In an era in which a coaching change almost inevitably leads to a handful of transfers, five promising Wake Forest signees proved this spring that loyalty is not truly dead in college basketball just yet.
Each of them could have asked for their release when Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman unexpectedly fired coach Dino Gaudio in April. Each of them instead reaffirmed their committment to the Demon Deacons after separate face-to-face visits with new coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Incoming center Carson Desrosiers, one of the jewels of a recruiting class Rivals.com ranked eighth in the nation, joined me recently to discuss his decision to remain with Wake Forest. He also explained why he thinks the Demon Deacons will surprise folks this season despite losing stars Ish Smith, L.D. Williams and Al Farouq Aminu off a team that faded late last season and lost by 30 to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
JE: When you got the news that Dino Gaudio got fired, how big of a shock was it for you?
CD: Coming off getting to the second round of the NCAA tournament, it was definitely a shock to me. I remember where I was when I heard the news, and I know the other four recruits remember where they were. We all talked to coach Battle and coach LaRue and they reassured us they would keep us in the loop of what was going to happen. Then once coach Bzdelik got hired, his big thing was that the school hadn't changed -- the only thing that had changed was himself. I thought that was a really good way of looking at it.
More from The Dagger's ACC Preview
• MONDAY: ACC forecast: Duke aims for a repeat title
• TUESDAY: Five ACC storylines to watch
• WEDNESDAY: Jay Bilas scouts the ACC
• THURSDAY: 15 must-see ACC games
• FRIDAY: Q&A with Wake Forest freshman Carson Desrosiers
JE: You said you remember where you were when you got the news about coach Gaudio. Paint the scene for us if you don't mind.
CD: I went on the computer before I worked out and I went on ESPN.com and there was a little one-paragraph story. I clicked on that and from there I went on the Wake Forest forums and there was confirmation. I started freaking out because I definitely didn't expect it.
JE: Did you come close to looking elsewhere, or were you still pretty set on Wake Forest throughout the process?
CD: I was trying to keep a level head. I wasn't that close to going somewhere else because I wanted to wait for Coach Bzdelik to come to our homes. It went really well, so I didn't have any thoughts after the meeting of going anywhere else. Actually toward the end of the meeting, I told him I feel comfortable and I'm not going to go anywhere.
JE: What did coach Bzdelik say during that meeting that was so reassuring?
CD: He brought up his own experience. He coached in the NBA, coached in college. He's proven he can take teams to the next level. With that NBA experience, there are so many things to teach a team like us. I think it's fair to say that we're a young team, so we're all more than willing to learn.
JE: It might be too soon to evaluate this, but how do you think next year's team will be different with coach Bzdelik in charge instead of Dino Gaudio?
CD: The way he coaches will be a really good fit for the way our team is set up. We have a really young, athletic team, and I think coach Bzdelik is going to look to get out and run and put some pressure on our opponents with our defense.
JE: It seems like a lot of people expect Wake Forest to take a step backward next season with all the talent you guys lost. Is that motivating to have the chance to prove them wrong?
CD: Definitely. If we perform better than expectations, they're going to kind of eat their words. It's going to take a lot, but I think coach Bzdelik is the right guy to make us into a tough team. It would be really nice if it happened this year. We have the coaching staff and the players to be able to have a good season.
JE: You're likely to have a chance to play significant minutes off the bench right away next season. What areas of your game have you focused on improving this summer to prepare for that?
CD: I know that for me to get better as a player, I've got to get stronger. That's the knock on me, and I accept that. I've got to get stronger, so I've had a good attitude about it and really worked hard in the weight room.
JE: Between yourselves, NC State, Duke and North Carolina, it seems like there is an inordinate amount of great freshmen among the ACC's four North Carolina schools this year. Is it pretty mind-blowing to think about that influx of talent?
CD: It definitely is. When guys like us grow up, we always see ACC basketball on ESPN. That's what you have in the back of your head -- you want to play in the ACC. That's the best conference there is and that's the one that's always being talked about. Across the board, the talent level every year is great, but this year's freshman class is especially strong.
JE: What was it about Wake Forest that appealed to you when you were originally trying to decide what college to attend?
CD: "There's great basketball tradition in North Carolina. My high school is kind of small, and Wake's one of the smallest BCS schools. It's close-knit. There's the potential to get to know everybody. The coaching staff was a big plus, and after coach Dino got fired, it was definitely reassuring to myself and the other four recruits that two of the assistant coaches stayed on staff.
JE: Was it at all difficult to choose a school so far from home?
CD: Not a big deal at all. I'm used to being on the road with AAU the last three or four years and I'm not one to get home sick.
JE: It's probably too soon to know whether you made the right decision staying at Wake, but I'm guessing no regrets so far?
CD: None at all. This is a great class. We all stayed committed after Dino's firing, and that means something in its own right. We were loyal to the school, loyal to each other, loyal to our teammates, loyal to the coaching staff. We never really said it, but we knew we had something special with this class and we didn't want to break it up.