Christian Odjakjian also contributed to this article.
Saturday’s matchup against North Carolina A&T at the Joel Coliseum marked the beginning of Wake Forest’s 133th season of Men’s Basketball. Coming off of an 11-20 record last year with only one starter returning and many new faces arriving, expectations for this season are quite varied but much anticipation exists regarding some of the heralded newcomers.
The new look Demon Deacons got off to a great start with their 90-78 home victory over a solid Aggies team. Highly touted freshman Jaylen Hoard did not disappoint in his debut, dazzling with a 19 point and 13 rebound double-double. His statistical production combined with a thunderous slam dunk midway through the second half that got the Coliseum on its feet made Hoard’s first game as a Demon Deacon one to remember.
Hoard was ranked as the 22nd-best player in his class by ESPN, the highest ranking of an incoming Wake Forest freshman since current Portland Trailblazer Al Farouq-Aminu 10 years ago. Hoard was also the first Wake freshman since Aminu back in 2008 to record a double double in their debut.
Another important contributor Saturday was junior point guard Brandon Childress. Childress finished the game with 18 points, with 14 of those coming in the first half. In that first half, whenever A&T seemed to be finding a rhythm, it was the veteran Childress who stepped up for the Deacons and hit big shot after big shot. After the game, Coach Danny Manning emphasized Childress’ role and importance to this young Wake Forest team as a leader, stating “We need him to play like this every game.”
Manning went on to praise Childress’ shot selection and the way he pushed the ball up the court, also mentioning the improvements he wants to see out of the leader of his team. Hoard and Childress stood out, but the victory was truly a team effort, with all five starters scoring in double figures.
Sophomore big man Olivier Sarr had 12 points along with nine rebounds and two blocks. Sophomore guard Chaundee Brown chipped in with 11 of his own, and freshman Sharone Wright Jr. also debuted with 11 for the Deacons. Additionally, freshman Isaiah Mucius contributed 13 points off the bench.
Excellent shooting from three-point range and the free throw stripe were key for Wake, as the Deacons shot 47.1 percent and 78.8 percent respectively. Wake also dominated on the glass, as the Deacons out-rebounded the Aggies by 22.
More non-conference opportunities are coming up for the Deacs, as they travel to South Carolina for the Myrtle Beach Invitational. The opening game is Thursday at 11:30 AM vs Saint Joseph’s. A win for Wake Forest would likely lead to a matchup against a stout Central Florida team. Another win would put the Deacs in a matchup against either Western Kentucky or West Virginia, both likely NCAA tournament teams.
Resumé strengthening opportunities are coming up for this young exciting Wake Forest team, and Saturday provided many reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming slate and the rest of the season.