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 Tuesday, November 2
Wake Forest
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

LOCATION: Winston-Salem, NC
CONFERENCE: Atlantic Coast (ACC)
LAST SEASON: 17-14 (.548)
NICKNAME: Demon Deacons
COLORS: Gold & Black
HOMECOURT: Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum (14,407)
COACH: Dave Odom (Guilford '65)
record at school 199-107 (10 years)
career record 237-149 (13 years)
ASSISTANTS: Frank Haith (Elon '88)
Ernie Nestor (Alderson-Broadus '68)
Russell Turner (Hampden-Sydney '92)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 26-26-24-26-17
RPI (last 5 years) 6-6-7-37-60
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NIT second round.

ESPN.com Clubhouse

Wake Forest could have easily hung an apologetic sign in front of the basketball office: "Renovation in progress please pardon the mess."

In the two years after Tim Duncan's career ended, Demon Deacon coach Dave Odom essentially had to start over, with every opportunity for his program to crumble and fall apart. However, the Deacons still finished in the top half of the somewhat weakened ACC both times, good enough to qualify for postseason play as Odom took his team to back-to-back second-round appearances in the NIT.

Now comes the fun part. The Deacons should be back in position to challenge the league's top teams, as the huge recruiting classes Odom brought in the last two years finally begin to mature into an effective basketball team.

"We have obviously been through two years of a rather dramatic youth movement," Odom said. "Every program goes through that at some time or the other. The thing you want to avoid, and I think we did avoid, and is a total fall-out. We didn't bottom out. We held the line. We were able to re-establish another line of players who I think are well founded fundamentally.

"We were tough enough mentally and physically when we had to be for most of the two seasons we just experienced. We got through that pretty well."

The best thing is that the Deacons are still an extremely young team, but one which returns more than 93 percent of its scoring and rebounding. They lose only one player from last year, little-used swingman Joseph Amonett, and have just two seniors on this year's squad, both of whom are former walk-ons. With one freshman recruit and the return of two players who weren't available last year, injured forward Niki Arinze and Missouri transfer Tate Decker, Odom has plenty of young talent from which to choose.

Blue Ribbon Analysis

Odom is proud that his program did not fall apart the last two years, still finishing in the top four of the ACC and going to the NIT. He enjoyed teaching the game to a pair of large recruiting classes who were raw but talented.

But as he prepares for this season, Odom and the Deacon followers want a little more. There are higher expectations this year, and Odom looks forward to that.

"I had a ball the last two years and I really mean that," Odom said. "I think there is a lot of fun in watching and teaching and working with young players who are not so ingrained in bad habits that you have to break them of it.

"I think I will enjoy this year an equal amount. What you want is [to be] working toward a point where you have enough talent and enough experience and enough know-how and confidence to be able to compete at the highest level."

The Deacons have that this year, and Odom will be disappointed if his team doesn't return to the NCAA Tournament.

"Instead of just having a youthful team, we have a youthful team that is somewhat blessed with good experience, most of it positive experience," Odom said.

Odom spent last year playing around with different lineups, sometimes forced by injuries and departures, and other times, well, just because. Losing Arinze hurt the Deacons where they were most vulnerable, at the small forward position. That forced Odom to use a freshman, Craig Dawson, who was never at his best because of injuries, and Amonett. Two unexpected mid-season departures, guard James Griffin and forward Aron McMillan, also forced Odom to monkey around with the lineup.

Usually, however, the coach was just trying to get his best players on the court at the right time. In 31 games, Odom used 15 different starting lineups. A total of 11 different players started games for the Deacons.

That's a lot of changes for a guy not noted for overly tinkering with his lineup. Eventually, it paid off. After going 2-6 the first time around the conference, the Deacons pulled a major upset in beating Maryland (ranked No. 4 at the time) on Jan. 31. They went 5-3 the second time around, thanks in part to a favorable schedule.

Odom expects his team to be a little more stable this year. He believes he has depth at every position and should be able to play as many as 11 players regularly. That's not Odom's usual approach. Similar to Georgia Tech's Bobby Cremins, Odom likes to find six or seven players and stick with them, come hell or man-to-man defense.

"Every year, people try to get me to run more and substitute more," Odom said. "I think both of those things will be easier with this group, because I have a lot of confidence in a lot of different players. I can substitute without feeling like I'm putting in chopped liver. I think everyone we put on the floor is a pretty good basketball player."

