When the College of Charleston was winning conference championships and making appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the team always had a little local flavor to it.
The Cougars have dipped back into the local high school market again, getting a verbal commitment from James Island star Vince Cole, one of the top players in the Lowcountry.
Led by Stall’s Anthony Johnson and Burke’s Jermel President, the Cougars made four NCAA Tournament appearances from 1994-99.
Cougars head coach Earl Grant, a graduate of Stall, has made a point of recruiting the Lowcountry since he arrived on campus in 2014.
“You don’t have to travel too far to find good talent,” Grant said last season. “We’ve got some very good players right here in our own backyard.”
The 6-5 Cole, who will be a senior this year for the Trojans, was among the area’s top scorers last season, averaging 21 points a game. Cole is hoping to lead Charleston back to its former glory.
“Ever since Coach Grant came to the College of Charleston they’ve been a program on the rise,” Cole said. “I know they’ve got the talent to get back to the NCAA Tournament and that’s where everyone wants to play, on the biggest stage.”
Cole picked the Cougars over UNC Charlotte, Tennessee Tech and South Carolina State. Cole said he was also starting to draw interest from several bigger Division I programs.
Cole helped lead James Island to back-to-back Region 7-AAAA titles and to the Class AAAA Lower State title game a year ago.
“He can shoot the lights out when he gets rolling and, look, I’m not a person who oohs and ahhs about dunks, but some of the dunks I’ve seen him do I could not believe,” James Island coach Stan Wilkins told The Moultrie News. “With the talent he has, he can be as good as he wants to be. As far as he wants to push himself, he has the tools to get there.”
There will be plenty of familiar faces on the Cougars’ roster. Cole plays on Upward Stars Southeast AAU team, which was ranked as high as No. 1 in the country this summer. Cole played alongside Zep Japser, another College of Charleston verbal commitment scheduled to enroll in 2017. Last summer, Cole’s AAU team featured Cougars’ incoming freshmen Brevin Galloway and Chevez Goodwin.
“I got to know all those guys over the past two summers and I feel like they are like big brothers to me already,” Coles said. “I love playing with Zep. He was in my ear all summer and wanted me to commit.”
Cole has had an outstanding summer on the AAU circuit. His Upward Stars Southeast team advanced to the quarterfinals of the prestigious Adidas Uprising summer national championship tournament last week in Las Vegas. He had a moment of Twitter stardom in the tournament with a video of a dunk over a defender that left Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angleo Russell’s jaw open as he sat courtside.
The Cougars were one of the first teams to offer Cole a scholarship, which was a determining factor in his decision to stay close to home.
“They’ve been talking to me since the ninth grade and I’ve played a lot of pick-up over at TD Arena,” Cole said. “It’s a family over there and that starts with Coach Grant.”
With Jasper, who will attend prep school this year, and Cole joining the program in 2017, Grant has used up his allotted scholarships in this recruiting class.
(Frankie Mansfield of The Moultrie News contributed to this story)