Five things to watch as Wake Forest prepares for upcoming basketball season

David Kehrli   | Times-News WINSTON-SALEM — Year 1 for Steve Forbes as the Wake Forest men’s basketball coach figures to come with its share of speed bumps for a reconstructed roster but also a boost of refreshing energy after several seasons full of roadblocks under the previous regime.

Having lost their four top scorers from a 13-18 season last year, the Demon Deacons will feature many new faces in a cast of characters looking to turn around a program that went 78-111 in six seasons under former coach Danny Manning.

The Demon Deacons got to work preparing for the upcoming season with their first official practice Wednesday.

Here are five things to watch in Wake Forest’s upcoming season:

Patience is a virtue

Things aren’t going to turn around overnight in Winston-Salem.

First, a foundation has to be set in place for a program that’s been shaky over the last several years.

The Demon Deacons will need time to learn how Forbes wants to play and it’ll take more than one season for him to bring in a full roster of his type of players.

Forbes has proven himself to be successful at every level of basketball he’s coached at, whether it be as the top guy or an assistant.

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Opportunity for Mucius to be main man

There’s no Brandon Childress, no Olivier Sarr, no Chaundee Brown and no Andrien White on this season’s team.

Childress and White exhausted their eligibility while Sarr transferred to Kentucky and Brown left for Michigan.

That leaves Isaiah Mucius, a junior forward, as the top returning scorer for the Demon Deacons.

Mucius showed flashes of being able to take the next step last season, including in the Demon Deacons’ final game, in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament against Pittsburgh when he scored a career-high 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

For Wake Forest to make some noise this season, it will need Mucius to factor in heavily.

Forbes, Williamson connection

If anyone should have a head start in knowing what to expect and how to play in Forbes’s system, it’s guard Davien Williamson.

Forbes was named the Wake Forest coach in late April after five seasons as the East Tennessee State coach. A month later, Williamson announced he was following Forbes and transferring to the Demon Deacons program from East Tennessee State.

That existing familiarity between the two could come in handy in Year 1 with a roster full of players and coaches alike trying to adjust to new faces.

Williamson averaged 10.0 points, 2.6 assists and 2.0 rebounds as a sophomore for a Buccaneers team that went 30-4 and won the Southern Conference Tournament to clinch an NCAA Tournament bid before it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

FAMILIAR FOOTSTEPS: Wake Forest lands transfer guard Daivien Williamson

Hometown flair

This season’s version of Demon Deacons features two players from Winston-Salem.

Williamson played in high school at Winston-Salem Prep, where he was an Associated Press first-team all-state selection his senior year, helping to guide his team to an NCHSAA Class 1-A state championship.

Williamson received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately on Friday.

Isaiah Wilkins, a transfer from Virginia Tech, played at on the high school level at Mount Tabor in Winston-Salem. Wilkins helped Mount Tabor to a 23-7 record and to the third round of the Class 3-A state playoffs as a senior.

Last season as a sophomore at Virginia Tech, Wilkins averaged 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds, playing in all 32 games and making five starts.

Wilkins received immediate eligibility to play this season from the NCAA in August.

Grad transfers could factor in

Forbes bolstered his roster with experienced players by adding three graduate transfers to the fold.

Guard Jonah Antonio comes to Wake Forest from UNLV, where he averaged 6.9 points and 2.4 rebounds. The Perth, Australia native started his career at Mount St. Mary’s before stops at South Plains College and UNLV.

Guard Ian Dubose comes to the program from Houston Baptist, where he posted 19 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists and started 28 of 29 games a season ago. He scored a season-high 44 points against Central Arkansas.

The Durham native played in high school at Ravenscroft School

Guard Jalen Johnson transferred in from Tennessee, where he averaged 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in his senior season, playing in all 31 games and making two starts. Of his 34 made field goals, 22 came from 3-point range.

Also a Durham native, Johnson played at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point where he won two state championships.

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