If Wake Forest wants to compete with the ACC’s top teams this year, then getting arguably its best player, Codi Miller-McIntyre, back from a foot injury will be top priority.
Second-year coach Danny Manning knows it, too. Miller-McIntyre’s injury will allow him to put other players in spots he would normally play, hoping it will pay off when conference games roll around.
“But make no mistake about it, we’re going to miss him,” Manning said. “We’re going to miss his presence out there on the court.”
The 6-foot-3 senior guard recently had surgery on his left foot, which he fractured during a preseason practice. He led the team in points last season, averaging 14.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
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It’s still uncertain how long he’ll be out, but Miller-McIntyre said he hopes to be back no later than the start of the Nov. 23 Maui Invitational, which also includes Kansas, Indiana, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt, St. John’s and Chaminade.
“Yeah, definitely my mindset is on Maui,” Miller-McIntyre said. “That’s when I need to be back. That’s a big-time tournament for big-time players, and that’s one I really don’t want to sit out for.”
The good news for Wake Forest is that it will return nearly all of its key players from last season, including its top five scorers.
The Demon Deacons will likely lean on senior Devin Thomas, a 6-9 forward, who was second in team scoring with 12 points per game and led Wake in rebounds with 8.8 per game.
“I’ve just got to be a better leader, which I haven’t been doing, Codi and I have been doing,” Thomas said. “We have a lot of good talent this year, we’ve just got to win. That’s the most important thing is winning.”
Last season, Wake Forest (13-19, 5-13 ACC) struggled at times against some of the better teams in the conference, while coming close to beating others.
On Jan. 7, Wake Forest lost 73-65 to then-No. 2 Duke after leading the Blue Devils in the second half. However, the Deacons couldn’t finish.
The next time Wake Forest and Duke met was March 4, but it wasn’t nearly as close. The Deacons lost 94-51.
The same happened against Virginia. On Feb. 14, Wake led by seven at halftime , only to give up the lead. In the final seconds of the game, the Deacons came back to within one, with the ball in the hands of Miller-McIntyre, who ended up turning the ball over. Wake lost 61-60.
On Feb. 25, two games and 11 days later, Wake Forest lost at home to Virginia by 36 points.
Thomas said consistency will be key for the Deacons this season.
“Last year we came close to beating a lot of good teams, but we didn’t finish games,” he said. “This year, I mean, we’ve been working hard. Like I said, we’ve got a lot of good talent. We’re under the second year with Coach Manning, so this is the year I’m hoping that we can be consistent, to be honest, and to win.”
Wake Forest boasts one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, with two top-100, four-star recruits, according to rivals.com.
Doral Moore, a 7-foot-1, 265-pound center, and Bryant Crawford, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard, will bolster team depth. The Deacons also add, John Collins, a three-star recruit and 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward from Florida.
Sophomores Cornelius Hudson and Rondale Watson are suspended indefinitely for a violation of departmental rules, Manning announced on Oct. 31.
Hudson and Watson will be eligible to return once they have met the criteria for reinstatement, according to the school’s website.
Manning said he’s not worried about the doubters who question whether Wake Forest can ever get back on top and compete with the best teams.
“It’s just a matter of when you take over a program, you have to build your foundation, and your foundation gives you a chance to have long-term sustained success,” Manning said. “We’re still building our foundation, but we still want to make sure that we’re competitive and we go out and win our fair share of games.”