On paper, losing the team's best scorer might be considered a major concern of Charleston Southern men's basketball coach Barclay Radebaugh.
However, while Radebaugh admits he will miss Jamarco Warren, the second-leading career scorer in school history, he thinks his 2011-12 team can be a better offensive team overall.
Radebaugh is emphasizing team play and team production this season, and if early season scrimmages are any indication, Radebaugh may be on to something.
"This team has an opportunity to be much more team-oriented in terms of scoring balance," said Radebaugh, who begins his seventh season at CSU. "We have the potential to be a better offensive team if we stay committed to sharing the basketball. We want to create scoring opportunities for everyone on the floor. We want every player on the floor to be a threat, and not rely on one or two guys. We have to be unselfish and relentless and believe in each other."
The Bucs have plenty of potential when it comes to scoring, but Radebaugh feels the offensive opportunities must come from effort on the defensive end of the floor.
The inspiration defensively comes from senior small forward Kelvin Martin, the league's defensive player of the year last season. Martin averaged 12.3 points and eight rebounds per game last season while leading the conference in steals. Martin's energy and passion will be counted on even more this season.
"I can see this team taking on his personality everyday," said Radebaugh. "When your best player is also the hardest working player on the defensive end, it really sets the tone for every player in the program.
"This is our deepest team since I've been here. We are very athletic. We have some youth in some areas, but it's a group that I think has bought into being a good defensive team."
CSU made strides defensively last season, which led to 16 wins overall and a 9-9 mark in Big South play. The 16 victories were the most for the program in 14 seasons.
Joining Martin as returning starters are guards Jeremy Sexton and Sheldon Strickland. Sexton, a junior, averaged 10.8 points per game last season while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range.
Strickland, a sophomore, averaged 8.5 points and shot 40 percent from long range.
"I predict that Jeremy will have a great year," said Radebaugh. "He's a junior and has been a starter since he got here. He has had a great offseason."
Sophomores Chris Grier and Matt Kennedy return with experience as well.
Freshman Saah Nimley is expected to start at point guard. Though only 5-8, Nimley was a prolific scorer at Collins Hill High School in Georgia.
Another freshman, Arlon Harper, figures into the mix at guard as well.
"With the pace that we want to play at, we'll need several guards to play a lot of minutes," said Radebaugh. "Nimley is a true point guard with great speed and vision. Harper is a terrific defender and has a great understanding of the game."
If there is an area of concern, it comes in the frontcourt where the Bucs will have several first-year performers this season.
Paul Gombwer, a 6-6 freshman, and 6-5 junior Joe Williams are vying for starting time early on. Junior Mathiang Muo, a native of Sydney, Australia, is a 6-5 junior college transfer that has played well during the preseason.
"We will be improved in the post, maybe as good as we have been," said Radebaugh. "Every one of these post guys have a great attitude about defending and rebounding."
CSU opens the season Friday at Kansas State and plays at Wichita State on Sunday.