Adjehi Baru, the College of Charleston's star freshman basketball player and worldly Ivory Coast native, speaks English, French and Spanish. Before a practice this week, Baru was asked if he also speaks "Cremins."

"Not so well," he said with a smile.

Antwaine Wiggins is very fluent. The Cougars' fifth-year senior has heard head coach Bobby Cremins scream, praise, motivate and nag every which way.

"Sometimes I'll try to get him going," Wiggins said. "Like he's always on us about our schoolwork. So maybe he'll tell us to go lift weights after practice and I'll say, 'I need to go study, Coach, because you always say education comes first.' And he'll be like, 'No, you're not getting out of this.' "

Through it all, Wiggins has been a versatile cog in an improving program and enters tonight's home game against Tennessee enjoying a pair of new roles: leader and leading scorer. Wiggins wants the responsibility and, through ups and downs, Cremins is loyal to Wiggins.

"This is his team," Cremins said of the Cougars, off to a somewhat surprising 7-1 start. "This is Antwaine's team."

Program ownership doesn't necessarily mean smooth sailing, even in the Bahamas. Wiggins struggled throughout the first of Charleston's three games at the Atlantis resort last month, making 1 of 6 shots from the field while going 0 for 3 on free throws in a 74-63 loss to Central Florida.

He bounced back to help the Cougars defeat UNC Asheville and Massachusetts before coming home and is averaging 17.4 points per game.

"The knock on Antwaine is that he's an inconsistent shooter," Cremins said. "He had a rough time in the Bahamas. Our fans in the Bahamas were yelling at me to take him out. Thank God he saved me, because it was getting a little ugly there."

Behind the luxurious Atlantis scenes, Cremins was encouraging.

"It was tough," Wiggins said. "When you're not hitting shots, it's easy to get down. But coach Cremins told me to keep shooting because the team needed me. I really took that into consideration."

It seems so long ago when Wiggins made a name for himself by clamping down on Davidson sharpshooter Stephen Curry in Charleston victories at Davidson and in the SoCon tournament.

That was during the 2008-2009 season when Wiggins was a sophomore, a year before he missed an entire season recovering from a knee injury (torn ACL) suffered during a September workout.

"It was a great experience," Wiggins said of his battles with Curry, now with the NBA's Golden State Warriors. "Every time he came out against me, I knew he was going to come out shooting, and I knew he was one of the best players in college basketball. That gave me more motivation to come out and play my best defense and help my team win."

Tonight, Cremins' 6-7 "point forward" gets a shot at the program he followed closely while playing high school basketball in Greeneville, Tenn. It looked lopsided the orange way when former Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl agreed to a home-and-home series with the upstart Cougars, but Charleston should make it two in a row over Tennessee.

Partly because the Vols aren't good.

Mostly because "Antwaine's team" so far has filled gaps left by Los Angeles Lakers draft pick Andrew Goudelock, guard Donavan Monroe and forward Jeremy Simmons.

Wiggins says Cremins has been there for him "like another father."

Just like a conflicted parent, Cremins describes many of Wiggins' 3-point attempts as "interesting."

"I'm going to start losing my hair because of Antwaine, I'm almost positive," Cremins said.

"He drives me crazy. But I do love him."

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or