Top recruits sticking with Wake after Prosser's death
Posted: Wednesday August 1, 2007 11:45AM; Updated: Monday August 6, 2007 12:00PM
More than a thousand mourners were on the campus of Wake Forest Tuesday for the funeral of Skip Prosser, whose legacy, above all, will be the example he set for fellow coaches to be not merely basketball men but well-read, well-spoken and well-meaning men, too. All 11 of his fellow ACC coaches were there on the last day of the summer recruiting period, as were legions of fans and former players. The 56-year-old Prosser was remembered, albeit less so, for tangible things too: elevating Xavier to powerhouse status in the Atlantic 10, or winning a league title with the Demon Deacons in 2003, or inspiring the tie-dyed army that filled Wake's student section, or shepherding players such as Josh Howard and Chris Paul into the NBA.
There remain, though, ways in which we're still unsure how the legacy of Skip Prosser will live on: For one, will Wake favor continuity and promote one of Prosser's top assistants, either Dino Gaudio or Jeff Battle, to the head job -- or look outside the program for a replacement? And perhaps more importantly, will we see Prosser's 2008 recruiting class actually matriculate at Wake, and lead the revival of the Deacons that had been expected after they made their verbal commitments in July?
This stunningly strong recruiting haul, of three of Rivals.com's Top 50 recruits -- 6-foot-8 Al-Farouq Aminu of Norcross, Ga., 6-10 Tony Woods of Rome, Ga., and 7-foot Ty Walker, of Wilmington, N.C. -- was the final major achievement of Prosser's all-too-brief coaching career.
After going 8-24 over his past two seasons in the ACC, Prosser improbably convinced the top frontcourt group of the '08 class to come aboard, with Aminu, Rivals.com's third-ranked senior overall, as the headliner. On the night before he died, collapsing of an apparent heart attack after jogging in Winston-Salem, Prosser was watching Aminu and Woods play on the Georgia Stars in the AAU Nationals near Orlando. Said Woods, "I saw [Prosser] in the stands and said, 'Hey, coach' -- and even though he couldn't talk to us [due to NCAA rules], he had a look in his eyes, like, 'We're going to be great at Wake.'"
Said Stars coach Norman Parker, "The boys definitely knew he'd been coming to all their games, at the Peach Jam [in North Augusta, Ga.] and in Orlando. He'd be in the stands, smiling. He had said to them, 'Now I have two teams: Wake Forest and the Georgia Stars.'"
They expected Prosser to be back for the Stars' game late Thursday afternoon. Minutes before tip, the tragic news began circulating through the Milkhouse Gym near Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. A college coach informed Parker, who decided it would be best to wait until after the game, at the team hotel, to deliver the message to his players.