Wake Caught Betwixt and Between

So Rich Washington announced he is leaving Wake, and he did so in the thoroughly modern manner.

He posted on Instagram.

Washington is a long 6-6 sophomore wing with what looks like a smooth left-handed shot, but he was too much of a stick figure to command much playing time. He did log 17 minutes of mop-up “action” as a freshman, but experienced a setback with an injured arm and has yet to appear this season as a sophomore.

So the news that he’s bolting for whatever greener patch he can find is, in itself, small potatoes.

But it does contribute to a trend is rapidly turning into one stuffed super spud for a program that continues to lose players almost as fast as it can bring them in.

Most people agree that, these days, there are two ways to get and stay good in college basketball.

You can either go the route of Duke, Kentucky and Kansas and recruit the best players available knowing full well they will probably leave for the pro game after one season. And of course that requires the rinsing and repeating of recruiting another loaded class the next.

My long-time pal Ed Hardin of the Greensboro News and Record wrote a really good column a few weeks back on how coaching an AAU all-star team season after season must be souring the stomach of Mike Krzyzewski, the greatest coach in the history of the college game whose Duke Blue Devils lost another tough one last night at Virginia Tech.

The other method is practiced by the likes of Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Gonzaga and Purdue. They’ve proven you can be as good – if not better — than anybody by recruiting the right players, keeping enough of them around in this day of rampant attrition and developing them into major contributors by their third, fourth or fifth year in the program.

I looked it up this morning. Virginia, ranked No. 1, is starting a redshirt senior (Devon Hall), a senior (Isaiah Wilkins), a redshirt junior (Jack Salt) and two sophomores (Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome). At Xavier, ranked No. 3, Chris Mack has gone for the most part with a two seniors (Trevon Blueitt and J.P. Macura), a junior (Kaiser Gates) and two sophomores (Quentin Goodin and Tyrique Jones).

Villanova, ranked No. 4, is regularly starting three redshirt juniors (Eric Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth), a junior (Jalen Brunson) and a redshirt freshman (Omari Spellman).

Gonzaga, ranked No. 7, is regularly starting a redshirt senior (Johnathan Williams), a senior (Silas Melson), a redshirt junior (Josh Perkins), a sophomore (Killian Tillie) and a redshirt freshman (Zach Norvell, Jr).

Purdue, ranked No. 8, is regularly starting four seniors (Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson, Vincent Edwards and the gone-but-not-forgotten Isaac Hass) along with a sophomore (Carsen Edwards).

And to look closer to home, North Carolina, ranked No. 9 has gone most often with a two seniors (Joel Berry and Theo Pinson), a grad transfer (Cameron Johnson), and two juniors (Luke Maye and Kenny Williams). And that’s one season after winning a national championship with three seniors (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt) and a junior (Justin Jackson) playing key roles.

Wake’s chronic problem, meanwhile, is that Danny Manning’s program has found itself caught betwixt and between. Manning, in his four seasons at the helm, has not recruited players capable of making an immediate splash, nor has he been able to keep enough of his players in the program long enough to develop them into the kind of players who could play regularly for first-division ACC programs.

The problem, of course, started with Manning’s infamously ill-fated predecessor. In his four years as head coach, Jeff Bzdelik pinned the program’s rebuilding hopes on 16 scholarship freshmen, of which a grand total of three (Travis McKie, Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre) played their final college games for Wake.

Manning was expected, if nothing else, to establish some stability to the turmoil. Unfortunately for the long-suffering Wake fanbase, it really hasn’t worked out the way everyone hoped.

Manning, over his first four years, has either brought in or (in the case of Rondale Watson) kept around 14 scholarship freshman. Of that total, Washington was the sixth to either leave or be asked to leave. And who would be surprised if a player like Melo Eggleston were fair behind?

More to the point, who would shed a tear if Eggleston – who has played all of 19 minutes against ACC competition – were to join the exodus?

A common defense I’ve heard of Manning is that he is a good recruiter. But saying isn’t making it so.

I’ll willing to believe it only if the likes of Bryant Crawford, Doral Moore, Chaundee Brown and Olivier Sarr prove capable of holding their own in ACC play next year, and the program gets a huge boost from the incoming class of Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Jamie Lewis and Sharone Wright.

It’s a ballyhooed class all right, every bit as ballyhooed as Bzdelik’s first class of McKie, J.T. Terrell, Carson Desrosiers, Tony Chennault and Melvin Tabb. And we all remember how that worked out.

So we’ll see and we’ll all see together.

We witnessed a rare occasion on Saturday, when a fourth-year senior, Mitchell Wilkbekin, played for Wake on Senior Day. He was only the fourth to do so since the dark ages descended on the program in 2010-11.

