It's a brand new ballgame at the College of Charleston's TD Arena, and there are plenty of questions to be answered before the season tips off Friday against Holy Cross.
Who is going to fill the gap left by career scoring leader Andrew Goudelock (2,571 points), drafted by the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers? How do the Cougars replace starters Donavan Monroe (1,382) and Jeremy Simmons (1,031), not to mention junior Willis Hall, who suffered a torn ACL during preseason workouts?
The answer, Cougars fans are hoping, is freshman Adjehi Baru, a highly recruited 6-9 talent with a 7-5 wingspan from the Ivory Coast. Baru, who turned down offers from several ACC schools, finally received official clearance from the NCAA on Oct. 20, bringing sighs of relief in light of Hall's injury that occurred two weeks earlier.
College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, entering his sixth season at the school, cautions that fans should not expect too much of Baru early on.
"I love Adjehi, but he's got some things to learn," Cremins said of Baru, who averaged 19.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots as a senior at The Steward School in Richmond, Va. In two exhibition games against NCAA Division II teams, Baru has averaged 11.0 points and 8.5 rebounds.
"He's a great kid, a great student. He's a joy to coach, but now we have to teach him some things. We've got some work to do with him, but he's the type of young man that you love to go to work for."
The Cougars should be solid in the post with Baru and sophomore Trent Wiedeman, who started the final 14 games when Simmons was sidelined because of a blood clot in his shoulder. Wiedeman averaged 11.4 points and 8.3 rebounds during that period. The wing also looks to be solid with fifth-year senior Antwaine Wiggins, who stands 6-7 and has a 7-2 wingspan. Wiggins averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds last season.
Point guard should be a strength with junior Andrew Lawrence, who averaged 5.8 points while playing 24.0 minutes a game last season. A native of England, Lawrence spent the summer competing against NBA-level players while making the final cut for the Great Britain national team.
The biggest question mark in the starting lineup is at shooting guard, and sophomore Jordan Scott has earned the nod. Scott played only 4.1 minutes a game last year. But he worked hard over the summer and has been impressive in preseason practice, leading the team in scoring in both of the exhibition games.
Cremins said he would love to have an eight- or nine-man rotation, but who will get playing time off the bench is still up in the air. Anthony Stitt, a 6-1 freshman, will be first up at guard and was impressive running the team in an exhibition against Limestone.
Sophomore James Carlton, who had a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) against Limestone, will be the first man to come in as a frontcourt sub. Sophomore Nori Johnson and freshman Trevonte Dixon also could see action. Matt Sundberg, a redshirt junior, has been sidelined with an ankle injury.
After several years with a guard-oriented offense, Cremins is having to change his philosophy.
"I've been running that Drew Goudelock offense, and my staff has been reminding me we don't have Drew on the team any more," Cremins said. "We have to find more of an inside power game."