Known for keeping his cards close to his vest, coach Danny Manning of Wake Forest will tip his hand in today’s 7:30 p.m. opener against Radford at Joel Coliseum.
He didn’t reveal his starting lineup or substitution rotation against the Highlanders of the Big South, only how he arrived at the decision.
“They know the deal — it’s earned in there,” Manning said, pointing toward the practice court at Budd Gymnasium. “Every day, you go get (playing time) in there.
“We’ve had some really competitive practices. We’ve had some guys do a lot of good things. And we’ll see. My substitution pattern, a lot of it depends on how things go in practice. A lot of it is also foul trouble, injuries, who’s playing well, who’s not.
“Everybody knows they need to be ready once we put that uniform on.”
The Wake Forest women’s team, coming off a 17-16 season that culminated in the Women’s NIT, will open today against Navy at Joel Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Manning started guards Bryant Crawford and Mitchell Wilbekin and forwards Austin Arians, John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou in last week’s 118-48 exhibition victory over Piedmont International, but all 15 team members played as Manning substituted liberally throughout the second half. He has said that once the season begins in earnest, playing time must be earned.
He is convinced the Deacons, going into his third season as coach, are ahead of where they were a year ago, when they embarked on a campaign that started well but ended with 15 losses in the final 16 games. Wake Forest finished 11-20 and 2-16 in ACC play.
This season started early, with the Deacons playing three games in the Bahamas in August against teams of varying ability.
Manning said he could see the benefits as he prepared his team for the opener.
“I feel we’re ahead, because of the Bahamas trip,” Manning said. “Going over there and getting three games in was very beneficial to us, and we’re still reaping those benefits just in terms of it’s cut down on our teach time since practice started.
“In the past, we’d have to allot, when we’re introducing something new, probably 10 minutes to get it in. Now we’re at the six-minute mark. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but let’s say you want to incorporate four different things in a practice, that’s almost 20 minutes more time that you have that you could be doing something else on.
“So it’s a beneficial piece for us to have the Bahamas practices under our belt.”
Not much is known about Radford, which lost its two leading scorers to spent eligibility from a squad that finished 16-15 overall and 9-9 in conference play. Mike Jones, in his sixth season as head coach, has two starters back, Ed Polite, Jr. and Justin Cousin.
“One of the biggest challenges is you don’t have a lot of footage on them for this coming year,” Manning said. “They have a lot of new players that they’re going to incorporate.
“But coming out we have to do a good job of guarding to our principals that we work on each and every day.”
Polite is a 6-foot-5 sophomore forward who was named second-team preseason All-Big South after averaging 8.7 points and 7.4 rebounds last season.
“He’s very athletic and plays extremely hard,” Manning said. “He creates a lot of effort, hustle, energy points with his activity.
“We’re going to have to do a good job on him across the board, but specifically we’ve got to make sure we put a body on him each time a shot goes up and try to limit his opportunities (on the backboards).”
Wake Forest is billing the double-header as Military Appreciation Day. The university will honor active duty and retired military personnel, and free tickets will be available in the Joel Coliseum lobby for veterans and their families.
“We play in Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” Manning noted. “So we feel it’s very appropriate and fitting to honor our military.
“It’s something that we’re excited about, and hopefully we’ll get a great military presence at the game and we can be sure to thank them the way they deserve.”