If Senior Day remains a time for Wake to honor walk-ons and grad transfers, then the Deacons are destined to remain where they are today.

So long Rich Washington. We hardly knew you.

Rudderless Wake Towed to Shore

Easy pickings are hard to come by in a conference as fast and competitive as the ACC.

That’s why Mike Brey is the latest coach to thank his lucky stars for the opportunity to face Danny Manning.

Brey is one of seven current coaches who have never lost to Manning in conference play But he certainly should have lost yesterday, when his Notre Dame Irish trailed Wake Forest by nine with eight minutes to go on a sunny faux spring day in Winston-Salem.

Brey’s strapped, injury-battered team looked for all the world like it was dead in the water. The Deacons, getting a fond farewell performance from senior Mitchell Wilbekin on Senior Day, appeared to be sailing to their second straight victory and third in four tries.

Then Wake’s rudder snapped and the Deacons spent the final eight minutes whirling wildly out of control.

Which raises the question: Since the days a transplanted Hoosier named Richard Crozier introduced basketball to the school in 1904, has Wake ever played a more rudderless stretch of basketball as they played in the final eight minutes of yesterday’s 76-71 setback?

I’m sure it has, but sitting here still ruminating over the totality of yesterday’s collapse, I can’t for the life of me remember when.

A hairline crack first appeared when Bryant Crawford took a what-the-hell 3-point heave from way out above the key with five seconds remaining on the clock. It missed, as did Keyshawn Woods’ contested step-in jumper from the right wing on the next possession.

Woods had Doral Moore open in the post, but passing to Doral Moore in the post doesn’t seem to be this team’s thing.

Instead the Deacons specialize in jacking threes, as they did five more times in the chaotic final minutes. Olivier Sarr thought he’d try one, and missed. Brandon Childress got two good looks from the left corner and missed both. Crawford got a pretty good look from the same spot and missed.

Not to be left out, Chaundee Brown launched one from the left wing and missed.

Then came the two crushing turnovers that sandwiched Matt Farrell’s dramatic 3-pointer to beat the shotclock – the one on the pass from Crawford that caromed off Woods out of bounds that came before and Childress’ ill-fated attempt to bounce the ball off an Irish defender afterward.

Speaking of Childress’ ill-fated attempt to bounce the all off an Irish defender. The officials needed how long to get the clock straight? Had to be five minutes, right? It was after that delay that Manning called a timeout. His last timeout.

Childress, when he couldn’t get the ball in from the sidelines against the 6-10 Marinas Geben, had to do something,

Wake had no timeouts remaining.

Not once during the collapse did Wake dump the ball into the post for a shot. Not once did Crawford, Childress, Woods or anybody take it to the goal.

Wake has a coach. Standing in front of the bench at 6-10, he’s hard to miss. But over the final eight minutes yesterday he was missing in plain sight.

Les Johns, my buddy from Demon Deacon Digest, asked afterward if the Deacons relied too heavily on the 3-pointers at the end.

“There were times I would have liked for us to drive the ball,’’ Manning said.

And then he complained about the officials.

“But, you know, Crawford got to the paint quite a few times and didn’t get a chance to get to the free-throw line because they never called a foul for him,’’ Manning said. “And I thought he got bumped a few times for sure.’’

Manning was also stewing over the snafu at the end, when the clock didn’t start after Farrell’s game-winning shot. Manning said his team wanted to get the ball and go, but the stoppage forced the Deacons to inbound from midcourt.

The clock should have started on time, so Manning did get a bad break there. And perhaps Bryant Crawford was fouled a time or two and didn’t get the calls.

But given how heavily Wake contributed to its own demise, to blame the loss on a clock operator or Jamie Luckie, Raymie Styons and AJ Desai comes off as a weak sauce.

Brey is now 5-0 against Manning. The other six current coaches who have never lost to Manning in conference play are Roy Williams (4-0), Mike Krzyzewski (8-0), Brad Brownell (5-0), Tony Bennett (5-0), Kevin Keatts (2-0) and David Padgett (1-0).

Of Manning’s 21-54 record against ACC competition, seven of the victories came against coaches no longer in the league. Manning had reason to mourn when State let Mike Gottfried go. Manning was 4-3 against Gott.

To be winless in four years against the likes of Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Tony Bennett is disappointing, but somewhat understandable. Williams and Krzyzewski are Hall-of-Fame coaches and Bennett appears on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory.

But how can anybody coaching Wake in basketball explain being unable to beat Brad Brownell or Mike Brey?

Brownell and Brey are good coaches, but what does Clemson and Notre Dame have going for in basketball that Wake does not?