The headliner, of course, is junior point guard Robert O'Kelley, the Demon Deacons' leading scorer in both his years on the team. Very much in the mold of former Wake All-America Randolph Childress, O'Kelley runs the point with an eye on the basket. He loves to shoot and will do so at any time.

The former ACC Rookie of the Year is the league's top returning scorer from last year. He has already scored more than 1,000 points in his career, and no one doubts that he will keep pouring them in. Go ask Maryland: He scored 32 points against the Terps when they were ranked No. 4 in the nation, leading the Deacons to a homecourt upset. O'Kelley topped that later in the season with a career-high 36 points against Xavier in the second round of the NIT.

In truth, however, the Deacons rely too much on O'Kelley to provide scoring, which is why they lost to North Carolina State in the first round of the ACC Tournament only five days after beating the Wolfpack by 39 points. State shut down O'Kelley and thus shut down the Deacons.

Odom wants O'Kelley to keep scoring, but he may not ask him to be on the floor as much or run the offense as much. O'Kelley averaged 35 minutes per game last year. The coach would like to see sophomore Broderick Hicks, who is more of a pure point guard, play added time there this season with O'Kelley either resting or playing shooting guard.

The backcourt should have plenty of options, as a completely healthy Dawson moves back to shooting guard and will share time with O'Kelley and Ervin Murray on the wing. Dawson had surgery in the off-season to repair a stress fracture that kept him at about 65 percent last year, according to Odom.

The frontcourt, though it lacks a dominating center, could be one of the best in the ACC, simply because Rafael Vidaurreta and Darius Songaila improved so much at the end of the season. Without the help of a true big man, the pair took advantage of quickness on defense and was a primary reason Wake turned things around in the second half of the ACC season.

Vidaurreta, at 6-9, matured nicely as the year went along, rebounding and playing hard-nosed defense inside. He's not much of a scorer, but he has earned the respect of opposing coaches and players around the league for his inside presence. In the last two months of the season, he averaged nearly 11 points and 10 rebounds per game. Vidaurreta could be a standout player in the league this season.

Songaila was a good addition offensively for the Deacons, but he was way too aggressive inside. His 111 fouls were the most of any player in the ACC and he fouled out seven times. Eventually, Odom took Songaila out of the starting lineup, figuring that being on the bench for his early game jitters would prevent a couple of those jitters-induced fouls early in the game.

That seemed to improve his production significantly.

Decker could be a key addition to the Deacon lineup since he is the only player on the roster taller than 6-9. Wake finished in the lower half of the ACC in rebound margin and dead last in blocked shots. Decker's size could help in both areas.

The most exciting aspect of this year's team is the return of Arinze and the arrival of freshman Josh Howard at small forward. Arinze was an exciting young player as a freshman, with the athletic skill and leaping ability to be creative at both ends of the floor. Odom thinks Howard can be much the same once he gets acclimated to the college game.

The thing Odom most likes about this year's team is that he has depth at every position. He has some decisions to make about how he will use his many weapons.

"We have good depth," Odom said. "We have to find a way to use it in a meaningful way."

One thing is for sure: Odom is glad the foundation has been laid for his program to return to the NCAA Tournament. The finishing touches may not come until next year, but Odom thinks his team will be much happier after this season than the last two.

"I don't know if we will be a great team or not, but I think it will take a very good team to beat us on most nights. That's a good feeling."

(6-1, 187 lbs., JR, PG, #4, 17.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.7 spg, 35.0 minutes, .403PT, .376 3PT, .710 FT, White Station HS/Memphis, Tenn.)

No one wants to see O'Kelley score less. Like Randolph Childress before him, O'Kelley is quite a spectacle when he gets on a roll. He can bomb from anywhere on the court, which is why he was the ACC Rookie of the Year two years ago and a second-team All-ACC pick last season.

He is the ACC's top returning scorer, second in the league in three-pointers per game and seventh in three-point shooting percentage. He has already scored more than 1,000 points in his first two years at Wake, something only two other players have done in school history (Rodney Rogers and the ACC's all-time scoring leader, Dickie Hemric).

He finished with a flourish, scoring 51 points in Wake's two NIT games, including a career high 36 against Xavier.

But if the Demon Deacons are going to be exceptional this year, O'Kelley has to learn to share. The Deacs need someone to get the rest of the team involved in the offense, particularly in the frontcourt. Odom admits that he doesn't have a lot of creative offensive players down low, but it doesn't take much creativity if they get the ball a foot from the basket.

O'Kelley tends to think shoot first, pass second. That's not a bad thing for someone with his skills. But the out-sized frontcourt doesn't have the ACC's best rebounders, so the Deacons need to find other ways to get the ball in the basket.

