Q: We've been impressed by Danny Manning from a distance. What have you seen from a closer perspective?
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A: I think there have been a lot of positives so far in Manning's first 8 or so months on the job. For this year's team, he has already brought in freshmen Mitchell Wilbekin, Cornelius Hudson & Konstantinos Mitoglou, in addition to graduate transfer Darius Leonard. Those players have combined to play 42% of our minutes. I can't even begin to imagine where we would be without those additions.
Manning has also signed three 4-stars for the 2015 recruiting class (Doral Moore, Bryant Crawford & John Collins) in addition to receiving a verbal commitment from 2016 4-star Brandon Childress. With the talent Manning is bringing in, it seems clear that he will take the program back to where it belongs. I've also been impressed with his half-court offensive sets. The biggest problem we have right now is that we simply cannot knock down shots, but it's very encouraging to see our coaching staff designing plays and schemes that are generating open looks for our players. I'd buy stock in Danny Manning.
Q: How is the culture at Wake changing?
A: We are no longer a program built on excuses and we are now more aggressively recruiting better players. We are now also going to be a program about defense and attention to detail, which are not things we were about under Jeff Bzdelik. Our culture is changing for the better, and I'm very excited about the future of our basketball program.
Q: Do you think there's enough talent on hand to make the post-season?
A: I do not, but I do believe we have a very realistic chance to make the NCAA Tournament next season.
Q: What happened to Devin Thomas earlier? He fell off the map for awhile.
A: I wish I could tell you. It's almost impossible to fathom that the same player who went 0-7 from the field and finished with 0 points against Delaware State could go 11-14 from the field for 31 points against Louisville, but that's exactly what he did. He's been a great rebounder for us all season, and has the 3rd best defensive rebounding % in the country, but his scoring has been inconsistent. He's played well in 5 of our previous 6 games, so I hope he is on the right track now.
Q: What would you count as Wake's greatest strength?
A: I believe our biggest strength is our rebounding. We have the 61st best offensive rebounding % and the 2nd best defensive rebounding % in the country. That, and our improved defense, have clearly been points of emphasis for Danny Manning.
Q: How do you see tonight's game unfolding?
A: I don't think this one will end well for the Demon Deacons. In reviewing Duke, they truly do not seem to have any major weaknesses. This Duke team just has too many offensive weapons and Wake Forest does not have enough scoring to keep up. If we keep it within 10 I'll be thrilled. I expect about a 15-20 point win for the Blue Devils.
Q: How are the fans taking to Manning?
A: The fans are very encouraged by Manning. I can't emphasize enough how much fans disliked Jeff Bzdelik, and rightfully so, but the fans have really taken to Manning. He has been an excellent recruiter, and our team has shown improvement throughout the season and a commitment to defense. Our fan base knows Manning did not inherit much, but that he has added what talent he could and is making the most out of the talent on the roster.
Q: What is your take on Duke's freshmen?
A: Jahil Okafor is excellent. He shoots 68% from the field, which is an unreal percentage, and is an excellent offensive rebounder and shot blocker. He's the probable #1 pick this June.
Justise Winslow has outstanding size for his position, is a good shooter, and does a nice job of getting to the line. His biggest weakness is his free throw shooting.
Tyus Jones is a classic Duke point guard. He has one of the best offensive ratings in the country, creates a lot of shooting opportunities for his teammates, rarely turns the ball over, gets to the line, and can knock down perimeter shots when needed.