CHARLOTTE — There is a “staggering” number of college basketball players who transfer every season, Coach Danny Manning of Wake Forest said last week, and it’s “across the board.”
The rate that players left Wake Forest in 2018 was whatever goes beyond “staggering,” whether that’s astonishing or confounding or any other descriptor. When the calendar flipped to 2019, it turned the page on a year that saw eight players leave the program.
If a similar exodus plays out over the coming weeks and months, it would be surprising to sophomore guard Chaundee Brown.
“Yeah, I think mostly all the guys are going to be back next year,” Brown said after Tuesday’s 79-71 loss to Miami in the ACC Tournament. “I’m not really thinking about that right now because the season just ended, but I feel like everyone is coming back next year.”
By the end of Wake Forest’s season a year ago, only the dismissal of Sam Japhet-Mathias and transfer of Rich Washington had been announced. Keyshawn Woods had gone through Senior Day festivities, but he said in the locker room after the ACC Tournament loss to Syracuse that the “plan” was to be back at Wake Forest this season.
In less than a month, Donovan Mitchell announced he was transferring, Woods said he wouldn’t be back and Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore declared their intentions to go through evaluations for the NBA Draft.
A few weeks before Wake Forest’s season started, Melo Eggleston became the seventh player to leave the program in the calendar year. In December, the team announced that freshman Jamie Lewis wouldn’t return after being placed on leave from the school.
Sustaining another wave of departures would further cripple a program that hasn’t finished in the top half of the ACC since 2010.
“We had some guys that grew a significant amount this year in terms of their growth from the start to the finish, and that’s how we want to build it,” Manning said.
Of course, the first issue at hand is whether Manning will be back as the Deacons’ coach.
Change is coming to Wake Forest in at least one way, with the impending retirement of Athletics Director Ron Wellman and John Currie positioned to take over May 1. Manning has been the coach of Wake Forest’s flagship program for five years, three of which have seen 20-loss seasons, including the past two.
Junior point guard Brandon Childress said he hoped the coaching staff — on which his father, Randolph Childress, is associate head coach — would return next season.
“I want Coach Manning here. I believe everybody else does, regardless of what people on the outside say,” Brandon Childress said. “My father has been a great role model to me, has improved as a coach, especially from when I first started playing basketball.
“But coaching changes, I have no control over that. Obviously I want to play for Coach Manning.”
Wake Forest has nosedived since reaching the First Four in 2017, going 11-20 each of the last two seasons.
For a sense of optimism, Childress went to the same youthfulness that Manning cited.
“I mean, put it like this: We’ve got seven new players. And we threw them into the jungle. You’ve gotta fight your way out. It’s different for other teams. It’s just really different. With this team, I wish we could’ve had a little more experience,” Childress said. “It starts with me, it doesn’t have anything to do with anybody else … being here for two years, going to the NCAA Tournament, winning a game in the ACC Tournament and having a winning season.”
Freshman forward Jaylen Hoard entered Wake Forest as the highest-rated recruit since Al-Farouq Aminu and had his sights set on being the first one-and-done player in program history. He averaged 13.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, sometimes flashing potential and other times coming up empty.
Hoard said he would evaluate his options with his family and “make a decision together.”
“Me and my parents, we talked about it before the season. But during the season I told them I don’t want to talk about it,” Hoard said. “We’ll talk about it in the near future, but I don’t have a timetable or anything.”
The players who return must take the next eight months to establish their roles.
“We’ve gotta have guys on the team that do stuff to make us win. We can’t have a guy do what they want to do,” Brown said. “Everyone has to have a role on the team, we can’t do what we want to do and get out of character. I feel like that’s what really hurt us.
“Everyone can’t score, everyone can’t do this and that. We’ve gotta do whatever you can, and whatever’s best for the team, you’ve gotta do it.”