Odom thinks O'Kelley will be better if he spends less time on the court. That's why Hicks' development over the summer is so important to the Deacons' success this year.

"We have tried to encourage Robert to broaden his game," Odom said. "He needs to become more of a playmaker, more of a well-rounded offensive player, more of a factor on defense. One way to do that is to cut down on his minutes so that he is not so fatigued all the time.

"The other thing we have tried to do is work on his spontaneity as a decision-maker. Robert has not been great on the move. He has a tendency not to think a play or two ahead. He's a safe passer, but not a creative one. We have been trying to work on him seeing the floor more and making better decisions on the move."

Odom is encouraged because of the experience O'Kelley has gotten the last two years. He also remembers that Childress, one of the most exciting players in school history, really didn't come into his own until his junior year. So he is very optimistic about O'Kelley's future.

"It wasn't until Randolph was a junior that he began to blossom," Odom said. "I believe Robert, too, is just [as] terrific. He is an absolutely terrific player who has been pretty good so far in his career.

"I think he is going to get better as this season goes along."

(6-9, 255 lbs., JR, C, #41, 7.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.4 apg, 28.8 minutes, .494 FG, .200 3PT, .733 FT, New Hampton School, N.H./Zaragoza, Spain)

Odom doesn't think Vidaurreta gets enough respect from those who watch the league. But opposing coaches and players gained an appreciation for the bulky Spaniard, especially in the last month of the season.

"I think people will start to realize how good he is," Odom said.

Vidaurreta showed up last season a little out of shape and that affected his play early in the year. People began to think of him as soft inside, even though he provided good rebounding and interior defense all season long.

He just wasn't much of a scorer, at least until he and Songaila matured late in the season during the Deacons' successful February run. He averaged double figure points and rebounds in Wake's final five games.

"I thought he was our most consistent player down the stretch, one of our team leaders, if not the team leader and the rock of our team," Odom said.

Still, the most points Vidauretta has ever scored in two years at Wake was 15 in the ACC Tournament loss to N.C. State.

Odom understands that his post men aren't the most offensively proficient players in the ACC. But he likes what Vidaurreta does defensively and with aggressive rebounding. And, in the end, that just may be enough.

(6-9, 239 lbs., SO, PF, #25, 12.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 24.4 minutes, .504 FG, .250 3PT, .804 FT, New Hampton School, N.H./Marijampole, Lithuania)

When Loren Woods, the immensely talented, immensely tall heir to Tim Duncan's post position decided he had had enough of Odom's discipline, he transferred to Arizona. Odom needed to find someone who wasn't soft like Woods, someone who could bang around inside and have a dominating presence.

Enter Songaila, the Lithuanian native who was all those things and more. He was downright dangerous at times, a player who came into a game overly excited and stumbled his way all over the court, no matter who was in his way.

As a result, Songaila had more hacks than Lizzie Borden, leading the league with 107 personal fouls. Because of it, he gained a reputation, an unfortunate outcome considering he was a great addition to the Deacon frontcourt. Many people considered Vidaurreta soft and Songaila the total opposite.

He could score, hitting double figures in 22 of his 31 games. He led the Deacons in scoring nine times during the season and was rewarded with a spot on the ACC's All-Freshman team.

But Odom was also concerned about his aggressive play, mainly because the team was often without its best frontcourt scorer during late-game situations as Songaila was in foul trouble. He fouled out seven times during the year.

So, after 23 starts, Odom took Songaila out of the starting lineup, figuring his early game energy would be dispersed on the bench instead of on an opposing power forward. After Songaila suffered a scratched cornea, Odom inserted Josh Shoemaker into the starting lineup. It worked so well that Odom stayed with it for the final seven games of the season.

By the end of the season, Songaila became more mature, able to control his aggressive tendencies a little more. It was an adjustment coming off the bench, but Odom was pleased with how the young freshman handled it.

This year, as a sophomore, Songaila will have to prove that he can be an offensive and defensive presence without all the hacks. His development is very important for a team that needs increased production from the post.

"I think Songaila will have a year [in which] he will stay in the game a lot better," Odom said. "I think he's over the freshman tendency of fouling too much and overreacting. I think he learned his lesson the hard way. I think he will be fine this year."

If so, the Deacons will have a formidable front line to go with a high-scoring backcourt.

(6-5, 205 lbs., SO, SG, #42, 8.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 tpg, 22.9 minutes, .424 FG, .386 3PT, .818 FT, Kinston HS/Kinston, N.C.)

