Wake Forest alums looking for revenge in TBT 2018

 

By: Danny Holdsman | @DHoldsman


Some of the best Demon Deacons in program history are looking to bring home $2 million

Wake Forest legend LD Williams has followed TBT since its inception in 2014. He has seen the various alumni teams reunite old teammates and watched a few of his own friends play in summers past.

After finally deciding that it was his turn to jump in this summer, he knew exactly who he wanted to join him.

“After watching the games and seeing the tournament-like atmosphere, it was all I could think about,” said Williams. “Once the wheels started turning and I talked to some of the Wake Forest guys, all of the feedback was positive and it seemed like they all wanted to play. It didn’t make any sense for us not to have a team.”

This chain of events led to the creation of Wake The Nation, a squad of Wake Forest alums who will be making its debut in #TBT2018. While the current roster on its team page only lists two players --  Williams and Travis McKie -- the group will feature some of the best players in the history of the Demon Deacons’ program.

 

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Williams and McKie both had tremendous careers at Wake Forest. Williams remains the only player in school history to earn multiple ACC All-Defensive Team awards, earning the honor in 2009 and 2010. He was also a captain on the team for three seasons. McKie was a two-time All-ACC selection who tied Tim Duncan for most career starts in program history with 127. Although their respective careers never overlapped at Wake Forest, their relationship has always been strong.

Williams and McKie were both members of the Boo Williams AAU program. According to McKie, Williams played an integral role in his decision to commit to Wake Forest.

“He’s one of the reasons I went to Wake,” said McKie. “He was one of the people that was there when I was visiting. We always kept in contact from the day we met when I was in high school until today. We talk almost everyday; we have a group chat together. It will be exciting to finally play with him in something that matters.”

The emotional attachment isn’t the only thing that excites McKie about getting an opportunity to play alongside Williams.

“I think we’re going to compliment each other very well,” McKie said. “We’re both wings. He’s more explosive; he’s way more athletic than I am; He’s more of a defensive stopper, whereas I’m more of a slasher/scorer type guy.”

McKie is not the only guy who will suit up for Wake The Nation that Williams did not play with in his time as a Demon Deacon. Among these players are Justin Gray, a 2006 graduate who ranks second in made 3-pointers in program history; Eric Williams (‘06), a third team All-ACC selection in his senior season; and Nikita Mescheriakov, who redshirted during LD Williams’ senior season.

 

For as many talented players that have come through the Wake Forest program, the Demon Deacons have found little success in the NCAA Tournament. Since the 2005-06 season, the team has only made three NCAA Tournaments and has a record of 1-3 in such games.

McKie was a part of the team during one of its worst stretches in school history. In his four years at Wake Forest, McKie’s teams never made an NCAA Tournament. It was not until his senior season that he finally broke the .500 mark, finishing 17-16 in what was Jeff Bzdelik’s final season as head coach.

McKie views TBT as an opportunity to finally experience a high stakes, one-and-done format for himself.

“Nothing can replace the NCAA Tournament, but playing in TBT and going far would be something that I would cherish, especially with Wake,” McKie stated.

Williams did have the fortune of competing in two NCAA Tournaments. However, neither trip was as successful as he had hoped. In his junior season, the 4th-seeded Demon Deacons were upset in the first round by 13-seed Cleveland State. The year after they returned to the Big Dance and were able to escape the first round with a one-point victory over Texas, only to be blown out by 30 to 1-seed Kentucky in the round of 32.

“This is a way for us to avenge the sour tastes that we still have in our mouths,” said Williams.

Williams says that Josh Howard, who parlayed a spectacular four years at Wake Forest into a ten-year NBA career, will also be playing with Wake The Nation. Howard would be another guy sure to contribute on both ends.

 

“I like our group,” Williams said proudly. “Hopefully we’ll have a couple more pieces before the deadline, but with guys like Josh Howard, myself, Travis McKie, Devin Thomas, we’re energy and effort guys; we’ll be working hard every possession. Throw in guys like Justin Gray who’s a prolific scorer; Eric Williams, he’s a force down on the block; Nikita Mescheriakov will help us inside and out. We’re going to play above the rim and get up and down the court.”

At the helm for the Wake alums will be Mike Lepore, a 2009 grad who made the team as a walk-on. Williams believes that Lepore’s experiences with numerous players on the team during his tenure as a player and subsequently as a grad-assistant will allow him to better understand the personnel and make the best decisions for the group.

“It’s going to be really cool to have Mike Lepore as our head coach,” said Williams. “He’s a guy who saw it all from the outside. He played with myself and Justin Gray; he coached Travis McKie.”

Regardless of how tight-knit or motivated these guys are, Wake The Nation -- and 16 other teams in the South Region for that matter -- will have to slay TBT royalty Overseas Elite. Since first entering TBT in 2015, Overseas Elite has won all 19 of its games en route to three-straight championships.

Williams is aware of the threat that Overseas Elite poses. But given that he was on the wrong side of a major upset in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, he hopes to use that experience to his advantage and pull off one of his own.

“[Wake Forest fans] should expect us to go a lot further than we did when we were in college. Hopefully we can make the Final Four,” said Williams. “We know it’s going to be tough being in the same region as Overseas Elite given that that team has won the past three years. We want to get to the third round and be able to shake some things up. The goal is to make some noise once we advance to Atlanta (the site of the Super 16 for #TBT2018) and see where things go.”

McKie has no doubt in his team’s ability to make a deep run in its TBT debut.

“We’ll go as far as we want to go,” McKie said. “We have as much talent as anybody; it starts there.”

“We just have to play hard every night, so I expect us to go far.”