WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It's hard to believe the Deacs will be playing basketball in just one week, but that's exactly the case as Wake heads off to a three-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas.
Danny Manning's squad is currently working its way through the 10 extra practices allowed for these overseas trips, and Demon Deacons Digest caught up with Manning before the team worked out Tuesday afternoon.
On the summer workouts
Manning: "This year, we're a younger team. We've got a lot of younger players that are filling shoes of guys that have left in terms of captains on the roster. The thing for us is for them to understand how hard you have to play and how physical the game is. For us, we have to go to the Bahamas, and we're not going to be sharp. We want to make sure we have good man-to-man sets, offensively and defensively, and some zone sets, offensively and defensively. When we come back from the Bahamas, we can accelerate our learning curve."
On if the team is coming together
Manning: "The team has spent a lot of time together. It's been two summer sessions, so the camaraderie and chemistry is good. Now it's just a matter of getting out on the court and understanding what it takes for our team to be successful. With the youth we're going to have, it's going to take playing with a lot of energy and intensity. We have to do a very good job of sharing the basketball."
On if he's pleased with what he's seen so far from Brandon Childress
Manning: "Yes and no. Yes, from the standpoint that he's been around the last couple years. And no, because he's been around the last couple of years. Brandon has come in and he understands what we want. For him as a point guard, which is an extension of our coaching staff, we're going to be hard on him. He comes out every day and he's competing against Bryant Crawford. They match up against one another every day, and he's doing a good job on his own. But we're going to continue to push him to elevate his game on the court and elevate his leadership skills off the court and being someone that our team understands and hears his voice. As a point guard, you have to have that command."
On filing the leadership void
Manning: "Bryant (Crawford) started to establish himself as one of the leaders last year with his play on the court. The longer the season went on, the more vocal he became. But he's only a sophomore. There's still some thing he has to get better at, and he's working on those. We have a lot of guys that are very unselfish and we have a lot of guys that take care of their business on and off the court. That to me is a part of leadership. There's some guys that we will push a little bit, mainly our point guards because they have the ball in their hands offensively and set the tone for us defensively. But there are other players that will have a hand in that leadership responsibility. Keyshawn Woods has been in our system for a year and has a pretty good grasp of what we're doing. Austin Arians is a grad transfer. He's a mature young man. He's already got a degree and is working on his master's. He's someone also that will help us in that category."
On how the 10 practice sessions are progressing
Manning: "There's no real surprises out there. The biggest thing for us is understanding what we have to do to be successful, and that's play together."
On John Collins and Doral Moore battling each other in the post
Manning: "That's going to help a lot, but Sam (Japhet-Mathias) is a load. Sam is really adapted to being here. He's lost almost 20 pounds. He moves well, and isn't afraid to use his body. Those three guys banging every day are making each other better. Hopefully we'll see the benefits of that this season."
On if Japhet-Mathias will be a contributor this season
Manning: "He's got an opportunity to, that's for sure. It's up to him to go out there and earn it."
On if any returning player has stood out so far
Manning: "We're splitting up the time, and making sure everybody is getting on the court because this makes a long year. A lot of people kind of forget that. But for the guys it's like, 'We started practicing in August?' We come back from the trip, are home for a week, then school starts, then start individual workouts, then practice starts. For us, we have to do a good job of making sure these guys are not burned out and we keep them as fresh as possible."
On if this was the perfect time to take an international trip, with such a young a new roster
Manning: "That was the plan all along. Hopefully it does benefit us. We believe it will. The key will be to retain the packages we put in. You go on a five-day trip, and there's not a lot of sight-seeing and enjoyment. Going to the Bahamas sounds good, but here's our itinerary: We leave on the 15th, play at 10 a.m. on the 16th, play on the 17th, play on the 18th. We have a day where we don't do anything basketball game wise, we're going to do a clinic at a school, go on a catamaran boat trip, then take them out to dinner. Then we come home on the 20th. They will be able to look out their window of the nice property we're staying, but it's not like they're going to be vacationing."