Life After Skip: Heavy-Hearted Wake Forest Looks to Rebound

Jared RebackAnalyst INovember 7, 2007

IconSkip Prosser was an ambassador of college basketball.

Some fans felt Prosser didn't get enough out of the talent the Deacons had. I will admit to being one of them.

Some suggested Skip be fired. I didn't agree, but at the same time I didn't completely disagree.

Regardless, his death casts a dark shadow over the Demon Deacons for the 2007-08 season. Indiana football fans can appreciate the sense of loss the Wake basketball community feels right now.

An already tough season became a whole lot tougher. Former assistant Dino Gaudio now takes charge, and has to rally the team.

Wake was predicted to struggle even before the tragedy. Now they've been picked to finish 11th in the conference by the local media.

The team has seen two players graduate and four players transfer since the end of last season, including sophomore Anthony Gurley, who left school in September.

This is an incredibly young team, with no player finishing his eligibility this season, and only two players playing in their third year of eligibility. With little veteran leadership, there are more questions than answers.

The Deacs could win five games this year, and few would be disappointed. It would be tough to blame a group of young kids for not being able to completely focus on basketball.

That said, I see a different story developing in Winston-Salem. This is a hungry young group that's high on talent, if low on experience.

The Deacons welcome back several key pieces from an '06-'07 team that played well down the stretch, including a memorable overtime ACC Tournament victory over Georgia Tech.

Ishmael Smith led the ACC in assists as a freshman, and figures to improve in his sophomore year. Harvey Hale brings experience, and is looking to develop more consistency.

LD Williams proved to be one of the most athletic players in the conference as a freshman. Jamie Skeen also played well in the post as a freshman and is a great athlete.

Added to the mix are three promising freshman. Jeff Teague is a top-50 recruit who has even drawn praise from former Deacon standout Chris Paul.

James Johnson is a leaper who scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the team's sole exhibition game. Guard Gary Clark will get to play once again with high school teammate L.D. Williams, and is expected to contribute as a freshman.

A challenging out-of-conference schedule includes games on the road against Iowa, Vanderbilt, and Georgia, with home games against Bucknell, Air Force, and BYU.

The Deacons are fortunate to draw Boston College, North Carolina, and Duke just once each over the course of the regular season.

While this collection of talent may not be ready to make the leap this season, the foundation is in place for long-term success.

The Deacons start their season November 9th with a tribute to Skip Prosser before a game against Fairfield. Then the Deacons have to move forward under Coach Gaudio.

Indiana's football team overcame the loss of coach Terry Hoeppner to qualify for a bowl game. Now it's the Deacons' turn to qualify for the postseason after the loss of Skip.

However the season turns out, this is a team that Wake Forest fans will be proud of.