WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The new-look Demon Deacs will take the hardwood at Joel Coliseum for the first time this season at 7 p.m. Friday night, squaring off against Piedmont International, a crosstown Division II team coached by former Wake Forest great Josh Howard.
Danny Manning’s Deacs feature three returning starters mixed with six new additions, including two transfers in Keyshawn Woods and Austin Arians.
Interested in how Manning mixes all the new talent in a logical player rotation? Don’t pay attention Friday night, then. Manning said he’ll follow the same rotation mold he used for the Deacs exhibition trip to the Bahamas.
“It’s still in the mode of the Bahamas. We had guys play in the Bahamas that didn’t necessarily deserve to play. We practiced for eight days (by then). It’s hard to set a rotation after eight days,” Manning said. “We wanted everyone to feel good about the trip, so you have to play everybody. A lot of guys got playing time that probably shouldn’t have in regards to a regular rotation in the season. This game will be the last game where it will be a free-flowing type of substitution.”
After playing against each other for the last several weeks, the Deacs are looking forward to facing folks with different colored jerseys.
“It’ll be nice to see different faces to compete against,” Manning said. “Our guys are at that point now. The Maryland scrimmage was good for that reason, along with a lot of other things. It was nice to be able to runs some sets and plays against a group guarding you that didn’t know what was coming at them.
“I want our guys to get out there and establish how we’re going to play this year — the effort, intangible, intensity, attention to detail — those are things we’re looking for and stressing.”
This is Howard’s first year at the helm for Piedmont, his first head coaching position after 10 years in the NBA. Howard was ACC Player of the Year in 2003, and left Wake as one of just four players in the ACC to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, dish 200 assists, have 200 steals and block 100 shots.
“I know this is Josh’s first year there, and he’s excited. I know he and Randolph (Childress) have spoke some. I remember my first job and the excitement and energy of playing your first game,” Manning said. “Those guys will be excited to play. They’re from the area, and that adds some to it because some of their friends and family will get a chance to come into an ACC arena and be a part of the ballgame. We have to come out and be ready from the tip.”