|Wake Forest honors late coach with physical, defense-minded first practice|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 12 October 2007 17:20|
AP Photo NCLH102
By JOEDY McCREARY
AP Sports Writer
LEWISVILLE, N.C. (AP) -Dino Gaudio urged his Wake Forest players to push the ball up and down the court during their first practice, then hounded them into playing tougher defense.
Clearly, there was no time Friday night for midnight sadness - not with the Demon Deacons beginning a season in which they share a sense of purpose: honoring late coach Skip Prosser with tough, physical, relentless play.
``We're going to do everything we can to show Coach Prosser that he definitely is not going to be forgotten,'' forward L.D. Williams said.
Gaudio, Prosser's longtime right-hand man, took over for his best friend weeks after the veteran coach's untimely death in the summer and promised to keep his memory alive.
He vowed to renew the team's commitment to defense, and everyone associated with the program hoped a return to the court would help the players find a much-needed catharsis.
Then, finally, it came. On a court at a high school 10 miles from Wake Forest's campus in Winston-Salem, the players hustled through a brisk, 2 1/2-hour workout in which they fought through screens and honed the fundamentals of their man-to-man defense.
``The first practice or two really sets a tone for the whole season,'' Gaudio said. ``Somebody's got to establish the criteria for how hard we're going to work, and I think some of the upperclassmen did that.''
Now, they hope to show that their physical resilience matches the mental toughness they developed during a difficult summer in which their beloved coach died suddenly at the age of 56 of an apparent heart attack after a midday jog.
``I'll remember him as long as I'm here and after,'' point guard Ish Smith said. ``Coach Gaudio's done a great job to pick up the pieces and keep moving, and that's what Coach Prosser would want.''
One of the players' goals for the preseason is to prove to the coaching staff, and everyone else, that the principles Prosser taught - dedication, perseverance, toughness - will live on in them. Already, Gaudio has encouraged that attitude by placing signs with Prosser's motivational sayings in the locker room and hallway leading up to the team's on-campus practice gym.
``Coach Prosser was a big part of this family - he still is,'' Williams said. ``He recruited all of us. He established something here at Wake Forest that's unique to us. ... The 'Screaming Deacons' (student section), everything. That's Coach Prosser. He instilled a lot of things in us that you're going to see this year. Some things, you just can't change, and the fact that Coach Prosser taught us these things, it's big.''