Fairfield at Wake Forest
WHAT — Men's basketball
WHEN — Tonight, 7
WHERE — Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.
LINE — Wake Forest by 12
RECORDS — Season opener for both teams
ON AIR — WVOF-FM 88.5
SKINNY — Stags look to build upon a solid close to last season when they finished 13-19 under rookie coach Ed Cooley. Tonight's probable starting lineup does not include a senior: junior guards Jonathan Han and Herbie Allen and an all-sophomore frontcourt of Anthony Johnson, Devin Johnson, and Greg Nero. Despite the youth, the starting lineup has a great deal of experience. Anthony Johnson (31 starts), Nero (30), and Han (30) all started 30 or more games a year ago while Devin Johnson (19) and Allen (two) were under that mark. It figures to be an emotional night for Wake Forest, as Dino Gaudio will make his coaching debut. Gaudio replaced Skip Prosser, who died on July 26 of apparent heart attack at age 56. Wake Forest, which finished 15-16 last season, lost leading scorer Kyle Visser (17.0 ppg.), but returns four starters: Harvey Hale (8.4 ppg), Ishmael Smith (8.7 ppg), Jamie Skeen (7.5 ppg), and L.D. Williams (8.2 ppg).
UP NEXT — Nov. 13 vs. Holy Cross, 7:30 p.m.
Credit Connecticut Post Staff Writers
GAME NOTES: The Wake Forest Demon Deacons kick off their season and a three- game homestand tonight, as they host the Fairfield Stags in non-league play at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Deacons enter the season with a heavy heart, as they lost head coach Skip Prosser to a heart attack in late July. Prosser posted a 126-68 record in six seasons at Wake Forest, where he took the Deacons to five postseason appearances, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament. Taking over for Prosser is longtime friend and assistant Dino Gaudio, who does have some head coaching experience. Gaudio was the head coach at Army and Loyola-Maryland, going 68-124 over seven years, and he inherits a team that is trying to rebound from last year's 15-16 finish. Getting off on the right foot is something the Deacons have done well in recent years, winning their last 13 season-openers. As for Fairfield, it started off its 2006-07 campaign a dismal 3-15, but the team was able to rally behind first- year head coach Ed Cooley, whose young club went a solid 10-4 down the stretch. Four starters are welcomed back from last year's club, so expect the Stags to be competitive from start to finish this season. In terms of the all- time series, Wake Forest owns a 2-0 edge over Fairfield, but the teams haven't met since the 1991-92 season.
For the Stags, their strength this season will come in the low post, where sophomore Anthony Johnson and Greg Nero are expected to make a big impact after a solid rookie campaign. The 6-8 Johnson started all but one game last season and he finished with 8.6 ppg and 4.8 rpg, while Nero finished second on the team with 9.4 ppg in starting all but two games. The duo flashed potential last season and they will be counted to not only score, but rebound as well. At the perimeter, Jonathan Han is welcomed back and he will be asked to do a lot now that leading scorer Mike Van Schaick (15.4 ppg) is no longer around. Han didn't do much scoring (7.7 ppg) last season, but the 6-0 guard showed he was a big time playmaker, dishing out a team-best 4.5 apg. In order for Han to be more effective, he will need to improve on his shot, connecting on just 36.0 percent of his attempts from the field a year ago.
Muck like Fairfield, Wake Forest welcomes back four starters, but they too must find a way to replace their top scorer in Kyle Visser (17.0 ppg). Trying to fill the void left by the 6-10 Visser will be James Johnson, a 6-8 freshmen that can score as well rebound. Jamie Skeen will try to help ease Johnson's transition, as the 6-8 forward returns to his starting spot after posting 7.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg a year ago. On the perimeter, the Deacons return a trio of starters in Ishmael Smith, Harvey Hale and L.D. Williams. Smith is coming off a solid freshman campaign in which he averaged 8.7 ppg and a team-high 6.0 apg, and with a year of experience now under his belt, expect Smith to emerge as a big time player in 2007-08. Williams was another sophomore that is hoping to build off a solid freshman campaign in which he averaged 8.2 ppg while starting all 31 games. As for Hale, he chipped in with 8.4 ppg, but he definitely could stand some improvement on the dismal 35.5 percent he shot from the field last season.
This will certainly be an emotional game for many Wake Forest players and that should work to its advantage. The Deacons, behind their backcourt, should be able to defeat a Fairfield club that isn't quite up to their level, talent wise.Credit: Macon.com/The Sports Network