Saturday morning Deacon fans were provided with their first look at the 2008-2009 Wake Forest men's basketball team, and they were definitely treated to a taste of the excitement to come.
Despite the 10:30 a.m. start for the annual Black & Gold Game, Reynolds Gymnasium was full of noisy fans showing their support for the team. The scrimmage consisted of three six minute periods played in (mostly) game-like conditions. A three man crew of referees called the action like it was any other game, assistant coaches shouted instructions from the benches, and for the most part the players competed as hard as they would in a real game. Head coach Dino Gaudio watched from the baseline, occasionally stopping the action to coach the players as he saw fit.
With only one senior, this year's Demon Deacons are a young bunch, but the nation's third best recruiting class has the chance to make a big impact and propel this team into the national spotlight. The Deacon's inexperience showed in Saturday's scrimmage, but their talent, depth, and potential shined through.
In the first period the Gold team started Jeff Teague at point guard, Gary Clark at shooting guard, Al-Farouq Aminu at small forward, Bobby Hoekstra at power forward, and Tony Woods at center. The black team consisted of Mike Lepore at point, L.D. Williams at shooting guard, James Johnson at small forward, David Weaver at power forward, and Ty Walker at center. The only key contributors missing were point guard Ishmael Smith and center Chas McFarland, both of whom were forced to sit out with injuries.
The gold team won the first two periods 29-15, led by Aminu's nine points and four rebounds, as well as an impressive eight point and five rebound performance by Woods. The teams were mixed up for the final period, but when all was said and done Aminu led all scorers with 14, while Johnson and Woods both contributed 11.
Teague led the team with three steals and two assists, while Woods and Walker each contributed two blocks.
The scrimmage made it clear this year's team will have plenty of depth and athleticism, but it was not surprising to see that there are still plenty of kinks to work out before games start, and more importantly before ACC play begins in December. Among the freshmen, Aminu and Woods showcased an ability to contribute immediately, and it is clear that all three have plenty of raw talent that is sure to develop quickly.
Perhaps due to the players' excitement, the first few minutes didn't seem to display much in the way of a set offense, but eventually the guys settled into the offense—setting screens, making cuts, and helping each other get open for scoring opportunities. Several players also showcased their ability to create opportunities for themselves.
With so many talented big men and quick guards, this team should shine on the defensive end this season. They will block plenty of shots and make many steals, skills clearly on display Saturday.
As long as the team puts in maximum effort and continues to improve, it will not be long before the nation is talking about the Demon Deacons.
Wake's first chance to face another school comes November 6 in a scrimmage against Mount Olive in the Joel Coliseum.
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