College of Charleston senior forward Willis Hall grew up in the Southern Conference.
DATE OPPONENT Time
Nov. 9 at Louisville 1 p.m.
Nov. 12 Charlotte 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 UNC Asheville 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 Miami 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 23 Furman 6 p.m.
Nov. 28 vs. San Diego State 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 Wooden Legacy TBA
Dec. 1 Wooden Legacy TBA
Dec. 12 Coker 7 p.m.
Dec. 15 Marist 2 p.m.
Dec. 18 at Old Dominion 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 Kent State 3 p.m.
Dec. 29 at The Citadel 2 p.m.
Jan. 1 at Davidson 2 p.m.
Jan. 4 Howard 4 p.m.
Jan. 7 James Madison 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 at Hofstra 4 p.m.
Jan. 13 at Northeastern 7 p.m.
Jan. 19 Towson 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 UNC Wilmington 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 at James Madison 2 p.m.
Jan. 27 at William & Mary 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Hofstra 4 p.m.
Feb. 5 at Delaware 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Towson 2 p.m.
Feb. 13 Drexel 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Northeastern 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 William & Mary 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 at UNC Wilmington 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Drexel 7 p.m.
March 1 Delaware 2 p.m.
March 7-10 CAA Tournament TBA
A native of Charlotte, Hall has played his entire collegiate basketball career in the SoCon. He loved the fact that his family could drive to see him play in nearly every one of his conference games.
But when the College of Charleston decided last December to jump from the SoCon to the more prestigious Colonial Athletic Association, Hall was completely on board.
The move from the SoCon to the CAA was a natural evolutionary process for the basketball program. Not that the Cougars had outgrown the SoCon — having won just one tournament title since joining the league in 1998 — but for the program to move forward it needed to step out of its comfort zone.
Will Hall miss playing against some of the SoCon teams? Absolutely, but he figures it’s a small price to pay for the Cougars taking that next step up the NCAA ladder.
“I’ll miss it because my entire career up to this point has been played in the Southern Conference,” Hall said. “But at the same time, it’s exciting to be going into a new conference, to be that first team that plays in the CAA. I think in the end it’s a better move for our program and a better move for our school. Like in life, you need to keep moving forward and keep making yourself better.”
No more bus trips to Spartanburg, Greenville or Statesboro, Ga.
They will be replaced by flights to New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The CAA won’t be a bus league for the Cougars, who will see an increase of more than $1 million to the athletic department’s travel budget this year.
“I think everyone is excited to see new places and play against new teams,” Hall said. “We’re going to travel up to Boston and New York, totally different places, and new atmospheres. It’ll be nice to get that experience to see those new teams.”
One person within the Cougars program who is intimately familiar with the CAA is head coach Doug Wojcik. Wojcik played his entire career in the CAA while at the Naval Academy in the early 1980s. He set the league’s assist mark at 714, which still stands today. But a lot has changed about the CAA since he led the Midshipmen to three NCAA tournament appearances.
“I know most of the schools because I played in the CAA,” Wojcik said. “But the league has changed. Sometimes I think the media and fans make a bigger deal out of it than we do as coaches and players.
“It’s a new league for me two years in a row. Every arena we go to this year is new just like every arena we played in last year was new to me. I think that’s the easiest way to look at it.”
The Cougars will still keep ties to the SoCon and some old rivalries. Charleston will face crosstown rival The Citadel and Furman in December and take on Davidson on New Year’s Day.
“We wanted to keep those Southern Conference schools on our schedule, especially games with The Citadel and Davidson,” Wojcik said. “Those are pretty big rivalry games for us.”
The Cougars, 24-11 in Wojcik’s first season, enter a new conference with four returning starters and a much deeper bench. Adjehi Baru, Anthony Stitt, Anthony Thomas and Hall each started at least 30 games for the Cougars a year ago.
With veteran Nori Johnson coming off the bench and the addition of redshirt freshman Canyon Barry, Tulsa transfer David Wishon and freshman point guard Joe Chealey, the Cougars might have the deepest roster in several years.
“I like our depth and our versatility,” Wojcik said. “We’ve got a few more options coming off the bench than we did last year.”
If past history is any indication, the Cougars’ chances of making their first NCAA tournament appearance since the 1998-99 season are good. Each time the Cougars have joined a new league — in 1993 with the Trans America Athletic Conference and 1998 in the SoCon — they’ve gone on to win their conference tournament. The Cougars were picked to finish third in a preseason poll.
“No pressure, right,” Wojcik said with a chuckle. “We’re picked in the mix to win it, so that’s better than being picked to finish last.”