Les Johns

Wake Forest basketball coach Danny Manning on youth, leadership, upcoming Bahamas trip

Wake Forest basketball coach Danny Manning spoke with Demon Deacon Digest, as the Deacs begin to prepare for a three-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Deacs are marching toward a three-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas, leaving on Aug. 15 journey could help unify a team that has six brand-new players with the potential to contribute this season.

Wake coach Danny Manning is salivating over the opportunity to use the extra 10 practices allowed for these trips to help implement systems and tweak potential lineup combinations.

Demon Deacon Digest spoke with Manning prior to practice Wednesday to catch up on the Deacs summer progress.

On what he’s seen so far from his team during the summer

Manning: “It’s a young team. I like our talent level, and our guys are working really hard this summer. It’s been a beneficial summer in terms of our workouts. The new guys are getting acclimated to Wake Forest academically and athletically. I believe these games in the Bahamas will give us a good jump start on the season just in terms of learning system, learning to play together, learning how to play and figure out who the voices are going to be in terms of leaders.”

On if Austin Arians can be a leader, given he’s new to the program as well

Manning: “He’s definitely going to help fill it, but he’s not going to be the only one. We have some other guys that have played some minutes for us like Mitchell Wilbekin, Dinos Mitoglou and Bryant Crawford who should also have a hand in that leadership responsibility. Everybody on our team can be a leader. Do what you’re supposed to do — that makes you a leader on and off the court. There certainly are some guys’ voices we want to hear a little bit more moving forward.”

On what advantage the Deacs get from the extra practices involved in the Bahamas trip

Manning: “That’s the most important part to us as a staff. We get 10 practices to implement system and get them acclimated for the coming year. The games are a bonus. We’ll play three games over there. We’ll have a chance to use some different lineups and try some different things without really any serious repercussions on the coaching side.”

On changing terminology with so many new players coming in

Manning: “The thing about the new guys is that they haven’t heard our terminology before. The hard part of Austin will be picking up terminology, because he’s been a part of a different school and they have separate terminology. Each school is unique and different. So, he’ll go through an adjustment period. But Keyshawn (Woods) - it shouldn’t be an adjustment for him. He was here all last year. For the freshmen, this is all new to them, but hopefully this is something they haven’t heard before.”

On where Arians fits in on the court

Manning: “Very similar to Dinos. Dinos can be in the post, but can also step away from the basket and command your attention and presence out there also. He’s a good kid. He works exceptionally hard. He’s in our graduate program, so he gets after it academically as well.”

On how Bryant Crawford’s game will evolve this season

Manning: “Bryant is going to have to take a jump. Last year he stepped up on the scene as kind of an unknown being a freshman, and not many people knowing about him. He’s at the top of everybody’s scouting report this year. There’s no surprising anybody. He’s probably got to prepare a lot more diligently, just in terms of getting ready for what teams are going to throw at him and what teams are going to do to try to slow him down and keep him from being as productive as he was last year.”

On Donovan Mitchell and Richard Washington

Manning: “Richard is going to be a guy that spends most of his time on the perimeter. Donovan is someone we look at that can play both inside and outside. Donovan has a great skill set and has great length. That volleyball background helps him, in terms of defensive rebounding, tracking balls and going to find balls. Donovan has to get stronger, as all the freshmen need to get stronger. Brandon (Childress) has been around us the longest. He’s been a part of what we’ve been doing the longest. His change in the weight room probably isn’t going to be as significant as some of those other guys. Sam (Japhet-Mathias) has to get used to being around (strength and conditioning) coach (Ryan) Horn a little more often as well.”

On Donovan Mitchell having a reputation of being a defensive specialist, yet having a solid outside stoke

Manning: “For the style of play we want to have, we talk about having versatile, interchangeable pieces. When I talk about Brandon, Richard and Donovan, they will be interchangeable pieces. Sam is going to be a guy that we anchor down inside and be a paint player for us and a rim protector. But he’s got a good touch with the ball.”

On if the early start was because of class schedules or just instilling a bit of toughness

Manning: “It’s a little bit of both, to be honest. During the season, there will be some 6 a.m. workouts mixed in. It also shortens their day. These guys are in summer school now. They’ve got tutoring and classes. We get an early start of it.”

On improving defensively

Manning: “I think the returning players have a better understanding. Our non-conference schedule — we put ourselves in situations where we get tested. It has to make us better. It comes down to getting stops when you need them — getting timely stops. I think this is a team that can get timely stops. Offensively, I think our skill set gives us a chance to be a little more creatively as well.”  

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