By: Brandon Challener
Last year: 24-11 Overall (14-4 Southern Conference) second in SoCon South, Lost to Davidson in the SoCon Championship, Lost to George Mason in the 1st round of the CBl.
What Happened: The College of Charleston is the lone school that the CAA added to the conference over the summer after losing Georgia State, George Mason and Old Dominion. Even though the Cougars are coming from a traditionally weaker conference, they are no schlubs. Case in point are their wins against Towson, Baylor (ranked No. 24 at the time) and Boston College. This team was the only team to challenge Davidson in conference and the above experience coupled with the fact that they are starting four seniors and a junior will prepare them for their inaugural season.
• Andrew Lawrence (G): The only starter not returning for the Cougars but what a starter he was. Lawrence was one of two college players (Matthew Dellavedova being the other) to represent their home countries in the 2012 Olympics. The Brit was a huge part of the Cougars offense, taking part in 25 percent of their offensive possessions and averaged 13.5 points, 3.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds per game. He was considered the unquestionable leader of last year’s team and the second team all-conference player’s experience will be a large gap to fill regardless.
• Trent Wiedeman (F): Instead of joining his team in their new conference, Wiedeman opted instead to follow former assistant coach, Mark Byington and head to Georgia Southern. Wiedeman was voted to the pre-season All-Southern Conference team but suffered two ankle injuries that kept him out for 8 games. However, he was still an important part of last year’s team, appearing in 26 games and playing 21 minutes in those games, averaging a solid 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 53 percent from the field, the highest percentage on the squad.
• Anthony Stitt (G): Stitt has been pegged by both the media and his coach as the main person that will have to fill Lawerence’s shoes both in production and leadership. Stitt was second on the team in PPG (11.0), APG (3.2) and 3PT percentage (40.1). Those numbers will need to continue to improve for the junior. He will need to cut down on his turnovers if he wants to take the mantle as the Cougars best player, considering he had a 23 percent turnover rate. Coach Doug Wojcik has complimented the fact that Stitt can come off a screen and either nail a shot or break down his defender. Stitt was named as a preseason All-CAA Honorable Mention
• Adjehi Baru (F): The Ivory Coast native will also be counted on to replace some of Lawerence and Wiedeman’s production. Baru was huge on the boards for the Cougars, averaging 8.3 rebounds a game, the best of which in the Southern Conference. This was was one of the reasons why they were ranked 30th nationally in rebound margin with a +5.4. The African native was also a force blocking shots, swatting away 4 percent of 2-point shots while he was on the floor, a small number but a huge impact. One thing that won’t show up in the box score that makes Baru so dangerous is his motor. Wojcik has heaped praise on his big man’s constant, consistent work rate. Baru was named to the preseason All-CAA Second Team
Outlook: Even though College of Charleston is playing in its first year in the CAA, they have some experience against teams the division’s teams. Unfortunately for them two of those games were against teams no longer in the conference in Old Dominion (a win) and George Mason (a loss). The other was against Towson (a win) and it was the first game of the season for both teams. The length of the Cougars can’t be understated, which is one of the main reasons why they were in the Top 60 nationally in scoring defense and were No. 17 in defending the three. They are also getting 7’ 2” transfer, David Wishon, after he sat out a year after leaving Tulsa. The Cougars has great depth and lots of upperclassmen that should help make the transition to the tougher CAA pretty easy. Don’t be surprised to see the Cougars contending for the CAA crown.