By Odom's estimation, Dawson never played at more than 65 percent of his capabilities last year because of a stress fracture in his left leg. He was still in uniform, but not at full speed or for long periods of time.

"Even though he played all year, I don't think anybody, including the coaches, have seen the real Craig Dawson," Odom said. "I don't think he's the most athletic guy you will ever see, but he is better than what we witnessed last year."

Still, the long talked-about nephew of former North Carolina All-America Jerry Stackhouse showed that he can be a good player in the ACC. He has awesome range, hitting 51 three-pointers last year, second only to O'Kelley on the team.

The leg injury affected his shooting at times, but that should be taken care of this year since Dawson had surgery in the spring that inserted a metal pin.

"Right now, he appears to be better in almost every phase of the game," Odom said as school began. "As I look back on Craig last year, I think he was just a fragment of what he was capable of doing as an offensive player. He was even less as a defensive player. He couldn't move laterally and it was really frustrating for him.

"At that position in this league, you have to play great every night. [Defense] is the area that I am going to ask him to improve on the most."

If Dawson is at 100 percent and can build a little more confidence in his shot and his defense, then the Deacons will have one of the most dangerous long-range shooting backcourts in the nation.

(6-5, 230 lbs., SO, SF, # 33, 3.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.6 tpg, 1.2 spg, 1.6 bpg, 15.8 minutes, .250 FG, .500 FT, Martin Luther King HS/Memphis, Tenn)

Shoulder problems plagued Arinze long before he completely dislocated his left shoulder in the seventh game of the season. He had already missed two games before the Nov. 30 injury forced him to have surgery to tighten up the muscles in both shoulders.

It cost him the opportunity to play last season, but it didn't cost him a year of eligibility. Arinze will have three years remaining.

"I expect him to have a clean bill of health," Odom said.

The coach has high expectations for the athletic small forward. He has the ability to rebound and defend, as well as score from the perimeter. He had a productive freshman season, in which he averaged seven points and six rebounds, despite having to frequently play out of position with his back to the basket.

Arinze started more games than any player on the team two years ago, playing out of position almost every single minute. But he made a good impression on his coach and the Deacon fans.

He should begin this season in the starting lineup, and some members of the coaching staff believe he may be the best player the Deacons put on the court. He will get backup help from freshman Josh Howard. Odom said he will use Arinze inside "only in a pinch."

The only thing Odom isn't too happy about is that Arinze arrived on campus at about 235 pounds, which is nearly 25 more than he carried as an undersized freshman. The coach believes he may have gone a little overboard with adding some bulk, and will insist he lose about 10 pounds before the season starts.

(6-5, 195 lbs., SO, G, #31, 3.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 tpg, 0.9 spg, 17.3 minutes, .407 FG, .235 3PT, .750 FT, Wallace-Rose Hill/Teachey, N.C.)

Like many overmatched freshmen, Murray lost confidence in his shot at the beginning of the season. He started passing up open shots, something no coach wants a shooting guard to do. So his minutes began to fall off.

Odom said Murray dedicated himself to improving in the off-season, working as hard as any player on the team to refine his game. He needs it. His three-point shooting percentage was the lowest on the team for anyone with 15 or more attempts, and his overall shooting percentage was pretty poor.

A former high school point guard and small forward, Murray will probably be asked to back up Dawson at shooting guard. He is versatile enough to help the team's suspect ballhandling when in the game and athletic enough to run when Odom wants his team to get on the break.

"One of the things we need is more stability and more ballhandling," Odom said. "Ervin can give us that. His shot looks better and he's looking to be more of an offensive player."

Murray's biggest problem, however, was on defense, where he did not take advantage of his athletic ability to stop opponents. That surprised Odom.

"I thought he would be a better defender than he was last year," Odom said. "I don't think he got as many loose balls or got his hands on as many balls as he could have. That's an area [where] I will ask much improvement."

(6-1, 177 lbs., SO, G, #3, 4.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 tpg, 0.7 spg, 16.1 minutes, .396 FG, .323 3PT, .583 FT, Strake Jesuit HS/Houston, Tex.)

Hicks got on the floor early last year when Odom was experimenting with his backcourt. He made mistakes and eventually found himself coming off the bench after starting seven times early.

His shooting numbers weren't very impressive. But, then, they weren't expected to be.

