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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Bzdelik gets Wake recruits to stay

By Eamonn Brennan

Barely a week since he was hired, Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik already has the biggest win of 2010: Wake's recruits are going to stay.

It was one of many reasons why Dino Gaudio's firing was so surprising. Before Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman fired Gaudio and hired Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik to replace him, Gaudio had put together one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Wake's 2010 class, a group of five, is ranked No. 8 overall in ESPNU's class rankings, the type of elite class that most coaches put together once every few years, if they're lucky. With Gaudio gone, would those recruits bolt too? Would Wake Forest start from scratch? Would the Bzdelik hiring look even worse?

Not so much, actually: On Tuesday, Wake assistant Jeff Battle told the media that each of the school's five signed recruits would honor their commitments and suit up for Wake Forest this fall. Surprising? Yes. Crucial? Absolutely. Bzdelik met with all five players in less than 36 hours and got each and every one of them to stay. Demon Deacon fans, you may officially take your hand off the panic button.

The haul means a couple of things. For one, Bzdelik will arguably have more talent to work with in his first year at Wake than he did throughout his Colorado tenure, while Wake fans will get to see how their new coach assimilates young players, builds teams from scratch, and develops talented prospects like shooting guard J.T. Terrell and small forward Travis McKie into national stars. Another implication is simpler: Bzdelik needed these players to avoid a noticeable first-year decline. Without them, he would have had a mere five scholarship players for next season -- Gary Clark, Tony Woods, Ty Walker, C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart.

More than anything, though, Bzdelik and Wellman and Wake Forest basketball in general needed some good news. The hiring was surprising. Fans were outraged. The logic of replacing the relatively successful Gaudio with a guy whose last three seasons failed to yield a postseason game was admittedly questionable. This recruiting success should alleviate much of that. Now Bzdelik can do what he was hired to do: coach. And that job just got a whole lot easier.