CHARLOTTESVILLE — Wake Forest went 6-16 last season in Steve Forbes’ first year with the team. The Demon Deacons won just three ACC games and finished next-to-last in the conference.
Forbes remade the roster in the offseason with transfers, including guard Alondes Williams (Oklahoma), and forwards Jake LaRavia (Indiana State), Dallas Walton (Colorado) and Khadim Sy (Mississippi). Still, Wake was picked to finish 13th in the 15-team league.
Going into Saturday’s game at Virginia, Forbes’s team — which opened the year 12-1 — has already notched a trio of ACC victories.
“I thought we had really good pieces,” said Forbes. “Now, you don’t really know that till you get them here. I thought after the end of the eight weeks in the summer, I thought we had a chance to have a good basketball team. And I wasn’t shy about saying that.”
With Williams leading the way — he’s tops in the league with 20.7 points and five assists per game, and 14th in rebounding (6.7 rpg.) — the Demon Deacons opened eyes with a convincing 80-61 drubbing of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Dec. 4.
People are also reading…
“Look, I’ve been around a long time,” said Forbes, a former head coach at East Tennessee State and Northwest Florida State who has been in college coaching for over 30 years. “I know what a good team looks like. I know what a bad teams looks like. I felt like this was a good basketball team, had good chemistry, shared the basketball, could score. I’m not shocked that we have a good basketball team because I saw what I saw.”
That scoring figures to be tested Saturday. Virginia (10-6, 4-2 ACC), which beat rival Virginia Tech 54-52 on Wednesday night, is allowing a league-low 58.4 points per game. The Demon Deacons (13-4, 3-3) rank second in the ACC in scoring, putting up 79.1 points an outing.
“They’re talented,” said Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett. “They’ve revamped their roster. They play so hard.”
Wake Forest, which was not particularly competitive in its last outing, a 76-64 home loss to Duke, has lost its last nine meetings with UVa and hasn’t won in Charlottesville since 2010. Still, Forbes’ team has been one of the most unexpected success stories in the ACC through two and a half months of play.