This season, however, Hicks will be an important cog in getting Wake's offense going. If he can capably run the things from the point, it will allow O'Kelley to be more of a shooting guard. O'Kelley is a point man who likes to shoot rather than run the offense. Hicks is more a pure point guard, who looks to pass first and score second.

He is also a better penetrator with the ability to go inside and dump the ball off to an interior player. The Deacons desperately need interior scoring if they are to be a real factor in the ACC race.

Once his confidence returned, Hicks was a productive player. He shined during a 19-point comeback against Florida State.

Odom sent Hicks home this summer with orders to get bigger and stronger, and that should help him get more playing time this season. The Deacons, who were offensively unbalanced last year, could use a true floor leader.

"I think everybody is on alert that when Broderick is in the game, he is looking for them more than he is looking for himself," Odom said. "That doesn't mean I am saying Robert is selfish. He is just more of a scoring point guard. That's what he is.

"Broderick is more of a classic point guard. He made errors last year, but they were errors of commission made by a first-year player in the ACC. He is more able to handle that this year. I really feel good about him as Robert's understudy and I think you will see them on the court together."

(6-8, 205 lbs., SO, F, #34, 4.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 9.7 minutes, .467, FG, .729 FT, Oak Hill Academy, Va./New Bern, N.C.)

Scott does have some offensive skills that Odom likes, but the coach is still concerned about the young post player's defense and rebounding. Yet he was second on team with 18 blocked shots. Most of his time this year will be logged behind Vidaurreta, sharing reserve duty with newcomer Tate Decker.

Like everyone else in Odom's switch-a-day lineup, Scott got a couple of chances to start at the end of last season, as Odom experimented with ways to keep the hack-happy Songaila out of foul trouble. He started three consecutive games at power forward, but he rarely was in for more than 10 minutes per game.

This year, Odom hopes Scott can come off the bench and offer more immediate scoring help.

(6-9, 239 lbs., SO, F, #44, 3.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 20.8 minutes, .529 FG, .593 FT, Gate City HS/Gate City, Va.)

Shoemaker was another player who was nagged most of last year with an injury, limping around with a painful turf toe much of the time. He had surgery to repair the problem in the off-season. The procedure should help his jumping and rebounding abilities, according to Odom.

Shoemaker is not a flashy player, but he is a good rebounder and defender. However, he is not much of a scorer and that could keep him off the floor, especially with Arinze back in action. Still, he won't do anything to hurt the Deacons with his style of play.

"I have always felt very safe when he is in the game," Odom said.

(6-10, 225 lbs., JR, F-C, #52, 3.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg at Missouri in 1997-98, Webster Groves HS/Webster Groves, Mo.)

Odom has been looking for a reliable big man ever since Tim Duncan left. Loren Woods didn't work out, and none of the frontcourt players on the roster now are classic post men. Is Decker, a transfer from Missouri, the answer?

Eventually, perhaps, but Odom isn't counting on him, even though he considers Decker and sophomore Antwan Scott two of the biggest keys to the coming season. The coach likes the creativity with which Decker can score, something Vidaurreta and Songaila don't really have. There are times when Decker would rather shoot from the perimeter, so Odom spent last season while Decker was sitting out under NCAA transfer rules trying to make him a more aggressive inside player.

It wasn't always easy, because Decker was hampered much of the season with recurring ankle injuries that kept him out of practice. He had minor surgery in the off-season to correct the problems and is expected to be at full strength when this year begins.

Decker, who has two years of eligibility remaining, has some experience playing on the Deacons' homecourt. He scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds when Wake Forest beat Missouri, 74-65, January, 1998.

Decker was more effective as a freshman than a sophomore, when his scoring and rebounding numbers dropped. When Norm Stewart then brought in a recruiting class that included seven-footer Pat Schumaker, Decker transferred to Wake.

(6-6, 215 lbs., FR, F, #5, 19.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, .560 FG, .444 3PT, .850 FT, Hargrave Military Academy, Va./Winston-Salem, N.C.)

As badly as the Deacons need a true center, they need a good small forward even more. Howard, the only incoming freshman on this year's team, might be just what Odom is looking for.

"The one position where we really never felt very comfortable was small forward," Odom said. "We've never had what you would call a complete small forward. We have had to do some makeshift work there."

Last year, Odom had to scramble to find someone to play the position after Niki Arinze's season ended because of multiple shoulder injuries. He played several players there, none of whom were natural to the position.

This year, Howard will challenge the athletic Arinze for playing time at small forward.

