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Basketball Pre-season Preview: Wake Forest

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

November 11, 2002

Track Record

Year ACC Overall Postseason
1993 10-6 (3) 21-9 NCAA Sweet 16
1994 9-7 (3) 21-12 NCAA 2nd Round
1995 12-4 (1x) 26-6 NCAA Sweet 16
1996 12-4 (2x) 26-6 NCAA Elite Eight
1997 11-5 (2) 24-7 NCAA 2nd Round
1998 7-9 (4) 16-14 NIT 2nd Round
1999 7-9 (4) 17-14 NIT 2nd Round
2000 7-9 (5) 22-14 NIT Champion
2001 8-8 (5) 19-11 NCAA 1st Round
2002 9-7 (3) 21-13 NCAA 2nd Round

x — won ACC title

2002-03 Roster

Name Ht./Wt. Pos. Class
Josh Howard* 6-6/203 WF Sr.
Steve Lepore 6-5/202 WG Sr.
Dshamal Schoetz 7-0/263 C Jr.
Vytas Danelius 6-8/228 BF So.
Taron Downey 6-2/171 PG So.
Jamaal Levy 6-9/180 WF So.
Chris Ellis 6-8/250 BF Fr.
Justin Gray 6-2/185 PG Fr.
Richard Joyce 6-5/200 WG Fr.
Trent Strickland 6-5/190 WG Fr.
Eric Williams 6-9/270 C Fr.
  • — returning starter

Building Blocks
A healthy Josh Howard is a potential player of the year — with better outside shooting, he's a complete player. A Howard bothered by severe shin splints, as it appears he could be all season, is a big question mark. Besides the physical problems, Howard has not shown the mental toughness to push past distractions in the past. Taron Downey could be set for a break-out year, with a combination of stifling defense and three-point shooting. This team doesn't have a lot of players who can create their own shots, putting the pressure on Downey to generate opportunities for others. Vytas Danelius won't be outworked by anyone. Last year, he scored and rebounded by filling gaps left by defenses concentrating on Darius Songaila. Can Danelius thrive on his own?

Other Key Returnees
Last year, transfer Steve Lepore never showed what people expected, and he's coming back from a severe knee injury. Skip Prosser would be happy with some clutch shooting and strong leadership. Jamaal Levy didn't get much of a chance last season, and he's awkward offensively. His wingspan and foot speed make him a good defender, though, and he'll benefit from an up-tempo game.

Some Introductions
Trent Strickland, a mini-Howard with a better work ethic, looks the most ready. As with Howard, his weakness is his outside shot, but it appears to have improved in the offseason. Justin Gray, a good shooter, may face the most pressure. On a team with few offensive creators, he needs to be a scoring option, plus he will have to back up Downey at point guard. The beefy duo of Eric Williams and Chris Ellis will have to help Danelius inside. Ellis is the smoother of the two, but Prosser is having trouble getting him to play with emotion and force. Williams is a physical monster, but he's got a long way to go on the offensive end. Richard Joyce is a spot-up shooter who will struggle defensively.

ALSO Worth Noting
It's tough to find programs on more solid ground: 12 straight postseason bids (best in the league); 19 or more wins in eight of the last 10 seasons; seven or more ACC wins for 10 years running, etc. The knock has been the postseason, with only three ACC victories and two NCAA wins in the six years since Tim Duncan left. … The schedule is set up well for a young team. The Deacs don't play until Nov. 27 (last year they played six by that time), eight of the first 10 are at home, and only two foes before conference play had NCAA bids last year. … Leadership is a big question. Prosser has been trying to prod Howard and Downey, but neither takes to it naturally, although Downey is trying. Lepore and Danelius are example guys. … Prosser is happy to be rid of the head cases he inherited. This group is generally hard-working and gets along well. … Turnovers have been a major problem in practice, with Downey the only natural ball-handler.

CHART BY: THE WAKE INSIDER