Wake Forest’s coach Forbes and players discuss the journey to ACC basketball success

Charlotte, NC – During the 2023 ACC Basketball Tipoff event Wake Forest basketball coach Steve Forbes and student-athletes Andrew Carr and Cameron Hildreth spoke to the media.

Wake Forest basketball coach Steve Forbes. (photo by Nell Redmond/theACC.com)

In the world of college basketball, the journey from a small Delaware court to the courts of the prestigious ACC is one filled with both determination and mentorship. Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes and players Andrew Carr and Cameron Hildreth sat down to share their insights on recruitment, adaptation, and the drive to achieve success in the ultra-competitive ACC.

The world of college basketball is replete with stories of perseverance, talent, and mentorship. As Wake Forest’s Head Coach Steve Forbes and star players Andrew Carr and Cameron Hildreth share their experiences, it becomes clear that success in the ACC is not just about skill but also about relationships, adaptability, and the drive to win the right games.

The Recruitment Game

Recruiting plays a pivotal role in building successful college basketball programs. Coach Forbes, known for his dedication to player development and his ability to build strong teams, revealed how he initially approached Andrew Carr during his time at Delaware.

Coach Forbes recounts a specific interaction with Carr during a Philadelphia 76ers game. When asked about Bobby Jones, a legendary basketball figure, Carr’s unfamiliarity with him did not deter Forbes. He was not only looking for talent but players who could connect on a personal level.

Carr remembers the early recruitment days as “great” and a time when he recognized Coach Forbes’ genuine interest in his future. This sense of authenticity and personal connection was pivotal for Carr in making his decision to choose Wake Forest. A relationship-based approach was something he valued highly in his recruiting process.

Choosing Wake Forest: A Family Affair

When asked whether he would choose Wake Forest again if given the chance, Carr’s response was resounding. The program’s emphasis on family and the strong culture at Wake Forest made it an easy decision. Coach Forbes’ honest and straightforward approach resonated with Carr, who believes that the true measure of a coach is not in how he says things but in the honesty with which he speaks.

Carr also shared Coach Forbes’ motto, “When he stops yelling at you, that’s when he shows he doesn’t care anymore.” This philosophy highlights the coach’s commitment to pushing players to their limits, fostering their growth, and achieving success as a team.

A Star’s Ascension

Carr’s journey to success in the ACC wasn’t without its trials, but it was marked by a critical three-game stretch against Florida State, Boston College, and Clemson. During this period, he averaged an impressive 23.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. Carr revealed that a pivotal moment in his growth came during a game against Rutgers when he realized he could compete at a higher level.

He pinpointed December as the time when his confidence started to soar, allowing him to carry his impressive form into ACC play.

Skill and Technique: Cameron Hildreth’s Approach

For British player Cameron Hildreth, adjusting to the style of play in America was undoubtedly a challenge. However, his strong work ethic and a mindset dedicated to success enabled him to adapt quickly. Hildreth believes that sports should be taken seriously wherever you are in the world, and his dedication to excelling is a testament to that philosophy.

The blend of talent and hard work is visible in Hildreth’s impressive ball-handling skills. He believes that the secret to his success lies in a combination of natural ability and a desire to keep the ball close to him, ultimately minimizing turnovers.

The Depth Advantage

One of the key aspects of Wake Forest’s strategy for the upcoming season is its enhanced depth, particularly in the guard position. The influx of transfers in this role provides the team with a valuable advantage. Hildreth acknowledges the importance of depth, as it allows the team to avoid over-reliance on a few individuals. The team’s well-rounded roster, with a variety of talents, is a cause for excitement, according to Hildreth.

The Legacy of Daivien Williamson

The departure of Daivien Williamson, who played a significant role for Wake Forest, left a void in the roster. Coach Forbes, who fondly remembers the player, noted the challenge of adjusting to a team without Williamson’s presence. Williamson’s success in Europe reflects his skills and the foundation he built while at Wake Forest.

The Transfer Portal: A Path to Success

Wake Forest’s success in the transfer portal is evident in the recruitment of Hunter Sallis from Gonzaga, a talented player with NCAA Tournament experience. Coach Forbes emphasizes the importance of recruiting players from strong programs. Hunter’s selfless play, athleticism, and potential as a defender are expected to make him a notable player in the ACC.

The addition of Kevin “Boopie” Miller further bolsters the guard position, and he brings an exciting mix of speed and scoring. The focus is not just on established players, as Wake Forest also welcomes Abramo Canka, a versatile wing player.