And yes, all year long I’ve been hearing about the terrible break Manning got when John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou bolted over the offseason. After yesterday, I really don’t want to hear it anymore.

Here was a guy, Brey, who lost the preseason ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colson, to a broken foot before conference play began. And he lost his best backcourt player, Farrell, for five games during the heart of conference play, to an injury.

It’s modern college basketball. Injuries happen. Attrition happens. That’s why the NCAA allows a program to stockpile 13 scholarships.

When Colson and Farrell came up lame, Brey reached down his bench to find Geben, a Lithuanian who averaged 1.6 points as a freshman, 1.4 as a sophomore and 3.1 as a junior.

This year he’s averaging 11.1. And yesterday he torched Wake for 22 points and 14 rebounds, matching his career best for points.

And Brey also reached down his bench to find John Mooney and Nikola Djogo and Elijah Burns, all of whom had played bit roles – at best — before this season. All of them made plays yesterday to help Mike Brey beat Danny Manning for the fifth time in five tries.

I ask again. What does Clemson and Notre Dame have going for it in basketball that Wake does not?

After yesterday, the answer became ever more obvious.

Life on the Undercard

Do standards and practices no longer exist for television?

Apparently not, judging from what I found sitting down with my lunch in front of the TV. There on Fox South was a replay of Wake’s game at Pitt from last night.

As if it wasn’t bad enough to subject the viewing public to the game live, Fox South has the unmitigated gall to broadcast that affront to everything we’ve ever associated with ACC basketball again.

Aren’t they worried about the kids, and what kind of effect it will have on young, still-developing minds watching a Wake team going nowhere extended to such great lengths to claw out a meaningless 63-57 victory over a Pitt team long since gone? Aren’t they worried that they’ll turn those kids off from college hoops forever?


As a whole, it was a great night for the ACC. On one channel we got to watch resurgent North Carolina win at Syracuse in front of a cacophonous Carrier Dome crowd of 27,165, and by doing so extend its winning streak to six straight and deal the Orange’s hopes for an NCAA bid a staggering blow. On another, there was Duke carrying on quite well without Marvin Bagley III by routing Louisville 82-56 in front of the perpetually crazed contingent of 9,314 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

And during timeouts, we could check in with Virginia Tech outlasting Clemson 65-58 while 9,725 adoring Cassell Coliseum denizens cheered on their every basket and stop.

Then there was the undercard, a Wake team that had won three ACC games against a Pitt team that had won none. In front of what was announced as a crowd of 2,420.

From where I sat I couldn’t see anywhere close to two thousand people in the stands. On the other hand I wondered why more than 200 would even show for this game in the first place.

Wake, back when Skip Prosser was head coach, played a preseason tournament in some tropical clime. Honesty compels me to admit that I can’t remember what season, or what tropical clime the Deacons visited.

But I vividly remember what Skip said when I asked if there was any crowd for the tournament.

“F and F’s,’’ he replied.

“F and F’s?’’ I wondered.

“Friends and Family,’’ he explained.

Which got me to thinking that if Wake’s game last night at Pitt was played in front of friends and family, it must have been very, very close friends and immediate family. I’ve seen bigger crowds at Cozmik Croquet Tournaments.

It also got me to thinking what it must be like for the Wake fan of today, particularly those Wake fans who work and associate with alumni and fans from schools like North Carolina and Duke. Winston-Salem has always had its share, and more, of Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Wolfpackers, so I can only imagine what the banter around the water cooler must be like for anyone still faithful to Wake basketball.

How long will those responsible for the direction of Wake basketball allow – no, make that require – their fans to be the butt of everyone’s joke?

A Trip Across the River Styx

Sometime yesterday, the Wake basketball team boarded a plane and flew from one locale of college basketball purgatory to another.

If the Deacons trip to play Pitt tonight is successful, they’ll do what every other team in the ACC has done.

Big deal. The Panthers haven’t won in the calendar year 2018, losing 15 in a row in their free fall to 0-8 and 0-15.

If the Deacons’ trip results in yet another failure, then they’ll do what no other team in the conference has managed to do.

And that, to anyone who still cares about Wake basketball, would be a really big deal.

Such is life along the banks of the River Styx, where if you hang around long enough, you find yourself facing these kind of hellish predicaments.

Beat Pitt and you return home 4-12 and 11-17. You’ll still have nothing to play for other than whatever pride remains.

Lose to Pitt and you bring down ridicule and derision from all corners of the basketball world. It’s often been said that misery loves company, but on this trip I see nothing for Wake to love.

What I see in the hearts of Danny Manning in his team is angst.

Could they really lose to Pitt?

Of course they can. A program that has lost 31 of 34 ACC road games under the current coach is capable of losing anywhere.

