5 early revelations following Wake’s start to 2016-17


Wake Forest faced a significant number of questions entering its 2016-17 campaign. Danny Manning added six new players, including two transfers, and he needed younger players to take considerable steps forward.

So far, the Deacons have taken care of business. They’ve beaten the teams they should beat, and that has led to the program’s best start under Manning.

Do we know any more answers than we did several weeks ago? Here are five things we think we know after five games:


1. This team can shoot…finally

Manning inherited a roster with no long-range threats, and although he tried to recruit to solve the problem, the Deacons didn’t shoot well in his first two seasons.

This month, through five games, Wake Forest is leading the ACC in three-point shooting at 44.3 percent — a far cry from last year’s league-low 31.6. The Deacons are third in the conference in free-throw shooting after finishing second-to-last in 2015-16, and they’ve jumped from 11th to third in field-goal percentage.

Much of that three-point load is being carried by the transfers. Keyshawn Woods and Austin Arians are shooting 24-of-43 (55.8 percent) from long range through five games. Their effectiveness has opened opportunities for others as John Collins and Doral Moore are shooting 68 percent inside.


2. That shooting better stay hot

The Deacons still aren’t good defensively. Despite Manning’s insistence that his rebuilding starts with defense, the fact is that Wake is last in the league in field-goal percentage defense.

Arians and Dinos Mitoglou are a slow combination, and Wake Forest players still struggle with keeping their man in front and rotating for help. There may not be an easy answer to the slow rotations, although Manning — a firm man-to-man believer — has experimented with zone a little. The shot-blocking of Collins and Moore can erase some of the issues, but both have already been in foul trouble.

The Deacons’ rebounding issues won’t help. Collins is the only true rebounder on the team, and Wake relies way too much on its athletic abilities and not enough on sound box-outs. That will show against bigger opponents.


3. Brandon Childress is likely the only freshman who will see major minutes 

Fellow freshmen Sam Japhet-Mathias, Rich Washington and Donovan Mitchell probably won’t contribute regularly. That’s a step back from the previous recruiting class, which produced budding stars in Bryant Crawford and Collins, as well as the intriguing 7-footer Moore.

Childress has shown excellent quickness and an ability to find the open man. He’s averaging almost an assist a minute in the early going. He also is a tenacious defender on a team that’s missing that attitude.

Japhet-Mathias may get some run if foul trouble factors in, but he’s at least a year away from being ACC-ready.


4. It will be fun to watch Moore develop 

Manning is only playing the 7-footer a little more than 11 minutes per game so far, but that’s up about five minutes from last season.

Moore’s appearances have been filled with just about everything in the book. He’s blocking shots, dunking and hitting jump hooks. But he’s also fouling, turning the ball over and missing defensive assignments.

The center is clearly improved in every aspect from last season, including conditioning. It may take another year, but if Manning can continue to smooth Moore’s game, the Deacons will have an athletic 7-footer who can change games with his presence.


5. The Deacons’ two best players are flawed, but that’s OK for now

Crawford is an impulsive player, and often that benefits the Deacons. He relishes big moments and wants the ball in his hands. However, that emotion still leads him into bad decisions.

Although he’s cut down on his turnovers so far, bad shots and bad passes are going to happen with his aggressive demeanor.

Collins ranks fifth in the ACC in scoring and 15th in rebounding. But he still relies on his athletic ability too often, and it drives Manning crazy. Collins wants to block shots and rebound the way he did in high school, but he has to have better technique to succeed in college.

So far, the big man has shown he’s a quick learner, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t make adjustments. In the meantime, he’s going to make silly fouls and forget to box out.