WINSTON-SALEM — There's one player on the Wake Forest men's basketball team that coach Danny Manning said he puts pressure on.
The junior guard handled that pressure, producing 18 points, six assists and four rebounds to guide the Demon Deacons to a passing grade in their first test of the season — a 90-78 victory against visiting North Carolina A&T on Saturday afternoon at Joel Coliseum.
"I thought Brandon had a really good game in terms of the way he shot the ball. He rebounded the ball," Manning said. "… Great floor game, and that’s the type of play we need from him on a nightly basis to be competitive. He’s the one guy on our team I’m going to put some pressure on to perform. He’s been there. He has the minutes. He knows what it’s all about, and that’s what he needs to do as the quarterback of our team."
Childress said he puts that same pressure on himself.
"I do. Just because I know what I want. I worked hard just to be in this position because I knew it was coming, but I’m prepared for it, I know I am (ready)," he said. "I put the work in, so there’s no need to be afraid of the moment or anything like that. I spend countless hours in the gym."
A connection with Manning has seemed to help Childress as he has matured.
"I take the most criticism on the team, but Coach Manning does a heck of a job, just keeping me in the loop in terms of what’s going on throughout the course of the game, because he was in my position before," Childress said. "Playing for my father. (Manning) did that in college at Kansas. I can relate to him a lot about taking criticism from (Wake Forest assistant) coach (Randolph) Childress and stuff like that."
Freshman forward Jaylen Hoard led the Demon Deacons with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Hoard’s family was in attendance to take in his first collegiate game.
"It felt great. Family being there so it’s good to have support. My little sister’s here on an official visit so she was able to come with my mom, my little sister, my brother (is) here, everybody," Hoard said. "It was good to get my first win here and play good in front of them."
Hoard supplied 15 of his points and 10 of his rebounds in the second half. He also electrified the crowd with a one-handed dunk on a fast break.
"I’m happy for him. He started off a little slow but he got it going. He was nervous," Brandon Childress said. "Like I said, I was in that position before. … I told Jaylen from the get-go, ‘just be yourself and have fun. Just enjoy it.’ "
As for N.C. A&T coach Jay Joyner’s up-close impression of the true freshman, he came away impressed.
"He’s talented. That makes coaching that much easier," Joyner said. "Make no mistake about it, it’s about players. I promise you, it’s about players. If you have great players, then it increases your chances of being successful. If you don’t, then coaches tend to disappear quickly in this day and time."
Wake Forest dominated the glass, outrebounding the Aggies (0-2) by a 44-22 tally.
The Demon Deacons led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but an Andre Jackson 3-pointer cut the lead to single digits with 1:26 remaining.
Wake Forest freshman Sharone Wright Jr. responded immediately with a 3 to put the Demon Deacons back up by 11. Wright (11 points) was one of six Wake Forest players to finish with double-digit scoring, along with Brown (11), Mucius (13) and Sarr (12).
Manning wasn’t happy with the how loose the Demon Deacons were with the ball.
"I thought our assist-to-turnover ratio obviously needs to get better with 12 assists and 14 turnovers," he said. "Defensively, we’ve got some work to do. We’ve got a chance to correct those things before we go down to South Carolina and get ready for that tough tournament there."
Jackson led N.C. A&T with 18 points. Terry Harris poured in 15.