A fan doesn’t have to be as old as me to remember when there was pride to be found in rooting for Wake basketball. But if four years is a generation in college, then two generations have passed through the school since there was anything other than a cameo in last season’s NCAA Tournament to even email home about.

The students of Wake deserve better, even if so few of them bother to show up for games.

The long-time supporters of the program, what few of them remain, certainly deserve better.

No one deserves having to pack their hopes and well-wishes aboard a plane for a trip to purgatory.

Making the Most of His Time

Left my home in Norfolk, Virginia,

California on my mind,

Straddled that greyhound, rode him past Raleigh,

And on across Caroline.

So Chuck Berry, the poet laureate of rock and roll, gets to wondering one day that if a poor boy were to set out from Norfolk, Va., headed for Los Angeles, how would he get there?

It was the early 1960s, and Chuck had already hit it as big as a black rhythm-and-blues artist could at that time with such classics as Maybelline (1955), Roll Over Beethoven (1956), Rock and Roll Music (1957) and Johnny B. Goode (1958). But any notion of jumping in his red Cadillac and conducting his own research on the subject was, shall we say, complicated.

For Chuck, at the time, was stacking time in prison.

Stopped in Charlotte, by-passed Rock Hill,

We never were minute late,

We were 90 minutes out of Atlanta by sundown,

Rolling out of Georgia state.

Had something to do with this girl he had met in a Juarez bar called the Savoy, this Apache girl named Janice Norlene Escalanti, to whom Chuck took enough of a shine to carry back to St. Louis to work as a hat check girl in his nightclub, Club Bandstand.

Turns out Chuck had to fire Janice Norlene Escalanti only weeks into her employment at Club Bandstand for, among other things, being bad at checking hats. Also turns out she was only 14, and had been known to turn tricks for a buck or two.

We had motor trouble, it turned into a struggle,

Halfway across Alabam,

And the hound broke down and left us all stranded,

In downtown Birmingham.

Prosecuted under the Mann Act – passed in 1910 to make it illegal to transport any woman or girl across state lines for immoral purposes – his first conviction was overturned after the presiding judge repeatedly referred to the defendant as a “nigra.’’

But the authorities wanted the poor boy badly enough that they hauled him up before a second judge and jury, and this time Berry was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison.

He served 20 months in a federal prison in the Federal Medical Center Prison in Springfield, Missouri.

Right away I bought me a through train ticket,

Riding across Mississippi clean,

I was riding that Midnight Flyer out of Birmingham

Smoking into New Orleans

Berry would later deny, as vehemently as vehemently could be, that he didn’t do this time in question, before finally coming clean. Actually, it wasn’t Berry’s only brush with the law.

Though he came from a middle-class family in St. Louis – his father William Henry was a contractor and a Deacon at the neighborhood Antioch Baptist Church and his mother Martha Bell was a school principal – he broke bad enough at age 18 to serve the better part of three years at the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa, Missouri for armed robbery and car-jacking.

He also, in 1979, was incarcerated three months for tax evasion and, 10 years later, just missed doing another stretch after authorities raided his estate to find marijuana, firearms and a cache of video tapes of underaged girls in sexual poses.

Somebody help me get out of Louisiana,

Help me get to Houston town,

There are people there who care a little about me

And they won’t let the poor boy down.

Berry, once he finally owned up to his prison past, maintained he did more at Springfield than just cool his heels for 20 months.

“I spent all my off-duty time studying business management, business law, accounting, typing, world history,’’ he wrote in his autobiography, titled, appropriately enough, Chuck Berry: The Autobiography.

So our man obviously knew where the prison library was located. And on that day he got to wondering how a poor boy leaving out of Norfolk might get to LA, he made his way to the library for the atlas  — to plot his imaginary cross-country trek immortalized in the song Promised Land.

Sure as you’re born, they bought me a silk suit

Put luggage in my hands,

And I woke up high over Albuquerque,

On a jet to the Promised Land.

Prison, as they say, can change a man, and according to the Rock-a-billy legend Carl Perkins, the Chuck Berry who walked out of Federal Medical Center Prison in Springfield, Missouri was a different man from the one who walked in.

Which explains the hateful, chronically combative character to be seen in one of the great Rock biopics of all time, Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself an immense favor and find it.

“Never saw a man so changed,’’ Perkins recalled. “He had been an easygoing guy before, the kinda guy who would jam in dressing rooms, and swap licks and jokes. In England (during a 1964 concert tour) he was cold, real distant and bitter. It wasn’t just jail. It was those years of one-nighters – grinding it out like that can kill a man. But I figure it was mostly jail.’’

