NCAA Tournament: Midwest Regional: Wake’s underclassmen may go pro
The high-scoring sophomore guard led the way all year for Wake Forest’s balanced offense, helping the Demon Deacons shoot to No. 1 in the national rankings. But after flopping in the ACC tournament, they didn’t make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
It’s not the first time this has happened to Wake Forest. And as coach Dino Gaudio heads into a long offseason, he has to hope it turns out better than it did in 2005.
The program that peaked four years ago during Chris Paul’s second season had trouble recovering once the Winston-Salem native left early for the NBA.
Now, Jeff Teague and a pair of teammates face a similar decision in the coming months, because there are plenty of questions about how many of the Demon Deacons’ young stars will return to chase a second straight spot in the NCAAs.
“There’s so much for this program to build on,” Gaudio told reporters in the aftermath of Wake Forest’s first-round loss to Cleveland State in Miami. “The future of this program is incredibly bright because of the guys sitting next to me and in that locker room.”
Of course, so much depends on whether Teague and forwards James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu ó the team’s only double-figure scorers ó return for another season.
Teague averaged a team-best 19 points, while Johnson added 15 and a team-leading 8.5 rebounds. Aminu scored nearly 13 points a game with eight boards. All three have been mentioned as potential candidates to leave school early and have showed up as possible first-round picks in the NBA draft gurus’ online projections.
Gaudio said in the days leading up to the tournament that the players had told him they needed another year of college ball ó but there’s nothing binding about that. They have until April 26 to announce whether they’ll test the NBA waters, and until June 15 to withdraw from the draft pool.
For his part, in the moments after the loss to Cleveland State, Johnson sounded like a player who planned to be back in central North Carolina in the fall.
“It’s what we do in the offseason that’s going to help us build this program and make it as strong as we can,” Johnson said.
If they all return, the Demon Deacons (24-7) would seem to enter 2009-10 as a favorite to contend for the league title.
They lose only one scholarship senior ó guard Harvey Hale, whose playing time dwindled as the season progressed.
Wake Forest was one of the youngest teams in the ACC ó and, despite some occasional lapses, was one of the league’s best. The Demon Deacons won a school-record 16 straight games to start the season, vaulted to No. 1 for just the second time in school history and beat instate powers North Carolina and Duke at home.