As Citadel basketball players met their new coach for the first time Tuesday, perhaps no Bulldog had more at stake than Harrison DuPont.
DuPont, a 6-5 forward and member of the Southern Conference all-freshman team last season, has made no secret of the fact that he is considering transferring to a new school. After meeting new coach Chuck Driesell, DuPont said he was impressed, but still undecided about his future.
"He made a great first impression," said DuPont, who started 19 games and averaged 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds for a 16-16 Citadel team last season. "He came in and met with the team right off the bat, didn't meet with the media first, so that shows he cares about the team."
Of his own decision, DuPont said, "I haven't made one yet. I'm still exploring my options, everything is still open and The Citadel hasn't been excluded."
Another Bulldog who had been pondering a transfer, reserve guard Cosmo Morabbi, said he has decided to remain at The Citadel.
"I have decided I'm going to return next year," said Morabbi, a 6-2 sophomore guard who started eight games and shot 37.9 percent from 3-point range last season. "It was just a step I went through. Everybody goes through a step when they are wanting to leave The Citadel. For some people, it's just a small thing, for others a big thing. But I decided before the new coach was hired."
Goose Creek High School standout Devontae Wright also was in the locker room when Driesell met with the Bulldogs. Wright signed a letter of intent last November with The Citadel, then saw the coach he signed up to play for, Ed Conroy, depart for Tulane.
"Coach Driesell seemed pretty sincere about what he wants to do with the program," said Wright, who will report to The Citadel in the fall. "I thought there might be a big drop-off from Coach Conroy, but he seemed like he will take over and take the program to the next level."
Meanwhile, rising seniors such as All-SoCon guard Cameron Wells and Zach Urbanus met the coach who will lead them through their final college seasons.
"I liked him," Urbanus said. "It's kind of hard to tell right now, but I think he will be a good fit. Everything he said sounded right, so I'm excited to get to know him and to start working with him. He mainly wanted us to stick together as a family. Obviously, there will be tough times through the transition, but as long as we have each other's back, we will be the special team that everyone thinks we can be."
Driesell, an assistant the last four years at Maryland, told the crowd at his introductory news conference that he likes his teams to play tough defense, and to get out and run on offense.
"That sounds great," Urbanus said. "We're used to playing tough defense, and we got out and ran some, but not like he described it. So that sounds like fun. We're used to playing defense, and scoring more points sounds like fun."
Wells said Driesell's passion was evident from the start.
"He takes pride in what he does, and I think he will be pretty good for us," Wells said. "He said he's going to come in here ready to work and to get to the (NCAA) tournament."
Wells said the Bulldogs have gotten over the shock of Conroy's departure.
"I think that took like a week or so," he said. "We were just kind of disappointed. We weren't mad or anything, we just came in here as freshmen with him and wanted to finish it out with him. But I think it's time to move on and get ready for next season."
Driesell said he will work hard to keep the team intact.
"My priority right now is to begin a relationship with these guys," he said. "Successful teams have strong relationships, and that's something that has to be worked on. If some of them want to look around at their options, I understand that. They don't know the new guy. I need them to get to know me, and to know that I will have their best interests at heart.
"I hope to keep this whole group together. It seems like it's a special unit, from everybody I've talked to. If we do stay together and work hard, we could have a special year."