Working on a T-bone steak a la carte

Flying to the Golden State

When the pilot came on and said in 13 minutes

He would have us at the terminal gate

There would have been rock and roll without Chuck Berry, but it wouldn’t be all it became. “If you tried to give rock and roll another name,’’ John Lennon once said. “you might call it Chuck Berry.’’

Lucky enough to be born in 1952, I grew up on Chuck Berry. You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing his songs, though most of the time they were covered by white artists such as Buddy Holly, Johnny Rivers and the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Elvis, in fact, recorded Promised Land at Stax Records in Memphis in Dec. 1973, and it was the title cut on an album released in January 1975 on the occasion of the King’s 40th birthday.

Swing low chariot, come down easy,

Taxi to the terminal zone,

Cut your engines and cool your wings

And get me to the telephone.

I was lucky enough to see Chuck Berry live at UNC’s Jubilee in the spring of my freshman year of 1971, and I’ll never forget him duck-walking across the stage at Navy Field. But what I remember best about Promised Land was from attending Grateful Dead concerts during those golden years, when Pigpen was still alive and Garcia, like me, was still a skinny hippie.

Every time I saw them, they opened with Ace Weir singing lead on Promised Land.

There must be a statistic for everything in modern America, and sure enough a website devoted to the Grateful Dead reveals that the band performed the song 428 times in concert.

We can all be happy that the library at Federal Medical Center Prison in Springfield, Missouri stocked an atlas.

Los Angeles give me Norfolk, Virginia

Tidewater four 10 o nine.

Tell the folks back home this is The Promised Land calling

And the poor boy’s on the line.

Call Me Al Lights Up Wake

The Allerik Freeman who played against Wake yesterday bore only a passing resemblance to the Allerik Freeman who had me yelling at the TV earlier this season.

This latest version was actually willing to pass to teammates, which is how he was able to score 24 points while taking only 10 shots from the floor in N.C. State’s 90-84 victory over the Deacons at Joel Coliseum.

The Allerik Freeman from back in December and January single-handedly made it impossible for me to watch N.C. State play a complete game.

I knew he was a Charlotte guy who transferred as a grad student from Baylor, but I could see no evidence that he had even bothered to introduce himself to his new teammates. I kept hearing him called Al, and I knew Allerik was his given name, but I just called him Jack – for his determination to Jack up 18 shots (and hitting four) against Tennessee, and Jack up 13 (and hitting four) against UNC Greensboro, and Jack up 19 (and hitting five) against Clemson and Jack up 16 (and hitting four) in a second run against Clemson.

I could see what he was doing to the team fabric, and fortunately for the Wolfpack, so could coach Kevin Keatts. Which, I hazard to guess, is why Freeman’s minutes were cut from 35 a game in his first five games against ACC competition to 26 over his next five.

The first time Wake played N.C. State, you may not even remember him being on the court. He logged only 17 minutes, a season low, and contributed only five points to the 72-63 Wolfpack victory.

By yesterday I could see he had clearly improved. He should improve. He’s playing solid minutes for a good coach, one able to get the most out of his talents and those around him.

Kevin Keatts is a good coach. I’ve seen enough to feel pretty safe in that assessment.

“When you are a fifth-year guy and you switch schools and you are in a new system,’’ Keatts explained yesterday, “you are probably going to force stuff early on.

“He’s learning how to trust other people.’’

The Wolfpack, a program that has spent almost as much time in the college basketball wilderness recently as Wake, is 18-9 and 8-6 in ACC play. I repeat, N.C. State is 18-9 and 8-6 in ACC play. Let it get a couple more wins – which appear imminently get-able – and the Pack will be playing in March in the NCAA Tournament.

The best Wake can say for that is it will give the Deacons another team they know well to watch, that is if they even bother to turn on the television and find the channel.

Wake, meanwhile, squandered monster performances from Bryant Crawford (29 points, six rebounds) and Doral Moore (23 points, 12 rebounds) to fall to 10-17 and 3-12 with its 13th loss in the last 16 tries. They managed to do this by allowing the Pack to hit 11 of 24 3-pointers and put 90 points up on the Joel Coliseum scoreboard.

The question on the table is, if a team fouls an opponent, and the opponent fails to cash in from the free-throw line, is that a stop?

If so, the Deacons got stops on 35 of N.C. State’s 75 possessions.

If not, the Deacons got stops on just 30 of the Packs’ sallies across midcourt.

I saw a Wolfpack team yesterday still playing for something worth playing for. And I saw a coach coaching with passion.

One more question on the table.

When is the last time you’ve heard the words Danny Manning and passion used in the same sentence?

If Not Now, Then When?

Thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts and prayers.

So sick of hearing them say it like they really care.

If they really cared they’d do something about it.

How many times do we have to shout it?

If they really cared they’d do something about it.