Odom has known about Howard, who once played at Winston-Salem's Glenn HS, for a long time. Howard averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds in his senior season there, then spent last year at Hargrave Military (Va.) Academy, where he matured greatly in athletics and academics.

Howard improved his outside shooting on a team that was loaded with talent. Hargrave was 27-3 last year.

What Odom likes most about Howard is that he is quick enough to guard the ACC's best small forwards, a good enough shooter to be a threat on the perimeter and also a good enough leaper to help on the boards.

(6-1, 181 lbs., SR, G, #10, 0.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 7.4 minutes, .250 FG, .214 3PT, .833 FT, Fairfax, Va.)

Fitzpatrick and Tim Fuller are the only two seniors listed on the Demon Deacon roster, and both are former walk-ons whom Odom recently awarded scholarships.

Last year Fitzpatrick saw significant action early, including 24 minutes off the bench in a 75-73 overtime victory in the season-opener against Illinois. It was his first game eligible after sitting out a year, following his transfer from Campbell.

But, as Ervin Murray got adjusted to college basketball, Fitzpatrick's time diminished dramatically. He barely saw 20 minutes of action in the team's final 20 games.

Fitzpatrick will play behind O'Kelley and Murray at the point, which means he could be used only in an emergency. And in the hopefully more frequent easy victories.

(6-4, 205 lbs., SR, G, #23, 0.6 ppg, 0.1 rpg, 11 appearances, .429 FG, .500 FT, Woodbridge HS/Woodbridge, Va.)

The team's other senior is also a walk-on who is entering his fourth season as a member of the team. He tripled his output last year, scoring three field goals in 11 games after getting just one basket in each of his first two years.

Fuller's role is to be a practice player for the Deacs.



(6-5, G-F, 3.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.8 tpg, 15.8 minutes, .311 FG, .290 3PT, .710 FT)

Odom was a big fan of Amonett, as long as he wasn't on the court with his inconsistent game.

The coach gave the skinny wing man, the only scholarship player older than a sophomore on last year's roster, a chance to win a starting position. He had it for 13 games at small forward because of injuries to Niki Arinze and Craig Dawson.

Amonett arrived four years ago with high aspirations and a good resume, but his big-scoring, high school game never translated into college success. He was a standstill shooter who didn't have much luck creating his shot.

Odom appreciated the fact that Amonett never became bitter about his role with the team, as happened the year before with Tony Rutland and Jerry Braswell. Amonett seemingly had every reason to be a negative force on a struggling club, but that didn't happen.

"I don't think I have ever had a player who has been more selfless, more team-oriented, who has given more while still being somewhat disappointed and having a right to be," Odom said. "I don't think I have ever seen a player continue to fight in the face of disappointing results."

But he did help the Deacons beat Clemson last year, hitting four consecutive free throws in the final minute to preserve a 79-69 victory. He also had a career-high 11 points against East Tennessee State.

By the end of the season, Amonett earned more playing time because he improved his defense. But it was pretty clear that he was not going to remain in the starting lineup, because Odom had recruited better talent on the wing in his last couple of classes.

He did provide experience on a very young team, and Odom appreciated that.

"I don't think I've ever been more proud of a graduating senior than I am of Joseph Amonett," Odom said. "It's easy to be proud of All-Americas, All-Conference players, but I am equally proud of him."

Consistency? Odom did more shuffling last year than a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, using 15 different starting lineups because of injuries, departures, ineffectiveness, etc. He needs to find a more set lineup and his players need to have more defined roles if the Deacons are going to climb back toward the top of the ACC.

Ballhandling? With a shooter like O'Kelley at point guard, it's little wonder the Deacons were not exactly at the top of the league in distributing the ball and running a smooth offense. If Hicks can be a productive point man and O'Kelley moves to shooting guard, that gives Wake a more stable and consistent backcourt.

Scoring balance? It's great that O'Kelley has led the Deacons in scoring the last two years, but he needs to share every now and then. The Deacons have to get more consistent scoring and rebounding out of their frontcourt to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Depth! Last year, with Arinze out, Decker sitting out and three players who were expected to be contributors transferring to other schools, Odom was not only young, but also thin at several positions. This year the Wake coach believes he has two viable candidates at every position, as well as several players who can play two or three spots.

Experience! Odom doesn't have any recruited seniors on the roster, but he has enormous experience returning. Seven guys played in 20 or more games, plus Arinze, who may end up being the most dangerous man on the court for the Deacs.

Odom! The coach spent the last two years trying to keep his program together during a time of transition. Now he is ready to take an experienced, but young team to greater heights.

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