Coaches Corner: No. 5 Wake Forest

Inside Carolina attended ACC Operation Basketball last weekend. In the fifth of a nine-part feature which will roll out a new team every day, IC's Tommy Ashley has transcribed the comments of Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser. The Deacons were picked No. 5 in the conference by the media.

Talk about your impressions so far.

"We've gone for two weeks and it's been very revealing. We are trying to institute a new system and a new style of play. Often times, you feel like you are speaking a different language than what your players are listening to. Coach Odom and I may be doing the exact same drill, but for whatever reason, may have a different name for it and you have to go back to square one to explain things. I think we have an intelligent group of kids. A group of kids that are really willing listeners. I think they are trying to play the way we would like to play. You can't really tell that by the results thus far. It's been very raggedy and but I think when you try to do things quicker than what you are used to doing things, again, often times you are more prone to make mistakes. Our mistakes are legion so we are trying to get better at it."

Coach, your team looks awfully small when you take away Songaila.

"In this case, looks aren't deceiving at all. We are actually very small."

Do you think this team will be a good match for your new style once they get the system down?

"Well, the physical part of matching that style of play is really a more mental thing than anything else. It's ok to be not as big as long as you play bigger than what you are. We have to get across to our guys that the only way we are going to survive and do well, considering our lack of size, is by playing incredibly hard all the time. We play hard sporadically, but not continuously throughout parts of practice. That's the message we are trying to send to them on a consistent basis. Again, we are who we are. We are not a very big team but that shouldn't be a barometer of how successful we can be."

On Josh Howard

"I think he is very gifted. I think he is sometimes cursed by his own athleticism in that he's a young man that can run fast, jump high and a lot of god-given ability. Sometimes, when you have success by doing that, the nuances of the game become less important to you. I think that is a constant battle. Again, it's not all his fault; it's just sort of the way it's worked out. Why worry about coming off a screen at a certain angle usually I've been successful just jumping over the guy dunking on him? To be ultimately successful, he and those nuances have to become better acquainted. He's trying to do that. His effort has been good."

Talk about your feelings about Darius Songaila.

"Very bright young man. One of our consistent hard workers. I think he really wants to be good. He's embraced what we are trying to do from a basketball standpoint. He's been a real positive. I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about Darius Songaila."

In the past, he has trouble staying on the floor because of fouls.

"I've heard that…a lot. Not from him, but from you (the media). He's very bright and he understands that. I told him he can't assume he gets five fouls. That's misconception because on the fifth foul, they say you can't play anymore. So really, you are down to four. He's going to get one a half probably in the normal course of things, just by being a young physical player. The referee, as hard as it to believe, may make a mistake and call that third on him. What he has got to do is avoid that fourth foul that puts him in the danger area and that is the unintelligent foul. He has to be as intelligent on the floor as he is off the floor in terms of not fouling back and picking his spots. No one guarded anyone yesterday…we had a Black/Gold scrimmage…and we just made a determined effort not to stop anyone yesterday (laughter). He came out of that scrimmage unscathed in terms of fouls. He had no fouls! I think that is because no one was close enough to anyone to actually make any contact. (So he didn't shut down anyone either?) No, there was not a whole lot of shutting anyone down yesterday (laughter)."

Describe your style of play.

"We just want to be aggressive all the time. I think ultimately, and I don't want to go too far a field here, but we are preparing these kids for life after Wake Forest. I think that every lesson we teach them on a daily basis, as far as effort and selflessness and things like that, will serve them well when they get out in the real world. I think having an aggressive mentality when going after things is something we teach on a daily basis. It doesn't pertain to what we are trying to do just on the basketball court, but ultimately in life. I also think to be successful at the highest level of this league, you have to be a very aggressive team and that translates into whatever we are doing, recruiting or what have you. I think to challenge for the top of this league, you have to do it in a very aggressive manner and we are trying to do that on a daily basis. The kids are trying to buy into that. It's a hard way to play if you are not used to playing that way. That's been the problem, we do in spurts, but the spurts haven't nearly been long enough yet. They want to do it. Broderick Hicks came in to see me and asked, "How are we doing with the press" and I think they want to do it. Certain individuals want to do it all the time. We need to get more guys in that vain."

Following a successful coach that wasn't fired…is that tough?

"It's tough. When I came to Xavier after Coach (Pete Gillen) left, Coach was a legend at Xavier as well he should have been. Every millisecond I worry about that, it's a total waste of effort. I have to try to do what we can do with this team as well as we know how to do it. Everybody knows Coach Odom is a very good friend of mine. There's no one in the game I respect more than Coach Odom. He did a great job here."

On Broderick Hicks and his progression.

"He's done very well. He and Darius have probably been the most consistent players we've had on a daily basis. I think he would love to finish his career with an outstanding senior year."

On Wake point guards

"We have a lot of them. With Broderick and Ervin (Murray) and A.W. Hamilton and Taron Downey. We are not going to play more than three usually. Sometimes in a game, realistically, you only play two. Right now, they are in that process of (ordering) themselves from the top to the bottom. Broderick Hicks, at this point, has certainly stood out among that foursome."

You said that looking at the tapes from last year, the team was at times great and at others not so great. Josh Howard sort of epitomizes that…

"I think the one thing—I talked to the players about this the other day—we have a lot of experienced players. But those experiences haven't been all that great. We need to have more positive experiences especially in terms of our ACC play. Josh is someone that has had some good experiences and some less than good experiences. My opinion is that our players should approach the season with a tremendous chip on their shoulders because their ACC experiences haven't been all that scintillating. Whether it's in terms of their overall ACC record or record in the ACC Tournament since Darius and Broderick and those guys have been here. I would hope that they would try to strive to make amends for that."

Have you seen a change in attitude because there is a different staff in place?

"I would have no way of gauging that because I don't know what their attitude was prior. I really think they are a very good bunch of kids. I've said that from day one. I have been really impressed. I'll tell everyone that, we really have good kids on our team. But, how to compare their attitudes to how it was 12 months ago? I would have no way of knowing. I hear a lot theories though…"

Have they said anything about it?

"Kids, most of the time, are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. Right now, chemistry is great. We are still undefeated. We are still ‘kum by ya'ing" around the campfire at night if you know what I mean. But, we'll see when the adversity hits. Like I have said, I have been very pleased."

How does their athleticism compare to what you would like to see for your style?

"I think we are athletic enough to play the way we would like to play. Maybe not in the numbers of athletes you would like to have. We don't have a lot of long athletic guys. At Xavier, we were always to have a kid like a David West or a James Posey or a Trey Brags that were big kids but also good athletes. We need to see more of that."

Can a guy like Antwan Scott fill that need?

"He's really gotten better. His stretches of hard work have been extended throughout practice. He's still got a ways to go but I think he's really improved. As a told Antwan—everyone said Antwan should have played more—I said, "Antwan, there's a reason you didn't play more and maybe it's you. I want you to think about that." I think he has and he's done better."

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