WFU Hoops Update: 1/04

DeaconSports, along with The Sports Xchange, provides an update on Wake Forest hoops as of 01/04.

Even during a good stretch, coach Dino Gaudio didn't mind sending a message to one of his players. So amid a winning stretch, he made a change to the starting lineup. He put senior center David Weaver in the starting unit, replacing senior Chas McFarland.

"It was a basketball decision," Gaudio said. "I told (McFarland) he has to start playing better. ... We won four straight games and I'm not a stand-pat guy. I hope it motivated him a little bit." McFarland said he understood the change and he said that Weaver deserved the opportunity. McFarland wasn't even the first post player off the bench in the first game after the change in the lineup.

Through two games as a reserve, McFarland has shown signs of breaking back into the rotation. If nothing else, this little deviation in the lineup should give ACC opponents something else to think about when preparing for the Demon Deacons.

The 7-foot McFarland had started the first 10 games of the season, averaging 6.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The rebounding total put him on pace for the best season of his career in that category. He had started all except five games in the past two seasons combined, then played a season-low 17 minutes in his first game as a reserve this season.

If Weaver sticks in his new role, he has supporters. "He's fearless," swingman L.D. Williams said, calling him the team's best shot blocker because of his willingness to be aggressive. "He's not afraid to get dunked on."

--Wake Forest blocked a school-record 16 shots in a 75-60 non-league victory at UNC Greensboro. Wake Forest blocked eight shots in the first half. The record-breaking 15th swat came from 6-foot point guard Ishmael Smith, who was credited with four of the blocked shots. "We just try to use our athleticism and our size," Smith said. "We have the size to do it." Wake Forest's previous high for blocked shots came with 14 against Rhode Island in 1975 and Appalachian State in 1978.
--Wake Forest's perimeter shooting has come under scrutiny and perhaps with good reason. The Demon Deacons made only three shots from the field that weren't dunks or layups in the first half of a game against UNC Greensboro. Of course, with seven dunks in a 20-minute span there were some momentum-turning plays.

Freshman forward Ari Stewart is a player who can score from inside and outside for the Demon Deacons, but his shot selection is worth tracking. He hoists several shots without hesitation coming off the bench.

It's a nice component for a team short on pure shooters, but how this fits into the overall offense could be an interesting development. He drained a crucial 3-pointer in overtime against Richmond, so the have been rewards for his confidence.

"There are going to be some nerves and a lot of different emotions. Everything you can think of is going to be flowing through our heads -- excitement, anxiety, a little bit of sadness." -- forward L.D. Williams on the meeting with Xavier as part of the beginning of a 10-year series between the teams dubbed the Skip Prosser Classic. Prosser coached at both schools, and now two former Wake Forest assistants are on the Xavier coaching staff.

The Demon Deacons didn't make it easy on themselves heading into the teeth of their conference schedule. A road victory against UNC Greensboro came because of some tidy defense after shooting deficiencies surfaced, then the Demon Deacons needed overtime to overcome Richmond. A game against Xavier was filled with emotion as it was played to honor the memory of Skip Prosser, who coached at both schools.

Wake Forest 67, N.C. State 59
Wake Forest 75, UNC Greensboro 60
Wake Forest 74, Richmond 68 (OT)
Wake Forest 96, Xavier 92 (2 OT)

at Miami, Saturday, Jan. 9
vs. Maryland, Tuesday, Jan. 12
at Duke, Sunday, Jan. 17
at North Carolina, Wednesday, Jan. 20
vs. Virginia, Saturday, Jan. 23

Wake Forest picks up the heart of its ACC schedule with a Jan. 9 visit to Miami. This is a chance to make amends for recent trips to south Florida. Last season, the Demon Deacons were blown out in a loss at Miami during the regular season. Then in a different arena in Miami, they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in an upset to Cleveland State.

--G Ishmael Smith is receiving more recognition for blocked shots than his ball handling after recent games. The senior point guard swatted away a total of six shots in a two-game span recently. He entered the season with a total of four blocked shots. That caused teammate F Al-Farouq Aminu to refer, in a joking manner, to Smith in the same vein as former Wake Forest standout Tim Duncan in terms of interior defense.
--F Al-Farouq Aminu contributed 23 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots in a victory against UNC Greensboro. Those were nice statistics, but they also came in a game when the Demon Deacons needed them. "If that's what it takes, that's what it takes," Aminu said. "I know some other games other guys have carried us."
--C David Weaver has eclipsed his quota for starts in a season. The senior had started in one game in each of his first three seasons. But he started the 11th and 12th games of his final season, largely as a reward for his solid defensive play.

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