Saturday, February 10, 2007

Visser's return to Chapel Hill not as memorable this time

There haven’t been many games at the Smith Center to rival the one Wake Forest center Kyle Visser experienced as a freshman on Dec. 20, 2003.

Visser was a virtual unknown in the area at the time, recruited from distant Grand Rapids, Mich., and overshadowed by fellow freshman Chris Paul. But in 20 minutes off the bench that day, he scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Wake Forest won an incredible, 119-114, triple-overtime decision over host North Carolina.

"It was probably a game I’ll never forget, ever, in my life," Visser said.

Because of quirks in the expanded ACC’s scheduling, Saturday was the first time Wake Forest played at North Carolina since that remarkable 2003 game, when the teams combined for the second-highest point total (233) ever in an ACC game.

Wake Forest’s return in Visser’s senior season was something he would just as soon forget. The Deacons suffered their largest margin of defeat in coach Skip Prosser’s tenure, losing 104-67.
It was merely the latest disappointment for a program that fell apart after Paul departed for the NBA following his sophomore season. The Deacons (11-13, 2-9 ACC) appear destined to miss the postseason for the first time since 1990.

They weren’t a good defensive team even when Paul, Justin Gray and Taron Downey were scoring at such a ridiculously fast pace that only the best opponents could match them.
Now Wake Forest can’t score, either. North Carolina held the Deacons to 36.9 percent from the field.

"It’s tough," Visser said. "We lost some good players and we’ve got a bunch of young guys."
Visser didn’t have his best game Saturday. North Carolina double-teamed him and concentrated on taking lob passes away from him, and his teammates didn’t help him because they were clanging 3-point attempts.

After scoring 11 points, six below his season average, he sat slumped in his chair in a silent Wake Forest locker room. Three years earlier, in the same locker room, teammate Eric Williams had been giddily explaining to reporters how he took control of the game after North Carolina center Sean May fouled out.

"I remember triple overtime and getting my first ACC win and having a good Christmas," Visser said.

With the way this season is going, it seemed like a long time ago.

- Ken Tysiac