The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have not had much success on the basketball court in the last few seasons. The late 90’s up until 2010 Deacon fans were spoiled with great players, very good teams, and much success.
While the success for Wake Forest has been limited the past few seasons, a number of former Demon Deacons have found success in the NBA. Wake Forest has been well-represented in the NBA over the last fifteen years and have produced talent all over the league.
The two names that basketball fans everywhere are familiar with are Tim Duncan and Chris Paul. Not only are these two guys two of the best in the league right now, they will go down as two of the best in the history of the sport.
Tim Duncan continues to appear ageless as he somehow finds a way to produce at a high level. Every year analysts predict that there will be a dip in Duncan’s production, and every year he proves critics wrong. In what is now his 16th NBA season, Duncan averages 14.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.9 blocks, all while playing an average of just 28.8 minutes per game. This level of production even at age 37 (which is considered ancient for the NBA) has to hint that Duncan still has at least a couple more productive years left in him.
Chris Paul has emerged as what most basketball analysts consider the best point guard in the NBA, and could go down as one of the best of all time, right there with Magic Johnson and the other greats.
Paul has helped resurrect the once lifeless Los Angeles Clippers, who are now one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. This season Paul is averaging 19.6 points, 11.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game. Paul is still in search of his first NBA title and could have a season to remember at some point in the near future. He is currently the leader in the MVP race, and if he continues to dominate opponents he could very likely win the award this season.
We could discuss the accolades and achievements of Duncan and Paul all day, but some of the other former Demon Deacon stars are quietly finding success around the league as well. Jeff Teague, the point guard on the last Wake Forest team to be ranked #1 overall in the country has emerged as one of the leaders of the Atlanta Hawks, and is having the best season of his career. Teague is averaging 17.0 points, 8.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game, and had the first game winning shot in overtime of his career just a week and a half ago.
The same night that Teague hit his game winner, James Johnson had two monstrous dunks and both the former teammates at Wake Forest made it into the Sportscenter top 10 plays. Johnson has bounced around the league a fair amount so far in his young career and was playing in the NBA- Development League until the Memphis Grizzlies signed him a few weeks ago. Since being picked up by the Grizzlies, Johnson has been a spark coming off the bench, averaging 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal and one block in just 23 minutes per game. Although he has only played in seven games this season, he has been a bright spot for the Grizzlies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they signed him to a nice little two or three year contract at the end of this season.
Al-Farouq Aminu remains the highest-ranked recruit the Demon Deacons have ever had coming out of high school, and although many Demon Deacon fans (including myself) thought it was a mistake for him to leave Wake Forest for the NBA after only two seasons, he has become a solid starting role player for the New Orleans Pelicans. As the starting small forward, Aminu averages 7.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game for one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA.
Last but not least, Ish Smith has been able to contribute some critical minutes as a backup point guard in his years since Wake Forest. Smith was a fan favorite at Wake Forest and was the unquestioned leader of the team during the four years he was there. Smith is currently the back up point guard for what has emerged as one of the top guard combo’s in the league in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic for the Phoenix Suns. In 18 games this season, Smith is playing 10.5 minutes per game and averaging 2.7 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 rebounds.
It has been three years since Wake Forest produced an NBA player, but it seems like much longer than that. Although there are schools that have produced more current NBA players, the talent level that Wake Forest has produced is as good as any. Moreover, with six former Wake Forest players currently playing in the NBA, the only ACC schools with more are North Carolina, Duke, and Georgia Tech. Hopefully Jeff Bzdelik and Wake Forest can continue to produce quality basketball players and help them find success in the NBA.