CAA Preview: UNCW Seahawks

By Jake Fischer

Last Year: 10-20 (5-13), 9th in CAA

What Happened: Last season wasn’t one of much competition for the UNCW Seahawks. The 2012-13 campaign in Wilmington was more of a farewell tour to one of the CAA’s all-time best rebounders and shot blockers, Keith Rendleman. While the Hawks would not have been a threat for the Colonial title in the league’s final conference tournament in Richmond, they were banned from postseason play due to poor Academic Progress Rates. Head coach Buzz Peterson did see some encouraging play from a few players outside of the team’s star, most notably from redshirt-freshman Craig Ponder.

Key Losses

Keith Rendleman (F/C): The big man averaged 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game en route to a First-Team All-Conference selection. However, Rendleman’s legacy is far greater than a series of trophies that sit on his mantle. Rendleman is UNCW’s all-time leader in rebounding and ranks fifth in CAA history with 1,055 boards. He’s also fourth in Seahawks history in scoring with 1,516 career points. Lastly, he is one of just eight players in CAA history with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

Key Returnees

Chris Dixon (G): Last season, Dixon posted nightly averages of 9.8 points and 3.3 assists per game while starting and playing 27.8 minutes per contest. Now a senior, Dixon could be the team’s first option on offense.

Craig Ponder (G): Ponder was very solid at point guard for Peterson in his freshman seasons, averaging 8.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game—a year after a foot injury that ended his 2011-12 season. In his sophomore campaign, look for Peterson to allow Ponder more opportunities to create scoring chances off the dribble.

Cedrick Williams (F): A big and strong leaper, Williams is the only returning member of UNCW’s starting frontcourt from last season. The forward posted 6.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season, but will have to shoot more than 44.3 percent from the field to even remotely fill the void Rendleman left.

Tanner Milson (G): A savvy scorer off the bench, Milson averaged 6.4 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting from three-point land last season. He’s primed to lead Peterson’s second unit yet again this season.

Freddie Jackson (G): A tough guard who focuses on defense, Jackson averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season. The junior will be key to the Seahawks perimeter on D.

Outlook: Buzz Peterson and the Seahawks have lost the program’s heart and soul in Keith Rendleman due to graduation. That loss is so enormous, Rendleman’s absence will likely overshadow the return of the team’s next five scorers following him last year. Having several skilled guards in Dixon, Ponder, Jackson and Milson is a positive sign for the future, but UNCW will undoubtedly experience some severe growing pains before they can compete in this conference. The Seahawks will likely be battling Hofstra to avoid the cellar of the conference all year long.