September 26, 2011

A first-class future

Wake Forest's 2012 recruiting class of Codi Miller-McIntyre, Aaron Rountree, Andre Washington and its newest member Tyler Cavanaugh give hope to the Demon Deacon faithful that their program is building and is back on the climb.

That is a load of pressure to put on a group of players who will not don the black and gold for another year, but that is not how they see it.

"I don't feel the pressure," Washington said. "I try to take things positively. If we had felt bad about it we wouldn't have committed to Wake Forest."

While Miller-McIntyre, Rountree, Washington and Cavanaugh have yet to face a challenge as great as the one ahead at the college level the nightmare will likely continue for the current team in the 2011-12 season even after finishing with an 8-24 record last year.

It takes time for a farmer to work and till the soil before harvesting crops. That may be all Jeff Bzdelik and his staff need. The question is will they get it, and if they do how long? The answer to that question is only time will tell.

Wake Forest fans need to be patient, because no one not even the great play writer William Shakespeare could have scripted a worse start for a coach in his first season at a new school, or an offseason from hell that saw Ari Stewart's transfer, Melvin Tabb's dismissal, Ty Walker's suspension and J.T. Terrell's arrest and sudden departure. Take heart, because Bzelik and his staff have not wavered in the midst of the storm. In fact they are about to harvest an abundant crop of incoming talent for the 2012-13 season.

That may seem like an eternity from now, but in basketball it often only takes a recruiting class or two to turn a program around.

"I think Coach Bzdelik is a great coach," Rountree said. "He just needs time to show it, and hopefully this year, and definitely next year when my class gets there we're going to start making the upswing back to Wake Forest prominence."

The challenge ahead excites Rountree. The Greenfield School senior has grown close to his future coaches, especially to assistant coach Jeff Battle.

"He tells me what I need to hear instead of what I want to hear," Rountree said. "He never sugarcoated anything with me. He came to games, and told me what I did bad, what I did good, what I can work on."

Rountree, a slender 6-foot-9 and 190-pound senior from Wilson, NC knows he has much to improve on before he arrives in Winston-Salem. As a junior he led Greenfield to the Final Four of the state playoffs, averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four blocks per game on his way to earning All-State honors. He is quite the stat stuffer, but what is the most shocking item of news is that he did it from the point guard position.

"My best strengths are basketball IQ," Rountree said. "I'm a really good passer. I think my versatility is a really big thing. I can be a great defender at times when I need to be a good defender or a great defender. I'm like the defensive stopper for my team."

Needless to say Rountree has many hats to wear for his Greenfield team, and has also displayed his talents on the AAU-circuit with Miller-McIntyre and Virginia Tech commitment Montrezl Harrell for the Carolina Elite.

"It was fun playing with him [Rountree]," Miller-McIntyre said. "I didn't have to do as much on the team as I would normally have to. With Aaron the great thing playing with him was he can dribble the ball as a guard as well as play the big man position, so he could bring the ball up sometimes, and I could run the wing."

The Carolina Elite did not go to the AAU Nationals, so Rountree joined uncommitted five star-recruit Rodney Purvis on CP3. The duo helped lead CP3 to finish third in the nation.

Rountree, a three-star recruit figures to fit in at small forward, but he is willing to play anywhere and do anything to help the team win. He may remind fans of former Wake Forest standout Jamaal Levy, but has much to prove before being put in the same category as the ex-Demon Deacon star.

"I have to keep getting stronger, putting on weight, and I'm still improving on my shooting. I shot a lot better this summer than last summer. I'm shooting a lot better right now in workouts. I have to improve as a shooter, and explosiveness even though my best thing is finishing at the rim. I can get more explosive, because the college level and the high school level is a whole different type of finishing at the rim."

Along with his time on the AAU-circuit Rountree attended the LeBron James Skills Academy and Kevin Durant Skills Academy.

