By: Jeremy Leopold
Head Coach: Earl Grant (2nd season)
Last Season: 9-24 (3-15 CAA) last place
Losses: F Adjehi Baru, F Glen Pierce Jr., G Pat Branin, G Anthony Sitt
Newcomers: F Jarrell Brantley, G Marquise Pointer, G Grant Riller
Things fell apart at the seams last season for College of Charleston. Starting with an off-season investigation into head coach Doug Wojcik for verbal abuse, the Cougars eventually hired Earl Grant and finished last in the conference in the process.
It’s tough to place blame for the way last season went for the Cougars after Grant inherited a team just a few months before the season with no chance to put his imprint on the squad. Already built as a defensive-minded team, they made a seamless transition to the rock fights of the CAA in 2013. The Cougars actually excelled again on defense despite the turmoil, finishing second in the CAA in scoring defense, giving up a stingy 64.6 points per game. The offense, however, was abysmal, finishing last in the conference and a full five points behind 8th place Towson with just 58.6 ppg. The Cougars did manage to beat a shorthanded Drexel squad in the CAA tournament before falling to UNCW in the second round.
With the loss of their defensive anchor Adjehi Baru, it’s hard to imagine Grant’s squad being as stingy on defense this season. Baru is taking with him a team leading 6.3 rebounds per game and a strong defensive presence in the paint, not to mention his offensive contribution of 7.4 ppg. Also graduating is Anthony Sitt, who fell out of favor as a regular starter for the Cougars last season, but chipped in everywhere with 8.2 ppg, 2.5 apg, and 2.5 rpg.
Known for his recruiting at previous jobs, Grant has a solid first recruiting class coming in. Newcomers Jarrell Brantley, Marquise Pointer, and Grant Riller should all make an impact this season, but Pointer is the most highly touted of the bunch as a three star recruit and the 35th ranked point guard by ESPN in the 2014 recruiting class. Pointer should see a lot of minutes beside Joe Chealey and Canyon Barry in the back court. Red shirt freshman Nick Harris could also have a big impact in the front court after sitting out last season.
For things to go right this season, Grant needs another big year from both Barry and Chealey who each averaged over 12 ppg last season as well as more scoring depth. The new guys in town may be best suited for that role with no returning player other than Barry and Chealey averaging more than 6.5 ppg last season. The defense will also have to find someone to fill the big shoes of Baru who was a stalwart on both ends of the floor for the Cougars.
Bottom line: Last season a lot went wrong before the first tip for the Cougars. This season they have some stability again with Grant at the helm and a strong freshman class that should contribute immediately. With that being said, a lot has to go right for the Cougars to even be average this year with the talent level they have. The defense will take a small step back without Baru but they should still be strong on that end. Barry and Chealey will have to carry the offense again with no proven scorers to help out, and again they should finish at or near the bottom of the conference on offense. Best case scenario is a middle of the pack finish with the freshman playing beyond their years. More likely, the Cougars are still one or two good recruiting classes from competing, and they finish near the bottom of the CAA for the second straight season.