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ACC Preview # 3 - Wake Forest

When Wake Forest hired Skip Prosser, we thought they made a brilliant
decision. At Xavier, a school very similar to Wake, Prosser had a lot of
success. He made the tournament on a regular basis and produced NBA
players. He managed to compete with Cincinnati, in spite of the fact that
Xavier has much higher standards and less resources than the Bearcats.

We thought last year that he would be able to inherit Dave Odom's players,
including several seniors, and turn things around pretty much
immediately. That was as much skepticism about Odom as confidence in
Prosser, but we were wrong about an immediate turnaround. However, the future at
Wake Forest is very bright, though this year may not be easy.

Although we thought Prosser did a nice job in his maiden season, a lot of
times when you inherit another guys team, you find that they aren't as in tune
with what you want as what you might like (a problem that could be at the root
of Matt Doherty's problems as well).

This year's problem is more basic: aside from the very impressive Josh
Howard, Wake returns virtually no experience. Howard averaged 13.9 ppg
last season; the other returnees averaged 18.5 among them. A total of 11.5
rpg return.

Clearly, Prosser has a lot of work to do. Fortunately for him, he can
start with Howard. Howard sometimes comes off as a high strung prima-donna,
as he argued with Odom and to a lesser extent Prosser, but there's no denying
the talent this guy has. He really is gifted.

We suspect that Wake will start Eric Williams, the big kid from Wake Forest-Rolesville,
at center. At 6-9 and about 270, Williams is not a gifted leaper, but he
is a battering ram and a guy who really knows how to pound the boards. To
an extent, he reminds us of Wesley Unseld, though he's nowhere near as polished
(trivia: Unseld was both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in his initial
season in the NBA). But he shares the build, the focus on rebounding, and
if he has an outlet pass on that level, Wake won't care if he's slow or
not. We were immensely impressed with his hard work on the boards, and
that gives Wake two solid players to build around.

If they can get a competent role player out of Vytas Danelius, Jamaal
Levy, or Chris Ellis, they'll be in good shape upfront, though
young. Ellis has a bit of a head start - he's the son of former NBA
marksman Dale Ellis.

Their biggest concern might be point guard. Chris Paul will be there next
year, but for this season, they have to get great minutes out of someone, and
it's most likely Taron Downey, or possibly Justin Gray. Coach K has proved that you don't necessarily
have to have a traditional point guard to do ok, but on such a young team, you
need to have someone who you can rely on.

The big guard spot has three basic candidates - Richard Joyce, Steve Lepore,
and Trent Strickland.

Wake has recruited very well this year, and there's a lot of talent on the
way. In many respects, this season will be a test for Prosser, and with
such a young team (two seniors, one junior, three sophs and five freshmen), it
could be tough. However, the transition to having almost entirely players he has
recruited is much closer than one might reasonably expect. Wake's a bit of
a mystery, but in the ACC, young, inexperienced teams usually get whomped but
good. Prosser's an excellent coach, but we're not sure he can avoid a
tough year.