The Elephant in the Room

A significant point of intrigue is the arrival of Efton Reid, a true game-changer. Coach Forbes believes that Reid, in addition to his impressive skills, is a remarkable teammate and communicator, making him an essential part of the team.

Winning the Right Games

To reach the NCAA Tournament, Coach Forbes acknowledges the need to win crucial games. Last season was characterized by close games, with 13 decided by three points or fewer. The objective for this season is to not just score but to defend effectively. The focus will be on winning the right games and achieving a balance between the transfer portal and recruiting from high schools and internationally.

The road to success in the ACC is a combination of recruiting, mentorship, adaptability, and teamwork. Coach Forbes and players like Andrew Carr and Cameron Hildreth exemplify the dedication and commitment it takes to compete at the highest level of college basketball. As the new season dawns, Wake Forest is poised to make a mark in the ACC, with a well-rounded roster and a commitment to winning the right games. The journey continues, and the passion for the game remains unyielding.

Press Conference Transcript

Q. Andrew, Coach was mentioning earlier that when he started recruiting you when you were at Delaware that you were at a Philadelphia 76ers game and he asked you if you knew Bobby Jones’ game. What were those early moments like in your recruiting and that ended up making you decide to choose to come to this Wake Forest program?

ANDREW CARR: Yeah, it was great. Definitely wasn’t too familiar with Bobby Jones at the time, but Coach made sure that I knew exactly who he was.

But it was great. I could tell from the early recruiting that Coach Forbes was really genuine and cared a lot about his players. I think for me, that was really important in my recruiting process, is just the relationship part of it.

Can even see that from one of the assistant coaches coming out that called me and literally the next day was out to see me at Delaware when I was in the transfer portal, and really just made a great mark on me and really helped me make my decision.

Q. You talked about going through the process of trying to find the right place. Why would you choose Wake Forest again if you had the chance?

ANDREW CARR: I definitely would choose Wake Forest again. It’s been an awesome experience for me. I think Coach Forbes talks about it all the time, it’s just family, and you really get a great culture feel here when you are a part of it.

I think the fact that Coach Forbes is so honest and so straightforward with you is really important, and something that he always says is when he stops yelling at you, that’s when he shows he doesn’t care anymore.

It’s not really about how he says it, it’s just about what he says, and I think being a player, that’s all you can look for in a coach, is just honesty, and that’s how you’re going to get better as a player.

Q. Last year during a critical three-game stretch against Florida State, BC and Clemson, you averaged 23.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. Were you in a zone during those games?

ANDREW CARR: Yeah, definitely. I think back to December, and against the Rutgers game was kind of — although I didn’t play as well, have great numbers or anything, but I felt like that game I was really kind of able to understand and get a good feel for playing against the higher competition.

From that point on, I think for me, it really allowed me to grow my confidence, and then into that stretch I was feeling really great and was really able to carry it over to ACC play.

Q. Cam, there was a move you had in practice, a behind-the-back, and then you pass the ball behind your back again through your legs to yourself for a lay-up. Where do these handles come from, and what you can say about a play like that?

CAMERON HILDRETH: Better be careful what I saw before Coach says something about some English thing, but I just think handles are important. I think a lot of stuff just happens naturally. I just try to get to my spot. I just want to keep the ball close to me and not turn the ball over.

At that point in time I think I was just trying to get to my spot so I could try and make the right play.

Q. Cam, I asked this question to Quinten from the Netherlands; you’re from Britain. College sports in America is something, a completely different animal than it is the rest of the world. Was it a little bit of a culture shock to see how serious everybody takes college sports in America?

CAMERON HILDRETH: I’d like to think sports should be taken serious wherever you are in the world, and I think especially back home I was dedicated to succeeding.

Yeah, when I came to America it was definitely a little bit of a shock with the style of play maybe, but I had great people around me. Obviously Coach Forbes is a great guy and helped me learn really quickly as a freshman and helped me make a big jump to my sophomore year.

I think definitely something that was a bit of a shock, but I had great people around me to be able to do what I can do.

Q. Over the off-season, Wake Forest has added a lot of transfers at the guard position. Do you think having depth at the position is going to allow you to play a little bit more in your natural position, feel a little bit more comfortable this season?

CAMERON HILDRETH: Yeah, definitely. I think depth is really important on a team so we don’t have to rely on a lot of people a lot. I think that is something that we really look forward to this year, is we have a lot of guys that can come in and understand their role and do what they can do to help us be successful.

