Wake Forest suffered a big setback in basketball recruiting when one-time commitment Isaac Haas switched his pledge to Purdue.
WINSTON-SALEM – Nothing is going to come easy for Jeff Bzdelik as the coach at Wake Forest. At this stage of his career, four years in to his time in Winston-Salem, that much is clear.
Even small steps forward are battles, sometimes even debated by fans as to whether they are actually steps forward.
The latest saga involved signing day, which didn’t turn out as planned. This was supposed to be a big moment for Bzdelik, signing two top players and showing that he truly could recruit and that the program had a real future.
Instead, the day was dominated by the news that 7-2 Isaac Haas did not sign his letter of intent. Point guard Shelton Mitchell, a four-star recruit, and little-known shooting guard Rondale Watson did sign their letters.
Haas, also a four-star recruit, appeared to be a Wake Forest lock up until the last minute. Haas committed in September, and he said all the right things.
“I just had a gut feeling,” Haas said. “I felt that was where God wanted me. The people are great, the campus is beautiful, and the coach really wanted me. The players are great people, and I felt comfortable with them. … I think it’s just a great thing to be a part of.”
When contacted by al.com a week before signing day, Haas again praised Wake Forest.
“The campus is beautiful,” Haas said. “Great people, small town. It reminds me a lot of Hokes Bluff, actually. Each person there loves the school and loves basketball. The coaches have a great playing style, trying to get two big men on the court at one time. They are a building program, and I really think it’s a great opportunity for me to play against the best.”
The day before signing day, the Haas family announced that Isaac would be signing with Wake Forest at 2 p.m. in his high school’s gym, and they invited his family and friends to attend.
But that event was canceled, and all of a sudden, both Purdue and UAB were in the picture.
Purdue coach Matt Painter came to visit, and UAB coach Jerod Haase and assistant Jeff Wulbrun were at his practice on Friday. He went to UAB (about 80 miles from his home) on Saturday on an official visit, and he watched the Blazers beat Troy 81-69.
The Wake Forest staff was scheduled to be at the Haas home on Sunday, but whatever last-minute pitch Bzdelik and his staff made fell short. On Monday morning, Haas announced on his Twitter account (@isaacbball44) that he would be attending Purdue.
#BoilerUp and I'm excited to play next year in the Big Ten and make my mark on history!!— Isaac Haas (@isaacbball44) November 18, 2013
Haas was a key piece to Wake Forest’s future. When the Deacs missed on him, they failed to address their biggest need: talented inside players.
Without Haas, the Deacons will only have three players taller than 6-8 on the next year’s roster: juniors Devin Thomas, Daniel Green and Andre Washington. While Thomas has potential All-ACC talent, the other two have never contributed in a meaningful game. Green will have missed two straight seasons with knee injuries, and Washington is just getting a few backup minutes in his second season.
Now the Deacons will have a decision to make: Go after a lesser talent, or hold the scholarship. Right now, that scholarship is the only one the Deacons have for the class of 2015 since they are not scheduled to lose any players. Holding it would give them a chance to sign at least one player then.
If they decide that warm bodies are more important, a few big men are still on the market. The Deacons have been involved with four-star Thomas Welsh of Los Angeles, but they don’t appear to have any shot. In the three-star range, the Deacons have shown interest in Johnathon Wilkins (6-10, 210) of La Porte, Ind., who still had not signed as of this writing. Otherwise, the cupboard is pretty bare for big men.
Perhaps more important, losing out on Haas gives Bzdelik’s critics another nail to pound. He will have lost a top prospect, and suddenly the future doesn’t look as bright. Certainly, the current atmosphere of discord surrounding him – websites, hashtags, newspaper ads, billboards – can’t help when he’s out recruiting. You can be sure that rival teams make recruits aware of the negativity.
Trying All Combinations
On the court, Bzdelik has been true to his word that the Demon Deacons would play their whole roster in an attempt to wear down opponents. Through three games, nine players were averaging at least 13.3 minutes a game, and Washington was averaging 8.3.
Bzdelik played 37 different lineup combinations during those three games. Interestingly, he only went back to a few of those lineups. Besides the starting lineup, which played together six times, Bzdelik only played three other lineups in each of the first three games. No combination, other than the starters (20:23), played more than 9:02 together.
Seven lineups have played more than five minutes together, and several have been very effective. The starting lineup – Madison Jones, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Tyler Cavanaugh, Travis McKie and Thomas – was plus-11. That’s been matched by one other unit – the same unit except Arnaud William Adala Moto in place of Cavanaugh. That lineup also is plus-11 in 14 fewer minutes than the starters.
Bzdelik hasn’t even been wedded to units that play well together. In the opener, his most effective lineup (plus-7) was Miller-McIntyre, Coron Williams, Moto, McKie and Thomas. That 2:15 stretch it played together was the only time he used the combination in the first three games.
In the second game, the most effective combination (plus-9) was a three-guard version with Jones, Miller-McIntyre, Williams, Cavanaugh and Thomas. Again, that stretch of 2:59 is the only time that unit played together in the first three games.
The worst lineups so far? Both are three-guard combinations. Twice, Bzdelik has gone to a lineup of Jones, Williams, Overton, Moto and Washington. That lineup is minus-8. Three times, Bzdelik has gone to the same combo, except with Aaron Rountree replacing Moto. That lineup is minus-4.
On the individual front, through three games, the top players were: Miller-McIntyre (plus-58), Williams (plus-51), Thomas (plus-50) and McKie (plus-42). The worst were: Washington (minus-1), Overton (plus-1) and Rountree (plus-12).