Steve Forbes thinks Wake Forest is 4-2 right now.
The Deacons basketball coach said in the six workouts since official preseason practices began, the team started strong but is on a two-practice losing streak going into Thursday’s practice.
Forbes said he had preached a foundation based on competitiveness — and for the most part, the coach is getting that from his players — but he’s going to continue hammering that point when needed to make his expectations clear.
Going as far, on Tuesday, to toss the team out of an afternoon practice to bring them back in later that night.
“I think they took it really personal, and I like that,” Forbes said. “I think they understand with me that there’s a certain way we’re going to do things every day, and if you don’t do it — and it’s just our identity that I’ve talked about till I’m blue in the face when I got here is hard, smart, together, share the ball, gritty, grimy, tough on defense, grab the ball with two hands and execute.
“And when you’re not doing that, it’s not acceptable.”
Forbes talked for roughly 40 minutes during Wake Forest’s basketball media day. Among the other topics he covered:
Points on the early schedule
The COVID-19 pandemic limited Forbes’ ability to interact with the players face-to-face as his job started. But he mentioned that the later start to the season, Nov. 25, has allowed him to claim some of that time back.
He mentioned concern for the lack of exhibitions and scrimmages, which he said will show where a team stands.
“One of the things I think I’m going to do is maybe next Saturday doing a simulation of a game day,” Forbes said. “Have them come in and practice at 10 a.m., feed them, send them back to their room and maybe come back and play at 4. Just to kind of get them used to what a game day is and a game day with me.”
Forbes did confirm that a multi-team event at Wake Forest is in the works. Wake is expecting to host Longwood, Alabama State and Delaware State Nov. 25-27.
“We’re getting close to announcing that,” Forbes said. “. . . We’re working hard at it. Of course we only get seven (non-conference) games, but we are going to have an MTE and we feel good about it. We’re getting close.”
He also confirmed that Wake Forest would not be in the ACC-Big Ten challenge.
“Hopefully from here on out, we will be,” Forbes said.
Changing their bodies
Forbes gave props to his director of sports performance, Mike Starke. The coach said he had to fight off other schools to keep Starke while the two were at East Tennessee State together.
Forbes also said the players are reaping early boosts while from working with Starke.
“We’ve made some really good strides since we came back to campus in the weight room,” Forbes said. “And you’ve got to remember, those guys from March until July, didn’t really do a whole lot — weren’t able to do a whole lot. “
Ody Oguama, a forward who started 24 games last season, has probably showed the most improvement, Forbes said. He played about 206 pounds last season and is up to about 223.
“He’s the hardest-playing guy on the team,” Forbes said. “He exerts a lot of energy every day.”
Freshman center Emmanuel Okpomo has gained 17 pounds since his arrival on campus. Jalen Johnson, the grad transfer from Tennessee, is up 15. Isaiah Mucius is up 10. And Tariq Ingraham, a redshirt freshman coming back from an Achilles injury, is down 12 pounds.
Isaiah Wilkins, a Winston-Salem native and transfer from Virginia Tech, has transformed his body and is leaner, according to Forbes. Forbes called Wilkins and grad transfer Ian DuBose the best perimeter players to this point.
On Daivien Williamson
Last week, Wake Forest learned that transfer guard Daivien Williamson would be eligible to play immediately.
Williamson, who played under Forbes at ETSU, and is from Winston-Salem and played at Winston-Salem Prep.
Forbes joked that Williamson is his favorite target on the practice court.
“Daivien’s probably got his butt chewed a little bit more than most,” Forbes said. “Sometimes when I’m mad at everybody, I just yell at him.”
Williamson has shined in preseason work, Forbes said. He’s averaging roughly two assists for every turnover in practice. And his coach said his shooting percentages have been stellar, roughly 85 percent from the free-throw line and over 40 percent from three-point range.
He’s gained strength, readying to guard bigger, stronger players in the ACC after starting the last two seasons at ETSU. Forbes said he’s also good at getting teammates in place and keeping them accountable.
“He’s been awesome. He’s the best man,” Forbes said. “He’s got a great team personality.”
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