The frustration shows on his face as Barclay Radebaugh watches his team fail to finish close game after close game, but the Charleston Southern men’s basketball coach takes solace in the fact that this season’s struggles are a mere bump in the road.
Entering this season, Radebaugh’s program had posted three 19-win seasons in the last four years and had captured two Big South Conference regular-season titles in the last three. CSU lost arguably the best senior class in school history after last season, including a pair of guards — Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper — that rank among the top five scorers in CSU history.
The Buccaneers, with only small forward Aaron Wheeler returning as a starter, have limped to an 8-16 record overall and a 4-9 mark in the Big South Conference heading into Thursday night’s home game against Presbyterian College. Seven of CSU’s league losses have come by single digits — all games in which the Bucs held second-half leads.
Radebaugh’s coaching mentor, former South Carolina head coach Eddie Fogler, gave him solid advice recently.
“Coach Fogler told me a few weeks ago that I would learn more this year than I have learned in all of the years combined,” said Radebaugh, the winningest coach in CSU history. “This season has been a tremendous growing experience for me, the things I have had to learn about leading through tough times. It’s a season I am strangely very thankful for and it will help me be a better coach in the future.”
There is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel. Radebaugh, always optimistic, says the rebuilding process will be accelerated thanks to an incoming recruiting class that could rank as Radebaugh’s best ever, and a group of three underclassmen that are evolving into solid players.
Freshman guard Armel Potter is CSU’s leading scorer with 13 points per game. Potter has scored at least 17 points in 11 games and is coming off a career-high 21-point effort against Longwood on Saturday.
Sophomore forward Javis Howard has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games and is shooting 64 percent from the floor in conference play. Redshirt junior guard Raemond Robinson is among the league’s best 3-point shooters and averages 10 points per game.
Fellow underclassmen Wes Johnson (post), Patrick Wallace (guard) and Melvin Brooks (forward) also continue to develop in their roles.
Radebaugh expects four signees — guards Christian Keeling, Jamal Thomas and Cortez Mitchell, and forward Jordan Jones — to arrive next summer and make an immediate impact.
“We feel very positive about the potential for this program to return to where it has been — competing for championships,” Radebaugh said. “It may sound crazy but I am very proud of this current team. This team has not quit. The losses we’ve had are not due to a lack of effort because this team gives it everything they’ve got every single day. This team has a winning attitude. We’ve just come up short.”