WFU men's basketball team headshots 2003. ©2003 Wake Forest University Office of Creative Services. Photo by Ken Bennett, 336-758-6009.

WINSTON-SALEM — With Vytas Danelius and Eric Williams participating fully, the Wake Forest basketball players spent Thursday smacking each other with canary-yellow, padded implements of well-intentioned harassment.

The three-hour workout was physical in nature. In the post, defenders pushed offensive guys out of the way with the blocking pads, which resemble football practice gear.

But while they’re beating each other up physically, they don’t want to beat themselves up emotionally.

Such was the message in the aftermath of an 85-67 victory against Elon on Wednesday night that was far from routine. In preparing for Saturday’s home game against 14th-ranked Texas (7-1), No. 6 Wake (8-1) is dealing with the simultaneous needs to savor and maximize the journey.

Through one-third of the regular season, the Deacs have been: No. 1 in the land; feted by national media; generally successful; somewhat distracted; and not always brilliant. Coach Skip Prosser said he wants to strike a balance.

“The reality is that when expectations are placed so inordinately high, you can have a season without any joy,” Prosser said. “If you win by 10, you should win by 20. Win by 20? I can’t believe it was a game. Lose? It’s Armageddon.

“The sheer fun and enthusiasm of playing basketball gets sucked out of you because you’re never, ever able to satisfy. I’m the harshest critic of anybody, but at the same time, I want our guys to enjoy the season, not endure the season.”

Danelius, exiled to the locker room three minutes into the second half Wednesday, practiced Thursday and will be “available” to play against the Longhorns (2 p.m., ESPN). Prosser declined to elaborate when asked if he will start the senior forward, who apparently was banished for his reaction shortly after being removed from the game.

Asked to assess the situation before Thursday’s workout, Prosser said, “No, it’s not business as usual.”

But it was for Williams. The Deacons center went through the workout without limping on the right foot he turned after dunking with eight minutes left in the first half against the Phoenix. Trainer Greg Collins said Williams’ status for Saturday will probably be firmed up today.

“It’s a downer, but I’m looking forward to Saturday’s game,” Williams said.

Prosser knows his team hasn’t played to its potential yet, and he addressed the Deacs for more than a half-hour after the Elon game. But he didn’t scream at them while 10,000 fans watched at Joel Coliseum, and he said the team’s interpersonal relations are normal.

“It’s probably as you would have with most groups of

18-, 19- and 20-year-old guys,” Prosser said. “It’s probably a fluid situation. And especially in a situation where we’re only playing five guys. When you have guys in and out of the lineup and you’re trying to improve depth, things aren’t as well defined.

“One of the hardest things as a coach is that you have 15 or 16 disparate personalities, disparate support groups, agendas, egos. To get all those forces aligned to go in a singular direction — because you have myriad issues — that’s the challenge that excites me.”

Contact Rob Daniels at 373-7028 or rdaniels@news-record.com

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