Key Losses: F Vytas Danelius (7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), G Taron Downey (9.9 ppg, 2.5 apg), F Jamaal Levy (7.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), G Chris Paul (15.3 ppg, 6.6 apg, 2.4 spg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated Chattanooga 70–54, lost to West Virginia 111–105 in the second round
Rural Hall, NC/Transfer from Presbyterian
Albuquerque, NM/Rio Grande
Raleigh, NC/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Black Mountain, NC/Owen
Stanley, a small forward, redshirted last season and hasn't played since a knee injury early in his senior prep season. Swinton, a power forward, once was a highly rated recruit before injuries. Weaver is an athletic center who needs to beef up. Hale is known as a defender, and spring signee Dukes was not highly recruited but will play minutes as a backup point guard.
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The Chris Paul era ended hard and fast at Wake Forest: a punch, a suspension, a first-round loss in the ACC Tournament and a second-round loss in the NCAAs. The Deacons -- who had reached a No. 1 ranking for the first time earlier in the season -- then watched the All-America point guard declare for the NBA.
Also leaving were seniors Taron Downey, Jamaal Levy and Vytas Danelius, who each averaged more than 20 minutes per game.
Now, guard Justin Gray and center Eric Williams are left to lead a crew of question marks. Only two other returnees averaged more than eight minutes per game.
Williams flirted with the NBA, getting the benefit of working out for teams before deciding to return. Wake can only hope he repeats the growth he showed between his sophomore and junior seasons. With his body in shape and footwork improved, Williams stopped fouling, kept himself in games and became much more active. He was confident and aggressive, posting nine double-doubles after having five in his first two seasons combined.
"This is a young man who came to Wake Forest weighing 330 pounds," Prosser says. "He has evolved, through his own efforts and those of our coaching staff, to the point that .. (now) he is considered one of the better players not just in the ACC, but the country."
Seniors Trent Strickland (small forward) and Chris Ellis (power forward) are the other likely starters. Both are great athletes who have shown flashes of brilliance but are more known for their inconsistency.
Strickland can be a tough defender and an aggressive scorer, but he can also get beaten backdoor and throw up wild shots. Off the bench, it's been okay for him to be an "energy guy," but as a starter, he'll have to be steadier. Ellis showed an expanded game last season, hitting 11-of-18 3-pointers. But he still tends to disappear or go for the athletic play over the sound one.
Wake hopes junior Kyle Visser and freshmen Kevin Swinton and David Weaver can provide depth up front. Visser slumped last year after a promising freshman season, but he can bring defense and is a good jumper. Redshirt freshman Cameron Stanley will back up Strickland.
The departures of Paul and Downey leave the backcourt in a mess. Gray is one of the ACC's most talented shooting guards -- he hit 40.5 percent from 3-point range and led Wake in scoring (17.4) in ACC games -- but he will move to point guard, a position which doesn't appear to suit him. Gray had more turnovers (75) than assists (74) last season, and he often struggles to create on drives in the lane. He's also not a good defender.
"It's going to be real different," Gray says. "This is going to be a big challenge for me and other guys on the team."
Prosser will try to get minutes out of three other players. He hopes freshman Shamaine Dukes will be able to play backup minutes at point guard. Another freshman, Harvey Hale, may be the leading candidate at 2-guard by default. Senior shooter Richard Joyce has never averaged more than six minutes per game. Prosser might try Strickland or Stanley at 2-guard as well.
Prosser will go from handling one of the nation's elite teams to one that will likely keep him guessing much of the year. He may have his most athletic team at Wake, but the Deacs must improve defensively, which has been a problem for several years.
Offensively, Gray's transition will be the key. He has the potential to go from star to liability, but if he can stay solid, Wake will have a chance. The Deacons must find someone else to hit some outside shots; otherwise, teams will collapse on Williams in the middle. Williams still needs to find a jump hook or offensive move other than powering to the basket, but his strength makes him almost impossible for most college teams to handle.
Prosser will need focus out of Strickland and Ellis, as he'll already be relying on a number of young players. He can't afford to have shaky veterans as well.