"I took a lot of stuff away from Durant," Rountree said. "He's lanky and skinny like me, but he's tall, and he's versatile. He talked a lot about how to get to your spot on the court where you like to play, and be an active defender. I watch a lot of Kevin Durant, and model my game after him."

Rountree hopes his hard-work will be enough to help his team get over the hump and win a state championship this season.

With Rountree Wake Forest is getting a utility-type, stat-stuffing player with great versatility, but the class is headlined by Miller-McIntyre.

The four-star point guard looks to fill a void that was left when Ishmael Smith graduated, and moved on to the NBA in 2010. Miller-McIntyre, a 6-foot-1 and 185-pound senior enters his first year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA with Washington after averaging 15 points and four assists per game for First Assembly Christian School in Concord, NC last season.

"It was a nice school. I really liked the school," Miller-McIntyre said. "Competition-wise I didn't really get to play that much, because the teams we played weren't really that good. I played like the first quarter, and I'd sit down the rest of the half. That's the main reason I came here."

Miller-McIntyre said he would often score 10 points in the first quarter, helping his team build a 20-point lead. He was not being challenged, which will certainly change with the high level of competition Hargrave faces.

"Education-wise I'll be a freshman, but game-wise like on the court my game will be on a sophomore level," Miller-McIntyre said.

Like Rountree, Miller-McIntyre has also grown close to Wake Forest's coaching staff. The Concord product went as far to say that Battle has become a father figure in his life, and already has learned much from him and Bzdelik.

"Coach Battle tells me I need to go to the left more, because I tend to go to the right a lot," Miller-McIntyre said. "I need to be more vocal on the court, because I tend to just be quiet, not really speak, and when I do it's not that loud."

While he has much to work on before suiting up for the Demon Deacons, the Hargrave floor general has an arsenal of talent. Perhaps his greatest attribute is his ability to breakdown the defense by penetration, forcing it to collapse, enabling him to find open shooters on the perimeter.

Miller-McIntyre has the ability to score, but expects to be a pass-first point guard for the Deacs, and looks forward to his future role.

Hargrave and future Wake Forest teammate Washington is excited about the early opportunity to begin playing with Miller-McIntyre.

"When I heard Codi was coming here [Hargrave] that's probably the main reason why I came, because I knew somebody, and get our chemistry right before we go to Wake Forest," Washington said.

The 6-foot-11 and 215-pound center from Rocky Mount, VA looks to be an imposing defensive presence for the Demon Deacons when he makes his arrival to Winston-Salem. He said Bzdelik and Battle want him to work hard and to improve as a rebounder.

"We're in the weight room quite a bit, and a lot of the stuff we do in practice helps," Washington said. "We have to walk up four flights of stairs every day just to get to our room, so that helps our legs a lot."

Last season at Roanoke Catholic he averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks per game.

Washington, a three-star recruit, may be the project of the class, but has tremendous athleticism and upside.

He is 7-feet with his shoes on, making him very difficult to shoot over, which is something he is just beginning to realize. He said that did not sink in until he played against another 7-footer this summer. Once Washington figures out what he can do, and improves as a rebounder and his skill-set offensively he is capable of being a strong inside force for Wake Forest.

"The future looks bright for us," Washington said. "Me and Codi are looking to win a national championship here at Hargrave, and then as soon as we get to Wake Forest we're going to do some damage there too."

Washington has enjoyed getting to know Miller-McIntyre and Rountree. The three players have yet to meet Cavanaugh, but look forward to getting to know their newest future teammate, and hope to add to the class.

Washington has talked to his good friend, four-star recruit Andrew White, and would love to play with him in college, and they all expressed admiration for four-star prospect Arnaud Adala Moto. Miller-McIntyre said that he likes Moto, and thinks that he could really help the Demon Deacons.

"I just try to tell guys that we're about to do something big, and I hope that they would like to be a part of it," Rountree said. "I know for a fact that we're going to do something big coming in the next few years, and it's going to surprise people when Wake is on the way back up where they should be in the conference."

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