Wake Shows What a Team Can Do

A collection of players, as Wake spent January proving, does not in itself constitute a team.

January is an interminable month, made even more so this year for anybody wondering when the Wake basketball team would ever live up to its billing by playing like an actual team. The answer finally came last night, only a couple of hours before the calendar turned to February.

The Deacons played like a team to beat Florida State 76-72 last night at Joel Coliseum, snapping a seven-game losing streak dating to a Jan. 3 home victory over Syracuse.

They didn’t play like a great team, or even necessarily like a really good team. Their offense produced only four field-goal attempts for Doral Moore, a 7-1 center shooting 72 percent from the floor and their defense had no answer for power forward Phil Cofer, who poured in 23 points.

And when they had a chance to make things easier for themselves down the stretch, they declined. Bryant Crawford, who makes 89 percent of his free throws, missed two in a row with 3:42 left and freshman Olivier Sarr missed a pair 30 seconds later.

But they did recover to make five of their final six. And that proved to be the difference when the Seminoles, for some reason coach Leonard Hamilton himself had to be wondering about, kept sending the Deacons to the line over the final three minutes.

That’s the whole point of this piece. A team doesn’t always have to play great. And no team ever plays a perfect game. But if a team plays like a team – for all its flaws – it more times than not stands a chance to win.

Other teams will make mistakes, if given the chance. A collection of players rarely gives the opponent that chance. A team will.

Crawford proved once again how indispensable he is to the Deacons’ fortunes. He still made a blind pass or two that resulted in fast-break layups for the Seminoles, and he did whiff on the two aforementioned free throws with 3:42 to go.

But just like no team ever plays perfect basketball, nor does any one player. And on this night, Crawford, playing under control, was a critical asset for Wake while contributing 19 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds.

He more closely resembled the Bryant Crawford who finished the regular-season last March with a flourish instead of the Bryant Crawford who spent his his previous three games missing 20 of 31 shots from the floor and committing 20 turnovers while contributing only 13 assists – all while barking at teammates when bad, inevitably, slid into worse.

Last night, while he was coming out of a timeout, I could have sworn I saw him actually smile. It was something I hadn’t personally seen in awhile, and the smile looked good on him.
The team statistics that should be most heartening to any Wake fan have to be the 15 assists on 25 made field goals and the 28 free throws the Deacons attempted. In the loss at Lousville, Wake had 12 assists on 29 field goals and attempted 16 free throws. In the loss at Duke, it had 11 assists on 27 field goals and attempted 13 free throws.

The improved ratio of assists to field goals at least suggested that the ball was moving better last night, and indeed, it appeared to be. And the 28 free throws attempted at least suggested that the Deacons were making an effort to drive the ball to the basket instead of relying on jump shots.

Those are all signs that the message coach Danny Manning has to be preaching to his team, on this night at least, finally got through. Whether it will again fall on deaf ears this Saturday against Clemson remains to be seen.

And incidentally, anyone wondering about the physical state of senior guard Mitchell Wilbekin – although at this point I don’t know why one would – your guess is as good as mine. The only mention of Wilbekin’s injury in the pregame notes is that Wilbekin missed the Louisville game “due to injury.’’

Wilbekin showed up at Louisville wearing a boot on his left foot and relying on crutches. The release did not reveal the nature of his injury, or when he might return.


One of these days I just might get around to writing my autobiography.

After all, I’m already halfway there. I have a title:


Headlong is how I’ve spent my 65 years, two months and one day on this ride through time and space, careening from one pursuit or activity to another in an impassioned frenzy. How nice it would be if I could ever finish one plan or project before starting the next, but that, as I can see by now, would be way too much to ask.

So I just keep living large in my head, picking up a thought here, a reference there, an idea that rattles around until I either commit it to notes – if not, on the rarest of occasions, action – or it goes hurtling off to that great trash bin somewhere in the outer reaches of the cosmos. By now I know that poor bin has to be full to overflowing, but being a certified Ludditte stuck in the 20th century, it will have to remain so until someone shows me how to empty the file.

Looking back, I’ve always been this way. Call it ADD, hyperactivity or just being a damn fool, from my earliest days growing up in the deep reaches of the Great Smoky Mountains (hometown Franklin) I was too wired to do all that needed to be done.

Athletically I had a modicum of ability and talent My father Hobe Collins, after all, played a little college football while attending Western Carolina University (then known as Western Carolina Teachers College) on the GI bill. And brothers Tom and Joe both started at quarterback for the Mighty Franklin High Fighting Panthers. But the reason I was seven games into my senior season before I ever got off the bench had less to do with any desire or skill as a hopeless inability to get a grip on my jangling nerves and fleeting attention span.

I could never settle in, could never settle down. Today, a half-century later, I still have that problem.

What a mess I would have made of this ride through time and space without the blessings and understanding of all the angels in my life, among them mother Frances, brothers Tom and Joe, awesome offspring Nate and Rebecca and first and foremost, my radiant bride, co-pilot and spiritual proctor Tybee. Every family needs a shaman and we’re lucky enough to have ours in Tybee Leigh Terry Collins.

But there have also been others – and hopefully you know who you are – who helped me get to and through college and into gainful employment with the Chapel Hill Newspaper (1972-78) and the Winston-Salem Journal (1978-2017). Writing sports is something I found I could do. I could somehow marshal my attention and energies long enough to watch an athletic event unfold, interview the participants and produce an account that passed enough muster to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

As of August 18, 2017, however, I am no longer a sportswriter. After 45 years in the profession I retired to pursue all my many other passions and interests. The thrill of covering games was long gone, the industry was picking up momentum on his inexorable slide into the dustbin of history and I was Done.

Done, I tell you. I was Done.

I knew I always had my music. Truth be told I’ve been writing songs longer than I’ve been writing sports, if you could call the dimwitted ditties I was churning out at the stupid age of 15 songs. But I did pick up some momentum once I reached 50 and have spent the last 15 years playing around town, writing songs and ram-roding Open Mics at a couple of establishments enlightened enough to enlist my services. And that has been great fun.

Otherwise my time is mostly spent reading, another life-long love. Whenever any budding (don’t you love the term) writer was desperate enough to ask my advice about the craft, my answer was always to same. To write you have to read. Read for knowledge, to stock the mind. Read for style. Read to know how other writers go about doing what they’re trying to do. Because of my love for the written word, I’ve clogged the hard-drive in my head with all kinds of files, features and facts that for the most part might mean nothing to nobody but me. I’m hoping I’m wrong on that score, that what I have to say might be on interest to other travelers on this ride through time and space.

To that end, and, most of all, just to have some pursuit to fill my the hours of the day, I’m launching – with the eminently able assistance of Web-Maestro Rebecca — my blog My Take on Whatever. Here’s hoping you enjoy reading it as much as I surely will laying it on you. Just know you’re always welcome here. It’s always nice to have company on my headlong ride through life.