Hoop Thoughts

College Basketball commentary with Seth Davis

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  • 11:00 AM ET  10.26
Skip Prosser
Late Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser will be honored with a reading program/AP

Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman was about to leave for vacation with his family during the summer of 2007 when the school's basketball coach, Skip Prosser, walked into his office. The purpose of Prosser's drop-in was to give Wellman a copy of It's Not About the Truth, a book that chronicled the famous sexual assault case involving the Duke lacrosse team. Prosser assured Wellman the book was fascinating and recommended he take it with him on vacation.

Wellman read the book while he was away, and not surprisingly thought Prosser's review proved to be spot-on. As Wellman was driving back to Winston-Salem, he took a call on his cell phone from an associate informing him that Prosser had been taken away from his office by ambulance. Prosser had died of a sudden, unexpected heart attack at the far-too-young age of 56. Like many in the Wake Forest community, Wellman still misses his friend dearly, but he finds it fitting that the last conversation he had with Prosser was about a book. "That was such a love for Skip," Wellman says. "That was always his first question whenever he would see you: What are you reading? He was always trading books with people."

It is likewise fitting that Wake Forest is now using Prosser's memory to help others discover that same love for reading. In February, Wake Forest announced that it had signed a contract with Xavier, where Prosser coached for seven years before coming to Winston-Salem in 2001, to play a 10-year home-and-home series called the Skip Prosser Classic. Wake Forest is partnering with the Forsyth (N.C.) County School district to create a literacy program in conjunction with the game, which will be played on Jan. 3 in Winston-Salem. The idea is to hold a contest among all fourth graders at the county's 42 elementary schools to see who can read the most books. The students who finish among the top readers will be given tickets to the game, and the ones who read the most books will be recognized on the court at halftime. Wellman told me that Xavier has agreed to institute a similar promotion when the game is played next season in Cincinnati, where Prosser is buried.

Wellman is also looking for corporate sponsors to donate money that will go toward purchasing books for underprivileged elementary schools in North Carolina. (He encourages any potential partners to email him at wellmanr@wfu.edu.) His hope is that in a few years, dozens of schools around the country will create similar literacy programs in their own communities. "Skip was such a beloved guy," Wellman says. "I think there would be an awful lot of interest in having this thing grow on a national scale."

Of course, Wellman would give anything not to be playing this game at all. In lieu of that, he's doing exactly what Prosser would have wanted: He's spreading the word.

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