Q&A: Coach Prosser

Following Wake Forest's 06-07 campaign, DeaconSports' Michael Jennings caught up with Wake Forest head basketball coach Skip Prosser. Coach Prosser sat down one-on-one with DeaconSports to discuss the 06-07 season as well as the future of the program.

Michael Jennings: Talk about Kyle and Mike for a minute.
Coach Prosser: Certainly we are going to miss Mike and Kyle. Mike was our, statistically, our most dependable 3 point shooter. Kyle was without a doubt our most effective low post scorer. We also are going to miss them a great deal because they are good people and good leaders. They are people of great character and I think that if they had never scored a point or played a minute of basketball, our university would be a better place for them having been here.

MJ: That is really important to you isn't it?
CP: Character? Yes it is. We spend more time with them than we do our families during the season so you want to be around people of good character. At Wake Forest, we consider ourselves a family who can count on one another and you want to have good character people to be there for you. Sometimes that is the hardest thing to judge in the recruiting process. Back to Mike and Kyle, there is no mistake that they are quality, quality people.

MJ: How would you grade your team for this past season?
CP: We were hopeful for better in terms of wins and losses, and in fact the last two years we have been disappointed. Specifically with this past season, our non-conference schedule was challenging with 4 true road games against Depaul, Air Force, Bucknell, and South Florida, where we did not play well there. I was hopeful we would be better in terms of wins and losses in the first swing around the ACC but we finished 1-7. We were a team that got better as the season progressed, we were 4-4 in the 2nd half ACC play and got to the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament, which isn't a given anymore as all of the higher seeds lost that first day. Personally I will let others give me a grade if they choose but it is really not an issue with me.

MJ: At the start of the season, you told me that you would have to be more patient with this young team. How tough was that to do?
CP: It was difficult, I think I was very frustrated by a lot of things. From an offensive standpoint, we were fundamentally unsound. Our two biggest problems offensively were turnovers and the ability to pass and catch. Secondarily, our shooting was inconsistent and we did not shoot the ball well. As a result, our offense really, really, sputtered at times and we just did not give ourselves a chance on offense because we did not pass and catch and even when we did get open, we failed to hit shots. Look at Ish and what his assists totals could have been if we had able to finish better around him and I have never coached a team that only had one double digit scorer. Defensively, the hardest thing to teach young guys is defense and we were in the lower half defensively but it got better as the season progressed too. That was gratifying and we showed some real improvement in that area and we had to put L.D. on the opposing point guard and we would like to get back to having our point guard to guard the other team's point guard. Our defense did get a little better as the year went on but our league is a hard league to guard people in. You look and State shot 70% against VT and 67% against UNC, there ar a lot of very good offensive players in our league, but I thought that got better as we went along. Traditionally we have been a very good rebounding team but I was disappointed in our rebounding this year. In the past, we have been at or near the top of the league in rebounding but we weren't there this year. That is a real bone of contention for me because I think it is a reflection of toughness and we did not have enough of that. You look at those three areas, fundamentally not sound on offense, shooting the ball, and defense have lots of room for improvement. Our defense did get better at the point of attack but those along with our disappointing rebounding, were the key factors.

MJ: Your defense did get better and would you consider that a function of the young guys effort and better communication?
CP: I don't think young guys, especially at this level, have ANY idea how hard they have to practice and play. The pace which you have to practice daily and the pace of the games are a shock to them. That becomes a learned skill and we did learn some the hard way. L.D. had the best grasp of that of the freshmen and there is no question he was our best defender in that group. Some of our guys like Anthony Gurley improved a great deal defensively but he also had a tremendous amount of room for improvement. So part of it is time, communicating and playing at a high level consistently.

MJ: So the logical assumption is that you will be much better defensively next year because all the guys will be older, correct?
CP: We HAVE to be better and we will be.

MJ: As for individual players, comment on which area they need to improve most in the off season for these players to get more minutes. Chas?
CP: Chas is very gifted, he is 7' tall, has good skills. He has to take a page out of Tyler Hansbroughs book, Sean May and living in that weight room. His body type is different, for instance he has narrow shoulders and will never be a real big guy but needs to eat, lift, and eat some more to get stronger.

MJ: Weaver?
CP: David has got to lose some weight but maybe redistribute is a better word. He needs to lower his body fat and add muscle. This is a big offseason for all these players because the most improvement a player makes should be between his freshman and sophomore years. They have to have a burning desire to do the things necessary to improve. You know we only get 2 hours a week to instruct them so most of it has to come on their own. Guys like Hansbrough are fanatically dedicated to the weight room and our guys need to be too.

MJ: Skeen?
CP: Part of the problem was his knee gave him some trouble all year. He another one who has to have a huge off season and to understand the high pace we have to play at.

MJ: L.D.?
CP: He has to improve fundamentally, He needs to work on his shooting, passing and things like that. He is very explosive and also very dedicated so I think he will have a good offseason.

MJ:Ish, free throw shooting?
CP: I really think his free throw shooting problem was mostly mental. It becomes a mental toughness issue after a while.

MJ: How much did strength play a part in the inability of Ish to finish?
CP: After the game against St. Joes in the Sweet Sixteen, I asked Chris Paul what he learned after playing against Jameer Nelson and he said that he needed to get a lot stronger and I think that is the case with Ish.

MJ: Gurley?
CP: He needs to work on his body some too and get more muscle.

MJ: Hale?
CP: I told Harv that his numbers after his sophomore year were almost identical to J.R. Reynolds of Virginia. J.R. made a huge jump his junior and senior seasons and we need Harvey to do the same. And I think he can.

MJ: What do you want to say about the fans?
CP: Our fans have been great. They have supported us these last two years when it was tough to do and we appreciate it. I know we have passionate fans and see what they say sometimes but I would rather have passionate fans than apathetic ones.

MJ: Tell me about Jeff Teague.
CP: Jeff is a very good player who is adept at getting to the rim and attacking it. He is a good shooter but sometimes when it is as easy for kids to get to the rim, they don't shoot the three as much because they don't have to. When they get to college, they find that the driving to the rim can be taken away from them and they have to shoot well to keep the defense honest. I think Jeff is a guy who can do that and he also is long as well as being quick and has the potential to be a good defensive player as well.

MJ: Will we be better next season and how much?
CP: I don't believe in putting numbers on it but I am optimistic that we will be improved quite a bit next season.

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