College of Charleston begins new era under coach Doug Wojcik
It didn’t take long for College of Charleston basketball veterans Trent Wiedeman and Andrew Lawrence to figure out that things were going to be different under new head coach Doug Wojcik.
It was during the first team meeting back in April when Wiedeman and Lawrence realized that this was a new regime, a new era in Cougars basketball. Not better or worse, but different. And different can be good.
“When coach Wojcik walked into the locker room for that first meeting with us, you could tell things were going to change,” said Wiedeman, a junior. “The way we used to do things wasn’t going to be the way we were going to do things now. I think he got everyone’s respect from that very first meeting, and that was important.”
Normally, with any new coach there’s going to be some amount of pushback from the older players. Former College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins — one of the most popular coaches in all of college basketball — was beloved by his players.
One of the most pleasant surprises for Lawrence, a senior, has been the almost immediate acceptance of the new coaching staff by the players.
“Everyone loved coach Cremins and loved playing in his system,” Lawrence said. “I expected some guys to fight what we’re doing now, but it hasn’t happened. Everyone has bought into what coach Wojcik is trying to do. As a senior, as one of the leaders on the team, that’s been great.”
From their initial workouts last spring to the opening of preseason practice last month, Wojcik has placed a major emphasis on defense and rebounding. The Cougars were in the middle of the pack in the Southern Conference in scoring defense (68.3 points per game) a year ago. But they were dead last in defensive rebounding — as opponents averaged nearly 40 rebounds a game — and next to last in rebounding margin (3.8 rpg).
“From that first practice, coach Wojcik has been preaching rebounding and defense, and I think that’s good. We needed to improve in those two areas from last year,” Lawrence said. “I like the direction we’re moving in. Rebounding and defense are so important when you’re trying to win a conference championship and get into the NCAA tournament.”
With the rugged 6-9 Wiedeman and emerging star Adjehi Baru, Wojcik feels like rebounding won’t be a huge issue.
“They’ve done everything we asked of them during the preseason,” Wojcik said.
But with an emphasis on defense and rebounding, don’t expect the Cougars to be a grind-it-out halfcourt offensive team. The Cougars will push the ball up the floor and run the fast break when the opportunity presents itself.
“I like to think of myself as a players’ coach, and I want the guys to be able to push the ball and be creative offensively when it’s there,” Wojcik said. “Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt are going to have the freedom to push the ball when the break is there. I want them to do that.”
Stitt, a sophomore, said the Cougars will attack on both ends of the floor.
“We might have sat back defensively a little bit last year at times, and we’re not going to do that anymore,” Stitt said. “We’re going to challenge teams on both ends of the floor. It’s an aggressive style on both ends of the floor, so it’s a little different from what we were doing under coach Cremins.”