Next man up: With Cougars’ Stitt injured, freshman Johnson ready for bigger role

College of Charleston freshman Cameron Johnson shoots against S.C. State’s Jalen White earlier this season. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Next man up.

It’s a common theme among teams all over the country. When a player goes down with an injury and is out of the lineup, the next man steps up to fill the void.

It’s a scenario that the College of Charleston faces as they travel to take on Elon Wednesday night.

Senior guard Anthony Stitt had knee surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus he suffered against Hofstra last week. Stitt, a three-year starter, was third on the team in scoring (9.4 points per game) and second in assists with 44. Stitt missed this past Saturday’s game with Delaware and is expected to be out of the lineup for two to four weeks.

With Stitt on the bench for the foreseeable future, true freshman Cameron Johnson is expected to make his second start Wednesday night against the Phoenix. Johnson, who has played in every game this season, is averaging 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds a game. The Athens, Ga., native is the Cougars’ top 3-point shooter at 42.2 percent.

“I think it was a shock to our system not to have Anthony Stitt in the lineup,” Grant said. “I don’t think we were ready to play without him against Delaware, but we’ve had a couple of practices to get used to the idea and get guys prepared for what we need them to do. It puts more pressure on Cameron Johnson and really the rest of the guys to step up and have a bigger role than they might have had before.”

Getting rest for Joe Chealey will be paramount moving forward. Chealey had to play 38 minutes in the Cougars’ 64-58 loss to the Blue Hens. Johnson played a season-high 36 minutes.

“There were a couple of times when I wanted to get Joe out of the game, but I couldn’t,” Grant said. “I was looking around to see who I could put in at the point (guard) and it was challenging. There are going to be a collection of guys that are going to have to take on a little bit more of the load. It’s going to be a challenge, but every challenge also offers an opportunity.”

Evan Bailey, another true freshman, could see his role change. With a glut of wing players, the 6-6 Bailey has been used primarily as a power forward. Often giving up several inches and many pounds to bigger, stronger, older players, Bailey has been playing out of position for most of the season. But with Stitt on the bench, Bailey will move back to his more natural small forward spot where his outside shooting can be fully utilized.

“We’re definitely going to see Evan’s playing time go up about 10 minutes a game,” Grant said. “We’ll have to use Canyon (Barry) a little more at the shooting guard at times, so we’ll need Evan to come in and play a little more at the small forward. It’ll put a little more pressure on him, but my guess is Evan is excited about the opportunity.”

Despite the Cougars’ eight-game losing skid, Grant remains optimistic.

“I’m not panicking. I’m not worried about the fact that we’re losing all these close games,” Grant said. “We are going to try and correct it. But if I’m telling the guys not to feel sorry for themselves I definitely can’t feel sorry for the program or for myself. It’s a process. The program is going to be really good. It’s going to take some time. I’m confident of that. Obviously, we’re going to be humbled first, but we’re going to be fine.”