It was a familiar position for Devin Thomas, so maybe his words shouldn’t have been so surprising. In the wake of yet another early exit from the ACC tournament, yet another season that ended right there, the Wake Forest junior forward acknowledged his career had fallen well below expectations.
“There’s one more year left,” Thomas said. “I just need to learn how to be a winner, because I’m not a winner.”
Those words hung over Wake Forest all summer, and as the season begins, the question remains: In Danny Manning’s second season, have the Demon Deacons learned to win yet?
There’s talent here, even with dynamic guard Codi Miller-McIntyre missing the start of the season with a broken foot. Thomas is a legit all-ACC forward. Point guard Mitchell Wilbekin had flashes as a freshman and Konstantinos Mitoglou – the “Greek Deac” – is a prototypical European stretch-four, a 6-foot-10 perimeter specialist.
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The Deacons haven’t made the postseason since 2010. Dino Gaudio was fired after that season, the four winters of discontent under Jeff Bzdelik followed and while Wake Forest made progress last season under Manning, it still wasn’t good enough. But it did breath some life into Joel Coliseum, after a few years when there was nothing but motorcycle fumes.
With three freshmen expected to contribute immediately, with Thomas and Miller-McIntyre down to their final shot, with Manning’s philosophy now familiar, Thomas’ lament holds as true as it did eight months ago: It’s time for Wake Forest to learn how to win.