How many times do we have to shout it?

Another of our schools shot up. Seventeen dead in Florida.

Who’s next? The most valuable lessons being taught in American schools is how to duck and run. Remember to zig zag kids. Makes for a tougher target.

America is the only country on the planet that allows – no, make that accepts – the wholesale slaughter of its people by firearms.

And no other country on the planet has so powerful a gun lobby.

Richard Burr, our Senator from right here in Winston-Salem, would love for you to believe that’s a coincidence. Burr would also like you to believe that just because the NRA and its affiliated organizations paid $5.6 million in 2016 to help him defeat democratic challenger Deborah Ross that he doesn’t owe his seat in the Senate – that he doesn’t owe his soul – to the gun lobby.

Burr of Reynolds High School, class of ‘74, and Wake Forest University, class of ‘78, was asked Thursday if the AR-15 the crazy used this week to shoot up the high school in Parkland, Fla., should be banned, or their magazines limited.

“I’ll leave it up to investigators to finish their investigation,’’ Burr replied.

Pressed if gun control shouldn’t at least be discussed, Burr ducked and covered.

“I’ll wait until they come out with their full report,’’ he said.

We’ll all wait until they come out with their full report. And then we’ll wait some more.

As mentioned before, I’m not a betting man. But I would wager anything I own except Buckshot, my guitar, that when the report is issued Burr will do the same thing he did after Sandy Hook in 2012, after Orlando in 2016, after Sutherland Springs in 2017, after Las Vegas in 2017.

He’ll extend his thoughts and prayers. And then he will do nothing.

One doesn’t get a perfect record from the NRA by beating squishy on gun-control legislation.

If now is not the time to discuss sensible measures to stop the slaughter of America citizens, then when?

Then when?

Then when?

You’ve never listened to me before on this issue, Richard, and I don’t expect you to now. But I wish you would listen to David Hogg, the 17-year-old who spent this week’s carnage interviewing fellow students holed up in their own school, wondering if they would get out alive.

“You can say, `yes we’re going to do all these things – thoughts and prayers,’ Hogg said. “What we need more than that is action.

“We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take action and play a role. Work together. Come over your politics and get something done.’’

Thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts and prayers.

So sick of hearing them say it like they really care.

Doral: From Bust to Bonanza

Sifting through the sluice pan of another washout Wake basketball season, there’s a remarkable find to be found.

At 7-1, 280-pounds, the nugget is hard to miss.

Doral Moore has turned into a real bonanza.

Through his first two seasons at Wake – and my final two on the beat – I can’t tell you the number of times I was asked why Moore, whose recruiting ranking outranked that of classmate John Collins, wasn’t playing more than 8.4 minutes a game.

My answer was always the same.

Best I can tell, he can’t.

Watching him closely during his brief runs during games, or during the two or three preseason practices opened to the likes of us, I began calling the big guy Tucker. He couldn’t run up and down the court more than two or three times without being totally tuckered out.

Chest a-heaving, hands leaning hard on his knees, Moore would appear on the verge of collapse. The biggest problem I could see was stamina, or lack thereof.

So while willing to assign some of the credit to Ryan Moore, the Deacons’ bearded wonder of a director of athletic performance, Moore’s emergence in his junior season is further confirmation that Danny Manning’s reputation as a stellar coach of big men is deserved.

We figured as much when John Collins, ranked No. 120 by 247sports.com., was the 19th player in the NBA draft after his sophomore season.

To see Moore have his way in last night’s 79-62 victory over Georgia Tech – when he piled up 17 points and 12 rebounds while making eight of 11 shots from the floor – convinced me of Manning’s knowledge and coaching expertise. Even more important, it should also convince any high school center or power forward considering Wake as a way station on their way to the NBA.

The performance was no outlier. It was Moore’s 10th double-double of the season, and his third in a row.

And as for stamina, Moore logged 28 minutes and was still going strong enough to contribute five rebounds and two dunks in the final 10 minutes. Looking back, he’s played more than 28 minutes nine times. For the season, he’s averaging 25 minutes, which is pretty much as many as anyone other than Bryant Crawford.

What has become clear is that with the departure of Collins and Dinos Mitoglou, Manning knew he was going to have to get big minutes from his big man. So – again with the help of Horn – he got him ready for the challenge.

Through 26 games, Moore is averaging 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds, and it’s worth noting that his numbers are even better (11 points, 11.1 rebounds) against ACC competition. And given that he’s 71 percent from the floor, I’d really love to see him play with a backcourt more capable of getting him the ball in scoring position.

He got five paint-touches in the second half last night, which is not bad, but certainly could be better.

