Junior center Efton Reid III has been an absolute force of nature for the Demon Deacons since having his two-time transfer waiver appeal granted by the NCAA last month.
The Deacs are 8-1 and have shown a remarkable improvement defensively with his leadership and presence in the middle. He currently ranks as one of the team’s top performers in blocked shots, alongside Andrew Carr. With five blocked shots by Reid against Virginia on Jan. 13, Wake Forest held the Cavaliers to a season-low 28.1 shooting percentage.
“It’s feeling good,” Reid said. “I’m starting to get my rhythm back again and am just holding myself to a certain standard every time I step on the court to help my guys win, so it feels good. It feels great being back out there with my guys.”
The Richmond, Virginia, native burst right out of the gate, scoring 12 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds in his first game of the season — a Demon Deacon victory over Rutgers (Dec. 6). Since his debut, the big man has notched multiple showings of double-digit scoring.
“Probably just feeling the game out,” Reid noted about adjusting to being back on the floor. “It’s hard to go from not playing to playing, and it just takes some time for the adjustment. You can practice all you want to, but you can’t simulate the game – different drills to simulate the game and being in the game is an entirely different experience. So, just me just finding my rhythm back and just getting acclimated to everything on the court.”
The Wake Forest coaching staff learned of the NCAA decision in the middle of practice on Dec. 5, the day before facing Rutgers. Head coach Steve Forbes huddled the team together mid-practice and broke the exciting news as Reid and his teammates screamed, jumped for joy and danced in celebration.
“I still have flashbacks,” Reid said. “It was like yesterday, it’s so vivid. I remember it and I don’t know — I was speechless. I’m just like, ‘oh my goodness.’ Because, before that, I was starting to wonder if I was going to get to play. Also, it was December at the time, and it’s like, do you save the year? It’s a memory that I will remember for the rest of my life vividly. Really, really remember every second of it, so it was definitely one of the top memories in my lifetime.”
Of course, Reid landed at Wake Forest after leaving Gonzaga when the 2022-23 season concluded. He started his career the season before at LSU, and entering the NCAA Transfer Portal can be both an exciting and scary process.
“Honestly, the second time, I really knew I had to move back closer for my family,” Reid said. “The first time, a lot of people reached out to me and recruited me, so that just felt like I was going through (high school) recruiting all over again. But the second time, I knew what I wanted and I knew this is the reason why I’m moving back to help my family out and help my mom. So, it was really the first time and probably was a little more scary.”
As Reid searched for a collegiate destination to be closer to his mother Maria, Wake Forest was suggested to him by his high school coach. A visit to campus solidified things for the seven-foot big man.
“When I visited here, I instantly felt it was a family atmosphere,” Reid said. “I’m a big family guy and everybody here really gels, not even on the court, it’s just off the court. It just felt like an environment that I would love to be in. Then, everyone asked me, what’s the difference between Wake and the others? Some people really felt that I was going to go somewhere else. I knew more people, but that’s just not the factor.
“It’s just about me being here and being comfortable and just knowing what I want. Wake Forest has really good academics, so that was another factor in why I chose Wake Forest.”
Just a few days prior to Reid’s visit, his teammate at Gonzaga, Hunter Sallis committed to transfer to Wake Forest.
“I’ve known Hunter since high school,” Reid said. “He never really pressured me or anything. My high school coach, I’m not going to say got me here, but he really brought up the idea of Wake Forest to me and he was really the one involved in that. I’ve known my high school coach since I was in ninth grade.
“So, I really trust him as a person and just what he’s done for my career in high school and developing me and my skills and taking it all to another level. That’s a really good add-on with Hunter. I mean, he knew what I was interested in when I took my visit here. He definitely picked up the phone and called me, ‘what are you thinking?’ I kept real with him the whole time. It was not a big surprise.”
Named a team captain heading into the season, it was assumed Reid would make a huge impact at the center position defensively. But he’s also starting to show flashes offensively, as work with the staff during the offseason is paying huge dividends.
“A lot of it was with AK (Antanas Kavaliauskas),” Reid said. “A lot of it was summer shooting and a lot of drills. When I came here, I was really working on my body with (Director of Sports Performance) coach (Mike) Starke, so it was a good transition with that, mixed with AKs workout. It all just really just put me on another level. I felt it was the first time I really put all the pieces together, so it was a really good process for me.
“You can see my before-and-after picture since I’ve arrived here. I’ve been diligent on my weight and my eating — just eating the right amount of foods and lifting what I want to and keeping weight where I need to lose it or drop it. Coach Starke has done a great job with me about that, so it just makes a massive difference on the court.”
With the ACC slate in full swing, Reid is excited to see how he matches up against some of the best centers in the country.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and this is what I signed up for, so I’m more than ready and more than capable of going to war. That’s why I signed up, so I’m excited.”
While Reid is excelling on the court, he’s also there often for his mother.
“She’s doing alright,” he said. “Still a daily struggle, but she’s learning to get better slowly every 1% every day. I’m continuing helping her out and just doing what I need for her on a daily basis.
“It’s helped me a lot being closer. People don’t know what we’ve gone through, so it’s really just helped me lock in and focus by her being okay. By me helping her makes my own mental health feel better, and it just helps her. People don’t know how much she goes through a day just by doing daily tasks, so I’m just glad, grateful and blessed that I could move here.”