In Dino Gaudio’s three years at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons went just 61-31. Clearly, things weren’t working out, so athletic director Ron Wellman got rid of Gaudio and instead hired Jeff Bzdelik away from Colorado where he had gone 36-58 over the same time span. These types of things just make sense.

Now, to be clear, Wake faded down the stretch each of the last two years and was eliminated in the first round of the tournament, and Gaudio has received criticism for his halfcourt offense (or lack thereof) and Bzdelik certainly has the reputation as a better X’s and O’s coach, but it was still a surprising and odd turn of events in Winston-Salem. However, the Bzdelik era did get off to a successful start when he was able to retain the Wake assistant coaches and the strong five-man recruiting class that Gaudio and his staff had put together. And given that the Deacons have four starters who will not be back, including Al-Farouq Aminu who declared early for the NBA Draft, Wake will need every one of those five recruits in order to compete in the ACC in 2010-11.

The lone returning starter for Wake is sophomore guard C.J. Harris, who averaged almost 10 points per game in his freshman season. Harris is a versatile offensive performer, with athleticism, speed, deep three-point range and acrobatic finishing ability. Ari Stewart is another intriguing perimeter player coming back for his sophomore year, with three-point range from all over the court, good size and slashing ability. He will likely be the starter at the three. The Deacs also returns a couple of potential difference makers in the middle in juniors Tony Woods and Ty Walker, both five-star recruits from a couple years back who have yet to live up to their advanced billing. Woods has at least seen the court on a regular basis, but neither has developed into a productive player as of yet. But with Aminu, Chas MacFarland and David Weaver all gone, both players will have plenty of opportunities to win a spot in Bzdelik’s rotation.

The recruiting class has a little bit of everything for Bzdelik to play with. Center Carson Desrosiers is the most highly regarded of the class, and his skilled post-play should fit in well in Bzdelik’s system. He is an excellent passer, has range out to the three-point line and is still an excellent rebounder. Melvin Tabb is a power forward who has to improve his strength and interior play. Ideally, Woods and Walker earn plenty of minutes next season, allowing Tabb some time to grow into his playing time. Travis McKie is a smart swing with a pretty jumper who will likely spell Stewart at small forward. J.T. Terrell is a scoring guard who will battle Harris for playing time. And finally, Tony Chennault is the point guard of the group, and he may step into starter’s minutes right away. The Philly product doesn’t have the blinding quickness of Ishmael Smith, but he is a tough penetrator. If Chennault is not ready for big minutes right away, Bzdelik may have to go with Harris and Terrell in the backcourt, despite neither being a true point guard.

 A couple final pieces of the puzzle for Bzdelik may fit in perfectly with his system. The lone senior on the Wake Forest squad, Gary Clark, is a shooter pure and simple. He doesn’t do a lot of other things well, but he can fill it up from all over, mid-range out to deep threes. Likewise, Georgetown-transfer Nikita Mescheriakov (eligible at the semester break) is best known for his three-point ability. In Bzdelik’s modified Princeton offense, shooters are at a premium, and as a result, both of these guys may play a big role for the Deacons.

When the regime change took place in Winston-Salem in late March, Deacon fans were just about ready to hit the panic button. But with Bzdelik keeping the recruits on board and getting some continuity in the program through the retention of the assistant coaches, it looks like things will be fine for Wake. This team may be too young and inexperienced to compete for an ACC title or even a NCAA Tournament berth, but sooner rather than later, this Demon Deacon program will be right back where they belong.

 


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