NBA scouts, by now, have to be at least taking a look at Moore. I’ve got to think he’ll have a chance to make a good living in the game at least somewhere on the planet.

Meanwhile, the Deacons, by beating Georgia Tech, improved to 10-16 and 3-11 in ACC play. They finish the regular season against N.C. State (home), Pitt (away), Notre Dame (home) and Georgia Tech (away), a stretch that should spare them the ignominy of finishing dead last in the league.

So what is it with this team?

In Moore, the Deacons have an inside force who would be welcome on pretty much an college roster in the land.

Bryant Crawford, if he keeps on his current pace, will finish among the school’s top-ten all-time for points scored. He already has 1,361, and if he returns for a senior season (and I’ve heard no word that he won’t), he’ll have at least another 36 or so games to play.

Keyshawn Woods is a tough, experienced player with what I consider an old-man’s game. He has been slowed by a nagging knee injury, but has remained a valuable asset off the bench.

Mitchell Wilbekin, who is back in the lineup after also batting injuries, is a grizzled four-year veteran who is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.

Chaundee Brown, after perplexing us all in the early going, is rapidly getting his feet on the ground and living up to his ranking as the program’s most ballyhooed recruit since Al-Farouq Aminu in 2009. He’s physical and gifted, enough so that I could see him really coming into his own next season.

And the closer I look at Olivier Sarr, I see flashes that suggest he might develop into something worth having.

Granted, none of this adds up to an ACC contender. No one is saying that. But my guess is that in years to come, fans who who still care about Wake basketball will look back and wonder how a team with this much talent spent so much of the season mired in the lower echelons of the league.

I’ve always loved the word synergy because I believe it exists. But if the definition of synergy is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, what is the antonym?

This season, the antonym is Wake basketball.

How to Cover a Bad Team

If covering a bad college basketball program were easy, anybody could do it.

It takes practice, and few sportswriters in America got more practice at it over the final years of my career.

I readily admit I was spoiled. When I took over the Wake beat in 1992, Dave Odom already had the program up and running to 11-straight post-season appearances. Skip Prosser grabbed the baton in 2001-02 and extended the streak to 16-straight..

Sure I remember the grumbling over how the Deacons, even with the great Tim Duncan, never made it to the Final Four. And when Wake, under Odom, was relegated to three-straight seasons in the NIT, the howls from certain corners were deafening.

Hindsight being 20/20, we can all see now that those were Golden Years for Wake basketball.

All of which made my final seven years on the Wake basketball beat quite a challenge, both personally and professionally. From the time Jeff Bzdelik replaced Dino Gaudio as head coach before the 2010-11 season through today’s 78-70 loss at Syracuse, the Deacons have played 248 games of basketball – of which they have won 103.

The dark ages get even darker when assessing performance against peers. In ACC play, Wake, over that time, is 35-100.

Now covering a good team is not always a gravy train. You may cover Duke, where Mike Krzyzewski only deigns to grant interviews to those on the Blue Devil beat on the 12th.

As in the 12th of Never.

And you also find yourself running with a herd, and having nowhere near the access and cooperation I got under Odom, Prosser, Gaudio and Bzdelik — before Danny Manning, upon taking over before the 2014-15 season, boxed the beat guys off the boards.

But the real drag of covering a bad team was all the negativity and antagonism and downright rancor that bubbles over with each soul-crushing loss. Most of my days as a sportswriter were good ones, but the experience of covering Bzdelik during the days of billboards and an open fanbase revolt will take years to cleanse out of my system.

My best bet is it will take more years than I have remaining. I say that even knowing that most of my mother’s people live into their 90s.

But I did survive the experience, and helping me do so was a line I finally came up with about two or three years into the Bzdelik doldrums. The beauty of the line was it’s not only preemptive, but it also puts the responsibility for what happens on those truly responsible.

Knowing that no one likes to read one negative article after another about them, I began repeatedly making the same request of Bzdelik and his players. Give me something good to write, I told them over and over, and I’m poised, pen and pad and computer at hand. I’m tired of writing the same stuff over and over. Give me something good to write – if nothing else for the sake of variety.

One of my few favorite memories of the doldrums was passing Bzdelik in the hall after the Deacons upended fourth-ranked Duke 82-72 in Joel Coliseum in his fourth-to-last game as head coach.

“You’re always telling me to give you something good to write,’’ Bzdelik crowed. “Well we did tonight.’’

“You sure did,’’ I replied, grinning. “And I’m getting ready to go write it.’’

Sadly, when you’re covering a program as bad as Wake has become, even the good moments have little to do with anybody other than the dwindling few still emotionally invested in the Black and Gold.

