Kaiden Rice Citadel (copy)

Citadel guard Kaiden Rice (11) averaged 11.3 points per game last season. Provided/Citadel Athletics 

Lew Stallworth was the do-it-all point guard. Zane Najdawi was the big man who could run the floor and shoot the three. Matt Frierson? Only the most prolific 3-point shooter in Citadel history.

Those players are the "big three" that Bulldogs coach Duggar Baucom must replace in his fifth season at The Citadel. The trio led Baucom's team to a 9-2 start last season, the best in school history, before the Bulldogs stumbled to a 12-18 finish, going 4-14 in a Southern Conference that was perhaps better than ever.

Baucom has three distinct talent pools from which to draw as he reassembles Citadel basketball — a group of seven returning players, six freshmen and two graduate-student transfers.

"The challenge will be in figuring out who will play where, and who will play with who," said Baucom, who is 45-82 in four seasons at The Citadel. "We have some good pieces and some leadership coming back, and some grad transfers who have played a lot of games. Experience is invaluable, and the more you have, the better."

The transfers, 6-3 guard Tyson Batiste of Central Connecticut State, and 6-7 post Eddie Davis III from Hartford and Southern Miss, will almost certainly assume starting roles.

Batiste, who played in 83 games and started 52 in three years at Central Connecticut State, will have a big stat line to fill in replacing Stallworth, himself a transfer who averaged 20.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds while making all-Southern Conference.

Baucom said Batiste doesn't have to match those numbers in order to be a success.

"Lew ended up being one of the best to ever play here at the point guard position," Baucom said. "I don't know if we're ready to throw that on Tyson. But he's certainly got experience and is a very smart kid who has played a lot of games. He's taken a grasp of the offense and he understands his leadership role on and off the court."

Davis, 6-7 and 255 pounds, should bring a more physical presence inside than did the 6-7 Najdawi, also an all-SoCon pick.

Davis has battled injuries throughout his career at Hartford and Southern Miss. He played in 61 games, starting 31, in his final two seasons at Southern Miss, averaging 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds as a redshirt sophomore.

"Eddie is a big body like we really haven't had," Baucom said. "He's got some experience, and he's healthy for the first time in a long time. He gives us a big presence down there that we haven't had, especially defensively. And he has quick feet and can move laterally and step out and shoot the three."

From the group of returning players, Baucom will need a breakout season from at least two or three.

Kaelon Harris, the team's lone senior, flashed his potential as a freshman, scoring 30 points with nine rebounds at Arizona State and putting up 26 points in a win at Stetson. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in SoCon play, but was limited to 21 games last year by injury.

Guard Connor Kern, who averaged 7.6 points and shot 38.6 percent from 3-point range last season, underwent career-ending surgery during the offseason and will not play.

A group of four juniors includes 6-6 shooting guard Kaiden Rice, who shot 36 percent from 3-point range and averaged 11.3 points last year. He's likely to get a lot of the shots that were designed for Frierson last season. Hayden Brown, a 6-5 junior who also missed games with injury last year, could also be a breakout candidate.

"We'd like to have the Kaelon who had 30 and 9 as a freshman at Arizona State, but he's had to play through some injuries," Baucom said. "It's his last go-around, his last chance to be the player we know he can be.

"Kaiden has really become a good college basketball player. And at 6-6, he can get his shot off over a lot of players in our league. He'll certainly be more of a focal point of the offense."

Among six true freshmen on the team, 6-2 guard Jackson Gammons looks like an early candidate for playing time. Gammons, from High Point, N.C., averaged 22.1 points as a high school senior.

"Of the six freshmen, three will contribute immediately, with five being ready to play, probably," Baucom said.

The Citadel is picked to finish ninth in the 10-team SoCon, which enjoyed an historic season in 2018-19, with two teams ranked in the top 25 during the season and Wofford advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

The Citadel

Last season: 12-18, 4-14 (T-8th in SoCon)

Coach: Duggar Baucom 233-260 in 16 seasons overall, 45-82 in 4 seasons at The Citadel

Notable: The Bulldogs must replace their top three players from last year's team in all-SoCon picks PG Lew Stallworth and F Zane Najdawi, as well as 3-point sharp-shooter Matt Frierson ... The Citadel added two graduate-student transfers in 6-3 G Tyson Batiste (Central Connecticut State) and 6-7 F Eddie Davis (Hartford, Southern Miss).

The Citadel Schedule

Nov. 9 UNC Asheville Noon

Nov. 12 at Georgia 7 p.m.

Nov. 16 Campbell 1 p.m.

Nov. 19 at SE Missouri 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 20 at Illinois 9 p.m.

Nov. 23 at Marist 7 p.m.

Nov. 26 Brevard 7 p.m.

Dec. 4 ETSU 7 p.m.

Dec. 7 Carver 1 p.m.

Dec. 10 Piedmont 7 p.m.

Dec. 19 at Longwood 7 p.m.

Dec. 22 at N.C. State 6 p.m.

Jan. 1 at Samford 3 p.m.

Jan. 4 Western Carolina 1 p.m.

Jan. 11 at Wofford 7 p.m.

Jan. 15 UNC Greensboro 7 p.m.

Jan. 18 at VMI 1 p.m.

Jan. 22 at Chattanooga 7 p.m.

Jan. 25 Furman 1 p.m.

Jan. 29 Woford 7 p.m.

Feb. 1 at Mercer 4:30 p.m.

Feb. 5 at UNC Greensboro 7 p.m.

Feb. 8 VMI 1 [.m.

Feb. 12 at ETSU 7 p.m.

Feb. 15 Samford 1 p.m.

Feb. 19 Chattanooga 7 p.m.

Feb. 22 at Western Carolina 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 26 Mercer 7 p.m.

Feb. 29 at Furman 4 p.m.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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