ACC Preview: #3 Wake Forest
Posted by Tommy on November 5, 2008
Coach- Dino Gaudio (2nd season)
PG- Ishmael Smith (JR): This six foot guard is lightning in a bottle. Everybody raves about Ty Lawson being the fastest player up and down the court with the ball, but I’d pay a lot of money to see a race between Smith and Lawson. Being fast with the ball is nice and all, but I’m sure Dino Gaudio would like to see Ish slow the game down just a notch because he committed almost 3 turnovers per game as a sophomore. Turnovers are a minuscule problem compared to Ish’s woes at the free throw stripe. He shot 29% at the line last season. Yes 29%, it’s not a misprint. It’s mind-boggling because Smith does everything else so well but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to click at the line. Smith will provide around 10 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG, shoot 43% from the field and will probably get his assist-to-turnover ratio up around 2, all pretty good stats for a point guard. With all that upside, Gaudio is forced to take his starting point guard out of the lineup in end-game situations where Wake is getting fouled, which is extremely unfortunate because Smith knocked down two game-winning shots in ACC play last season.
SG- Jeff Teague (SO): Teague was Wake’s second leading scorer last year as a freshman. He and Smith combine to make one of the quickest backcourts in the country. Teague’s athleticism and quickness is similar to Smith’s but Teague has a more polished jumper and a little more size. He’s very good at getting his hands on the ball on defense and is always in the hip pocket of his counterpart. As a freshman, Teague seemed to step up in the big games and played like an experienced leader during ACC play. He scored 26 vs. BYU, 27 vs. Miami, 26 vs. Duke, 18 @ UNC and 25 @ Va. Tech. Now that he has a full year under his belt, Teague is going to have to be one of the leaders of this young Demon Deacon squad. In my opinion, he’s on the verge of a breakout season and will flourish with all of the athleticism round him.
SF- Al-Farouq Aminu (FR): Gaudio landed a Top-five incoming freshman class overall and the best small forward of the 2008 class. He made his high school opponents look like preteens with his size, jumping ability and skills. This kid has nice length for his 6-8 frame and can jump out of the gym. He has a rare ability to create offense on his own whether he pulls up from deep or takes it all the way to the rack, both of which he’s very capable of. He has good size for the three spot so I’d like to see him be post defenders up as well as beat them off the dribble from the perimeter. If Aminu does prove he can score on the block, he would feature a three-pronged offensive game similar to that of former freshman phenom Kevin Durant.
PF- James Johnson (SO): At 6-9, 245, Johnson is built like a power forward but has the skill set to play both the three and four. He was Wake’s leading scorer and rebounder last season with 14.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG and like the rest of this Demon Deacon team has great athletic ability. Johnson reeks havoc on defense with his combination of size, athleticism and length and averaged 1.4 STL per game and 1.3 BLK per game last season. Johnson has tremendous upside and deserves to be thrown into the conversation as one of the best up and coming players in the conference.
C- Ty Walker (FR): As a coach, if you have an incoming class of freshmen in which a player like Tony Woods isn’t the headline guy, you know you’ve got some young talent. One thing about Woods that turns me off is his string bean-like frame at 7′, 215. I’m sure he’ll put on some muscle mass under college strength coaches, but strong post players will be able to use their body on the block to negate Wood’s shot-blocking ability. He’ll provide the Deacs with a great shot blocking presence for when guards penetrate or when another player is being posted up, but adding weight would really help Woods. His size and ability to run the floor will prove a nice addition for Wake.
Bench: Wake is returning their top nine scorers from last season and brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country which consists of three stud freshmen, two of whom are starting. The only player who averaged more than 30 minutes per game last year was Ish Smith and I expect much of the same liberal substituting this year from Gaudio. The frontcourt will be bolstered by junior Chas McFarland and freshman Tony Woods, two very capable post players. Junior L.D Williams gives Gaudio a guard that is solid at both ends of the floor and has a little more size than Teague and Smith. Senior Harvey Hale is a capable backup guard and will come in for Smith when Wake needs a good free throw shooting lineup. Junior Jamie Skeen will come off the bench and give the Demon Deacons a strong rebounder and defender.
Bottom Line: Words cannot even begin to describe how much upside Wake Forest has this season. Each starter is very talented and very athletic and for the most part, young. Smith, Teague and Johnson, three of their go-to guys, combined for 7.9 turnovers per game last season, far too many for two guards and a talented player like Johnson. If Wake cuts down on turnovers, their athleticism alone will keep them in games. Wake has the talent to surpass Duke at number two in the ACC, but if they continue to turn the ball over they could fall behind Miami and perhaps Virginia Tech. A pretty favorable ACC schedule in which they only have to play North Carolina and Miami once apiece certainly helps. With that said, all the pieces are in place for Wake to make a run at the ACC title in 2008-09.
Key Non-Conference Games: 11/27-30 2008 76 Classic, 1/03 @ BYU
Key Conference Games: 1/11 vs. North Carolina, 1/28 vs. Duke, 2/4 @ Miami, 2/22 @ Duke
Most Valuable Player: James Johnson
Projected Postseason: NCAA (Sweet 16)