When we last saw the Charleston Southern men’s basketball team, the Buccaneers were hanging 101 points on crosstown rival The Citadel and sophomore guard Arlon Harper was pouring in a career-high 30 points.
Since that victory on Dec. 4, CSU has completed semester exams and essentially another preseason camp of long, hard practices.
“Two weeks between games is an incredible amount of time off, so we did our best to take advantage of the opportunity to become a better basketball team,” said coach Barclay Radebaugh, whose 3-5 team travels to East Tennessee State and Wichita State this week.
“Certainly, we would have liked to play a game during the last week, but we couldn’t get it scheduled. So, we just worked our tails off and the guys really responded with a great week of practice.”
The performance against The Citadel was easily CSU’s best offensive night of the season. The Buccaneers have struggled early this season, but the last outing may be a sign of good things to come.
For Harper, an early-season shooting slump appears to be over. The 6-2 guard made 17 of 46 shots in the first five games this season. He is 27 of 42 over the last three games, and has made eight of his last 10 shots from beyond the arc. The difference, he says, is getting more comfortable and being more patient.
“I battled some injuries during the preseason, so I wasn’t really on the court as much as I normally would be,” said Harper. “As I came back, I think I tried to force my way into the offense some. Instead of working things through and taking my time, I forced things to try to produce when physically I just wasn’t ready.
“You know we play those early games against teams like Arizona and Alabama, it’s only natural as a competitor to want to play well against those teams. I felt like my competitiveness got in my own way and it caused me to shoot poorly.”
The improved shooting team-wide was a welcome sight for Radebaugh, who had watched his team struggle early but rebound to shoot 60 percent over the last two games. The Bucs made 14 of 26 shots from beyond the arc against The Citadel. He says Harper is the key, and will continue to be the key, to improved shooting.
“I believe courage is contagious. We talked about having someone to step up and lead us with courage, much like Kelvin Martin did for us last season. Arlon was that guy,” Radebaugh said. “The first 10 minutes of that game were the best 10 minutes that he has played since he arrived on campus. I think it was contagious and the team just picked up and followed him.”
CSU has three games remaining before the start of Big South play. Radebaugh is preaching improvement and focus as the team seeks to live up to its preseason billing as the pick to win the South division.
“Every day is about improvement,” says Radebaugh. “We can only control today. We can control our attitude, our effort and our preparation. We have three opportunities to improve before we start our 16 conference games. Those Big South games are the most important.”