Wilbekin, Crawford taking on bigger role at Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest will have a big hole in its lineup for a little while longer.
Leading scorer and top playmaking guard Codi Miller-McIntyre will miss a couple more weeks with a broken foot.
That means more playing time - and more pressure - for sophomore guards Mitchell Wilbekin and freshman Bryant Crawford to begin the season, after coach Danny Manning on Wednesday anointed them as the starters in the backcourt.
Their job is to keep the Demon Deacons' backcourt humming along until Miller-McIntyre returns.
''I wouldn't say pressure, but we definitely might be playing a little bit more,'' Wilbekin said. ''We definitely need to step up and try to have a voice, try to lead more, take care of the ball, run the offense. But I'm confident that we can do that.''
Miller-McIntyre averaged 14.5 points last season for the Demon Deacons, who went 13-19 in Manning's first season in 2014-15 with five losses coming by either three or fewer points or in overtime.
Among returning Atlantic Coast Conference players, only Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes (14.9 ppg) was a higher scorer.
Miller-McIntyre broke his left foot in mid-October, an injury expected to cost him 4-6 weeks, underwent surgery to fix it and scooted around the Joel Coliseum court Wednesday on a scooter with his foot still in a cast.
Miller-McIntyre ''got a tough break, so to speak, with the foot, but he's around, he's positive, he's talking to the guys and you can still feel his presence,'' Manning said.
Manning said the guard is on schedule with his rehab. Miller-McIntyre says his next round of X-rays is scheduled for next week, and his goal is to be back by the Maui Invitational, which begins Nov. 23 against No. 15 Indiana.
''Any person, any competitor who loves the game doesn't want to miss any games, period,'' Miller-McIntyre said.
Before that, the Demon Deacons have three games - beginning next Friday night against Maryland-Baltimore County - and they are counting on Wilbekin and Crawford as their top options in the backcourt.
Wilbekin started 26 games last season alongside Miller-McIntyre, and hit a team-best 39 percent of his 3-pointers while scoring 7.2 points per game.
The X-factor may be Crawford, a highly touted pass-first point guard who Manning says ''is someone that we're going to throw in the fire early.''
He averaged 13 points last season at Gonzaga College High School - the same Washington, D.C., program that produced ACC guards Tyler Thornton (Duke) and Nate Britt (North Carolina).
''I don't feel like all the pressure's on me,'' Crawford said. ''Of course, I'm going to be in there doing my job, but I've got other people around me.''
And he'll have Miller-McIntyre pulling for him.
''We have to get on (Crawford) a lot about getting all the way into the paint, where he has a wide-open layup and he'll pass it - which is good. You don't want a selfish guard,'' Miller-McIntyre said. ''But him understanding when to be aggressive and when to score is going to help him a lot. He has great vision and he looks to make everyone around him happy.
''And also Mitch, he's been through the ACC for a year,'' he continued. ''Him having that year under his belt is going to help him a lot with teaching Bryant out on the court.''
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