WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -Skip Prosser always used to tease Jamie Skeen about his braided hair, urging him to cut it by trying to convince the Wake Forest forward that those cornrows slowed him down on the court.
These days, Skeen's hair is close-cropped, as a tribute to his late coach.
``When he passed away, I thought that was the least I could do for him,'' Skeen said.
When the Demon Deacons lined up for their team photos Wednesday, they felt someone was missing - namely, Prosser. Their beloved coach whose sudden death nearly three months earlier shook the sport and left the campus in grieving disbelief.
For the first time since 2000, Dino Gaudio won't share the bench with Prosser. But after taking over the program following the death of his best friend, Prosser's longtime right-hand man is looking to carry the Demon Deacons forward in his memory.
``Every time his name is invoked, it can't trigger something that's a negative and sadness,'' Gaudio said. ``It has to be, somehow, a celebration of his life.''
To emphasize that, Gaudio has placed a handful of signs in the locker room and the hallway leading up to the practice gym, each bearing what are known as ``Skipisms'' in honor of the coach who in 2004-05 guided Wake Forest to the first No. 1 ranking in school history. Prosser died July 26 of an apparent heart attack after a midday jog.
One of Gaudio's signs says ``Are you a 3 to 6 guy?'' and the next asks ``Or are you a 6 to 3 guy?'' to preserve an anecdote Prosser would tell about future NBA star Josh Howard, who early in his Wake Forest career was notorious for working on his game solely during the team's three-hour practices.
Once Howard came to appreciate the around-the-clock dedication that Prosser preached, he blossomed into a first-round draft pick.
``Anything we can do to celebrate his life, believe you me, we're going to do it,'' Gaudio said.
After spending a tear-filled summer coming to grips with the loss of their coach, the players welcomed the official start of practice Friday, hopeful to finish the rebuilding project Prosser started.
The senior-free team is looking for veteran leadership from junior Harvey Hale, sophomores Ish Smith at point guard, L.D. Williams at shooting guard and Skeen at forward, and from three freshmen now known as the last players Prosser signed to scholarships.
One of those freshmen, guard Jeff Teague, insisted that in the days after Prosser's death, asking for a release from Wake Forest simply wasn't a consideration.
``I was committed - I came here, I loved the guys. I loved the Coach, too, but I loved the guys,'' Teague said. ``Me and the (other) freshmen, we said we're going to stick it out.''
Several players say they still feel that Prosser remains with them in spirit. Smith occasionally looks at photographs of his late coach on the Internet and contemplates the lessons of maturity that he learned from him.
``I think I'm kind of in denial, because I don't think he's still gone,'' Smith said. ``But that's all in the grieving process, and I still feel his presence. ... One year with Coach Prosser, I'll take it any day over four years with any college coach in America.''
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