Men’s basketball opens season with win over Fairfield

The Demon Deacons show their depth in a 71-59 victory


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Bobi Klintman (No. 34 in white) handles the ball in the Wake Forest offensive zone.

Sean Kennedy, Staff Writer

After one of its most successful seasons in recent history, the men’s basketball team has large shoes to fill. Despite losing the likes of ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams and NBA first-round draft pick Jake LaRavia, the new-look squad got started off on the right foot on Monday night with a win 71-59 over Fairfield.

This year’s squad boasts combined experience and talented youth with the likes of graduate guard Daivien Williamson and redshirt junior Damari Monsanto returning and freshmen Bobi Klintman and Zach Keller starring as bigs. Just like last year, incoming transfers are a large part of the contribution as evidenced by night one.

Delaware transfer small forward Andrew Carr had a warm welcome to Deactown and an even hotter start to begin his career as a Demon Deacon. After being named an opening night starter by Head Coach Steve Forbes, Carr returned the favor by scoring the Deacs’ first 10 points.

Despite being the preseason fifth-ranked team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) according to some outlets, Fairfield, led by Head Coach Jay Young, provided a tough battle for the Demon Deacons, especially right out of the gate. At the under-8-minute media timeout in the first half, the Deacs found themselves down 20-15, after multiple baskets from the Stags’ star center, Supreme Cook. Cook would finish with 13 points and five rebounds.

The rough offensive start would not discourage the team from taking pride in other aspects of the game.

“We didn’t get off to a great start offensively, but we didn’t let that dictate the way we defended,” Forbes said.

From that timeout until halftime, the team let up only four points within the next eight minutes, and exploded to go on a 17-4 run, led by numerous baskets from Klintman and sophomore wing Cameron Hildreth. The Deacs would hold a seven-point lead at the ending first-half buzzer, 32-25.

“That really turned the tables going into halftime,” Forbes said of the run.

The Demon Deacons’ momentum would ride through to the second half. After going up as much as 11, momentum shifted after a Fairfield timeout. The Stags would eventually whittle the lead down to a single point, but not before guard Tyree Appleby would find a flying Klintman on a fast break to slam it down on the alley-oop.

The last five minutes of the game would end up in favor of the Demon Deacons, who already knew how to manage and conduct themselves in such a tight, stressful environment.

Appleby, a graduate transfer from Florida, would prove to be crucial down the stretch, sinking a pair of free throws twice and getting a layup to keep Wake Forest at a comfortable distance from the Stags. Fellow guard Daivien Williamson also added some valuable points from beyond the stripe in the second half; the team would end up going 29-39 from the charity stripe, as opposed to the Stags’ 9-17.

The dagger seemed to be when sophomore guard Lucas Taylor drove into the lane with a minute and a half left and found Hildreth at the 3-point line, who swung the ball to a wide-open Williamson in the corner to put the Deacs up by 11.

Taylor, who played a reserve role last season, proved that he could contribute at a high level by not only starting but adding a +14 plus-minus rating. He also saw the most minutes of his career with 18, previously beating his record of 10 last year versus Charleston Southern.

“[Taylor] had a great week of practice,” said Forbes. “He’s always in the right spots, and he’s a great defender.”

The Deacs also saw major minutes from players that weren’t even wearing the jersey last year. In addition to the likes of Appleby, Klintman and Carr, transfer big man Davion Bradford played a significant amount, along with freshman forward Zach Keller.

“It was a really hard game for your first game, and obviously you have new guys,” said Forbes. “But Bobi [Klintman], [Carr], Zach [Keller] and DB all played well.”

The Demon Deacons move on to play their first Power Six competition this year on Friday when they host Georgia, led by former Florida Head Coach Mike White, at the Joel. The game starts at 8:30 p.m., and can be found on ACC Network.