So even if I had still been on the beat, and covering today’s game in snowy Syracuse, I could have written about the six-straight 3-pointers Mitchell Wilbekin, Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods nailed to pare a 14-point deficit to 2 with plenty of time remaining. And I could have written how the comeback showed that the Deacons, despite their 12 losses in their past 14 games, have yet to give up on themselves and the season.

And I would have also written how the Deacons lost by giving up points on 22 of Syracuse’s 35-second half possessions, and by not getting Doral Moore – he of the 16 points and 16 rebounds – more than four paint-touches after halftime.

But what would anything I wrote – other than the Deacons’ records of 9-16 overall and 2-11 – really matter? Why would it be relevant to anyone other than, again, the ever-dwindling few still emotionally invested in Wake basketball?

Back in the glory days, I got to know Dick Vitale. When he’d hit town, he’d seek me out, not because of who I was, but because of what I was. I was the Wake beat guy, and Vitale wanted to pick my brain on what was going on with Randolph Childress and Tim Duncan.

Vitale, a beautiful guy who cares about what he does as much as anyone I’ve ever known, rarely made it to Joel Coliseum over the final years of my beat. There was no need.

The hardest part of covering a bad team is that you become as irrelevant as the program you’re covering.

Maybe the day will come when all that changes, when Wake again plays games that really matter. I doubt it will be under Manning, from what I’ve seen in his first 121 games at the helm. But maybe I’ll be wrong, and honestly, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if I were.

Maybe the day will come when Wake gives me something good to write – even if it be from the comfort of my hacienda.

I remain poised, pen, pad and computer in hand.

A Bad Scene and Another Bad Loss

Of the handful of times I followed Wake Forest to Miami during my days as the Winston-Salem Journal’s beat reporter, I never saw an ACC basketball game down there.

The Hurricanes, for the record, joined the conference in 2004-05. But even so the games I covered at what was then known as BankUnited Center did not in any way resemble ACC basketball as I had to come to know it in my long service on the beat.

The stated capacity for BankUnited, known today as Watsco Center, is 7,972, but there was never anywhere close to that for a game against Wake.

Now when Duke or North Carolina hit town, I could see on TV that the place would be rocking.

But not for Wake.

I would arrive in South Florida to find no buzz at all. Miami being a pro town, I’d have to scour the local papers for any mention of the game. The arena would be, at best, two-thirds full and to watch the Deacons play in front of around 5,000 sun-worshipers who had wandered over to Coral Gables reminded me of covering a game in the Southern Conference or, at best, the Colonial Athletic Association.

The downward spiral of both the newspaper industry and the fortunes of Wake basketball led the Journal, by the end of my days there, to save the $800 it would take to cover the Deacons at Miami. Instead we would hire what we call a stringer, a local writer who knew the scene and the game well enough to knock out 600 words and email it in.

And that, as expected, is what the Journal did for Wake’s 87-81 loss last night. I thought for a stringer report, the one filed by Walter Villa, Special to the Journal, was more special than most I’ve read. I did like the way Walter developed the angle between Bryant Crawford of Wake and Chris Lykes of Miami, who were high-school teammates at Gonzaga College High School in D.C.

But watching the game from the comfort of the living room of our hacienda, I wondered how the atmosphere at Watsco Center, or decided lack thereof, was affecting the proceedings.

I do know that Miami could have easily been looking past Wake, which, after all, had lost eight of its previous nine. And I recognize the Hurricanes are probably accustomed to playing in front of sparse, listless crowds.

And I’ve also made mention a couple of times recently how much Wake has improved defensively since December. The latest ACC statistics show that the Deacons rank No. 14 (out of 15 teams) in field-goal percentage defense in all games (.436) but No. 8 in conference games (.439).

Yes I see the percentage has risen, but so has the level of competition.

For all that, the Hurricanes just didn’t look “into it,’’ as we used to say back in the 70s, over the first 25 or so minutes. Keeping track at home, I charted the Deacons getting stops on 18 of Miami’s 33 first-half possession, and on nine of the Hurricanes’ first 13 trips across half-court after halftime.

Then suddenly, without so much as a gale warning, the Hurricanes blew through Wake’s defenses like Irma hitting Homestead. The devastation was such that Miami scored at least one point on 22 of its last 25 possessions.

Teams don’t win on the road in the ACC – or even a facsimile of the ACC – giving up points on 22 of 25 possessions, no matter how many 3-pointers they might hit in the final three minutes to make the score seem at least respectable.

Wake, in Danny Manning’s fourth season as head coach, is a bad team. Just how bad will be determined over this next month as the Deacons try to avoid plunging past Pitt into the conference basement.

A bad team playing bad basketball in front of a bad scene. There are many nights I’m glad to be no longer doing what I did for a living for 40 years.

Last night was certainly one of them.