’d already become a doctor — he says he’s two months ahead of schedule, which, according to the real medical people, that’s not the case. I think he’s doing really well.

I’m not a doctor, but I watch him work out in the water and on the zero gravity treadmill. He’s out in the gym shooting. He’s moving around. It’s just a process. I do expect him to play in November right away. That’s where it’s headed. We can’t have any setbacks, but he’s very attentive to his rehab. He’s shown great discipline.”

The newcomers:

“I’m really excited about Aaron Clark, Marqus Marion, Parker Fredrickson. Those guys are all really good players, outstanding people, outstanding students. They’re going to really help our team and help the culture of our team.

Portal guys — Kevin Miller signed quickly in one week, very talented. Hunter Sallis, I absolutely love him. Former McDonald’s All American from Omaha, Nebraska. Efton Reid, tremendous player. Go back and watch the film when LSU beat us in the Emerald Coast Classic. The only loss I’ve ever had in Northwest Florida, which I’m still stinging over. And then Abramo Canka, who we recruited really hard.”

The Efton Reid waiver process:

“We will have to file a waiver because this is his second transfer. That process [has] already started, but it’ll pick up as soon as he gets here on campus. We have really talented people working on it. We’ve hired outside counsel, Stu Brown, who’s a Wake Forest grad, is my friend and my personal attorney. We’ll see. [You] can’t ever predict those things until we have a good waiver. We’ll have to go through the process, but there’s things that I feel we have a really good case for.”

Conversations with returners regarding transfers:

“I think you have to be really open and honest about recruiting. I’m just very open and honest about what we’re looking for and what we need to do to win. And, if you want to win, the best recruiters are your players. They want to win. They know they need bodies to do that. There’s going to be competition no matter where you go. You have to be very open and honest about it, and if you don’t want to compete, then you’re in the wrong program.”

On recruiting:

“There’s two kinds of recruiting: portal recruiting [and] high school recruiting, and they’re not the same. High school recruiting is a little bit more of an in-person live evaluation. [It’s a] relationship-based process [that] occurs over an extended period of time. High school recruiting sometimes takes months, can take years to accumulate. There’s always exceptions to the rule.

Portal recruiting is like speed dating, which I never did. We start with a detailed list of transfers that we think will go in the portal, who we’ve heard maybe, and who are actually in the portal. We rank them daily based on many variables: need, film, analytics, mutual interest, character, academics, transfer credits, can we get them in school, can we get him even close to being eligible based on how many credits we don’t take normally. And then personal relationships. I think due to the speed and unpredictability of each recruitment, the recruitment can accelerate and it can end in a shorter amount of time. We meet every day on this changing list.

In my opinion, fans look at the transfer portal like I once looked at the old Sears Christmas catalog. I had to narrow the list down before I could speak to the big man. I had to prioritize what I wanted. So you go after the best you can get. Did I always get what I wanted? No. Most of the time I got pretty close. Do we always get our top recruits in the portal? No, but we get pretty darn close. [It’s a] tricky, tricky landscape to navigate.”

The portal:

“There are players in the portal who are focused on finding the right fit, the right style of play and the right relationship. There are players in the portal who are focused on solely getting the most NIL they can get. There are players in the portal who are wanting to be recruited so they can take as many visits as possible, go on vacation.

My opinion, players in the portal have already experienced the recruiting process, [and are] leaving for a variety of right or wrong reasons. They can ill afford to make another wrong choice. In my mind, they should be most focused on the opportunity to play, the style of play and track record of development. Their choosing should not be focused on the attention they see on Twitter for announcing all their offers, the number of visits they can take [or] the most money they can make. NIL is not retirement money.

In my opinion, when you bring a portal recruit on campus for an official visit, you gotta be willing to take his commitment. So, that makes the timing and use of the visit very important. Since we’ve been able to bring recruits on campus after COVID, we’re 8-8 on portal visits. Never lost one. I’m not interested in recruiting players [who aren’t] focused on the right reasons. I try to find that out as quickly as I can.”

Coaching changes and developments:

“Really happy for Brooks Savage, been with me for a long time [and] got the head job at East Tennessee State. Joe Hugley had already gone over there. [He was] on our staff here and played for me. And Isaiah Tisdale, my GA in the past years, played for me at East Tennessee, we lost all three of those guys [to ETSU]. They were very valuable to our staff.

Excited to hire Demetris Nichols from the Toronto Raptors and Darnell Harris from Ole Miss. Demetris came highly recommended to me from Nick Nurse. That really caught my attention. [He had] tremendous experience in the NBA G League. Great player at Syracuse, led the Big East in scoring, played in the NBA, played overseas. Tremendous person, really excited about him.

Darnell Harris, talk about loyal. I signed him at Northwest Florida, my second year coaching, for two weeks. Then, I left to go to Wichita State, but remained very close to him. Darnell [was a] great player at Middle Tennessee, helped them win an NCAA Tournament game against Michigan State. [He] played overseas the past two years, and was a GA at Ole Miss with Kermit Davis. Those guys are really, really going to help our staff.

I spoke to a lot of people over the past few months. Chemistry and loyalty are very important to me. Putting together staff is a lot like putting together a team or a puzzle, [it] takes time and patience [and] the pieces have to fit. I want my staff to fit together in such a way they’re connected by their strengths, and their weaknesses. Can’t have all the same abilities. I want a diverse staff regarding coaching experience, playing experience and relationship experience from a diverse background.

There’s new NCAA rules starting July 1, five assistant coaches on the floor. I think that’s a great rule. So, [BJ] McKie, [Matt] Woodley, [Jason] Shay, Antanas Kavaliauskas and Coach Nichols will be on the floor.”

The importance of fan support:

“It’s huge. I’ve said it from day one, I’m very appreciative of every person that ever comes to a game. Because you have choices in life. You could choose to do something else, you could choose to stay home and watch it on television. There’s a lot of competition for the dollar.

I can’t tell you how many people come up to me, and I appreciate it, and tell me how much they enjoy watching our team play, how much they enjoy watching them compete, have fun playing, share the ball, all the things that are really important to me. That tells me that we’re getting accomplished what we need to get accomplished.

As far as excitement to watch our team play, I would encourage people to understand that, it’s important who we play, but come to watch us play. We’ve got some really good players on the team. The most important thing when it comes to winning, in my opinion, is our home court advantage, making it an impossible place to play.We’ve done a really good job of that the past couple of years and we just have to continue to build on it. I’m really excited and pleased about our fans. We’re getting back to where it needs to be.”

On Greensboro and the ACC Tournament:

“Great fan support in Greensboro. We played on Tuesday, we played on Wednesday night, we played on Thursday. We want to play on Friday and Saturday.”