Obviously last year we maybe relied on a couple of guys too much, which could hurt us in the long run, but this year we’ve got a lot of balance. Coach Forbes did a great job in the portal to bring guys in that really want to help us win and really care about basketball.

I’m excited for this year, and I think we can do something really special.

Q. Coach, how are you adjusting to not having Daivien on your roster?

STEVE FORBES: It’s been weird not to have old poor Daivien Williamson. Don’t have anybody to yell at anymore. At least he could take it.

What a great young man. I talked about him and Ty a little bit today. One scored 1,500 points, Daivien, one scored 2,000 in their careers. He’s doing well. He is over in Denmark. He traded places with Marqus Marion on my team I think. Went over there and played professionally.

You know, it was weird the first couple weeks to go in the gym and not seeing him there after having him for all those years at East Tennessee State and at Wake.

Q. You guys have been really, really successful in the transfer portal. Obviously now Tyree is gone; you bring in Hunter. What kind of player do you think he is coming from Gonzaga, and what are your expectations for some of the guys you brought in? Talk about balance offensively especially.

STEVE FORBES: I think Hunter brings to the table what Andrew brought to the table when he came, is he played in the NCAA Tournament. So that’s first and foremost, that he’s got that type of tournament experience.

Hunter is a former McDonald’s All-American. He’s really talented. One of the most exciting things for me when I get a transfer is from the program that they came.

I think that’s one of the important things when you go in the portal is recruiting players from really good programs. So Mark Few, one of the top five coaches in the country, maybe even higher. He knows how to play. Sometimes it’s just fit and opportunity.

Hunter is very unselfish, maybe too unselfish at times. Would you guys agree? I think he passes up shots he should take. He’s really athletic. He’s a great teammate. I think he can really be a great defender like cam.

I do think Hunter is probably one of those guys around the league that a lot of people don’t really probably know his name right now, but probably in time they’re going to know his name.

Boopie Miller, Kevin Miller, he’s a lot like Ty. Fast, hard-charging, quick, can score. I think he’s gotten a lot better over the last couple months, and some of that I think Andrew had to make the adjustment from mid to the high major game. I think he’s really done that. He’s doing that.

Abramo Canka, again, played at — he was at UCLA. He played with Mick Cronin. He’s a 6’6″, 6’7″ wing. He’s got a chance to be a really good player.

The elephant is the room is Efton Reid play this year. I think I’ve been accused of hanging out in the parking lot at Gonzaga, but that wasn’t true, I promise you.

I’ve got two guys from Gonzaga. He’s a difference maker. These guys know it.

But on top of just being a really good player, he’s a great teammate and a really good communicator, and that’s why he was named captain with these two.

So yeah, the portal is important, but I think we have a balance. Matthew Marsh, a lot of people don’t want to talk about Matthew. Matthew shot almost 80 percent from the field last year. Does everybody know that? 80 percent. And he went five straight games in the ACC and didn’t miss a shot.

He came from high school like Cam, and he’s now a junior. Those guys are really, really good players.

We got some good freshmen that are doing really well.

I think, yeah, the portal is important, but I think you’ve got to have a balance of guys from high school, international, and especially at Wake and in the portal to have a successful team.

Q. Two close calls the past two years making the tournament. What’s got to be the difference this year for Wake Forest to get there?

STEVE FORBES: Well, last year was just close games. We had 13 games I think decided by three points or less, maybe two, I don’t remember. That’s why I’m bald.

I think we’ve got to find a way to win the right games, so how do you do that? Well, we can score the ball. Last two years we were one of the best offensive teams in the ACC. I think we have to defend better, and we have to win the right games.

We were 6-7 in those games. Four of those losses were to four teams that went to the NCAA Tournament, one of them went to the Final Four. If you just flipped two of those, you’ve probably got a better chance.

Now, when I took the job during COVID, if you’d said to me we’d be 13-5 in the ACC and not make the tournament, I’m not sure I would have taken the job, just because — I would have taken the job, but I’m just saying that I never would have imagined that.

Last year to win 11 ACC games and not be in the NIT, I wouldn’t have imagined that because the last time I went to the tournament we were 9-9, so things have changed. So are you hard-headed or do you adapt?

So I think what we’ve done, we’ve obviously made our non-conference schedule a lot harder, and you have to win the right games. You can’t just stack wins. Used to be you’d win 20, 22, 23, 24 games you’re going to get in; now there’s teams getting in at sub-.500 in their league, so you’ve got to adjust.

So that’s what we’re going to try to do and win the right games.