The term “closed-door scrimmage” probably isn’t the best descriptor for what college basketball teams across the country are doing at this time of year.
That lends itself to visions of 40-minute games with the full assortment of statistics. The reality is that, at least for Wake Forest, they’re broken up differently.
They’re more like joint practices.
“Most situations you’ll do a man(-to-man) block, you’ll do situations, it could be full court, it could be half court. You know, there could be a period where you just want to play your young guys,” Coach Danny Manning said. “There are a lot of different things you can do.
“We’ll get together and kind of come up with our format and kind of go from there.”
Wake Forest’s first — we’ll call them closed-door scrimmages for consistency — is Sunday at Winthrop, where former Wake Forest assistant Pat Kelsey is the head coach, and former Wake Forest standout Justin Gray, who was on the Deacons’ staff last season, was added to the Eagles’ staff in June.
It’ll be the Deacons’ first chance to play against a team other than themselves, an appealing aspect of these scrimmages.
“I think we’re all looking just to compete with somebody else,” sophomore Isaiah Mucius said. “I think we’ve been getting after it the past couple of weeks, and I think we’re kind of ready to bang around and get after it with somebody else rather than competing with ourselves all day.”
A couple of aspects of this appeal to Manning.
The scrimmages allow for more on-court teaching and situational coaching, and the benefits of those outweigh what Manning has said of exhibition games in the past — that the value in them is to get younger players experience playing in front of a crowd and at Joel Coliseum.
The other aspect is more of an obvious one, and has to do with the setting for Sunday’s closed-door scrimmage. The Deacons will travel to Rock Hill, S.C., and go through the routine of a road game — which was important to Manning because the first game of the year is at Boston College.
“It’s a great teaching environment, it gives our guys a chance to see somebody else, you know, and we’re also treating it like it’s our first road game so our young players see how we travel and see how we prepare, things of that nature,” Manning said. “So it is something that, it’s very valuable for us just as an education piece for our younger guys.”
Mucius said there was more of a jump in the Deacons’ development last season after the closed-door scrimmage against East Carolina — which will be Wake Forest’s opponent Oct. 26 — than there was after a 32-point win over Belmont Abbey in an exhibition game.
“We can control a little bit more situations and stuff, and it helps us work on different things,” Mucius said. “… I think all of us, a lot of us being younger, freshmen, I think once it was bright lights everybody was nervous. My first game, I was nervous. But so, for the two closed scrimmages, it kind of eases the freshmen in a little bit more.
“I think it’ll help them get their feet grounded so when they come to that first game, obviously they’ll have those nervous jitters, but I think the change will be a lot easier for them.”