I can only recall watching the College of Charleston on TV a handful of times. Thus, it wouldn’t have been fair to write a Summer Session article about the Cougars. In an attempt to compensate, I requested an interview with the Cougars’ second-year head coach Doug Wojcik, who was kind enough to chat with me during this busy recruiting period.
Wojcik’s importance to the CAA probably exceeds the young collegians who now author this blog. Next March, when we look up at the CAA Championship banners in the rafters of
The Coliseum First Mariner Arena, we will understand that Wojcik was a starting guard on the prolific Navy basketball teams that championed the original CAA in 1985 and 1986. Wojcik, alongside Hall of Fame center David Robinson and Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory, led the Midshipmen to the Elite Eight in 1986.
Some quick thoughts on C of C next year: the general consensus places the Cougars among the top four teams in the nine-team CAA. The Cougars lost Andrew Lawrence, a decorated leader who was one of two men’s college players to represent his country (Great Britain) in the 2012 Olympics (the other: Matthew Dellavedova).
Losing Lawrence’s production (13.5 points, 3.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds per game) and leadership hurts, as does losing forward Trent Wiedeman (8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds per game). The Cougars best two players might be juniors Anthony Stitt and Adjehi Baru. Wojcik also expects seniors Anthony Thomas and Willis Hall to take a step forward. If the team can continue to make gains in the defensive and rebounding areas, they should fit right in with the “rock fight” style, and have a chance to contend right away.
The six freshmen will be counted on for help in the backcourt (ball-handling was shaky last year), and should add depth to the frontcourt. Here’s a Q&A with Wojcik from March, courtesy of The Post and Courrier’s Andrew Miller, on the 2012-2013 season.
On the rich basketball traditional at the College of Charleston:
“Well like any school with good tradition, there’s great support. We’re fortunate, in some ways, that we don’t have football. We’re the sport that everyone sort of leans towards, with baseball. It’s kind of a tourist city, ranked number one in the world as a tourist city. We have a lot of transit people who move here from the northeast and Chicago. So you’re able to adopt a lot of fans in those winter months when you’re the one athletic event during that time of the year.”
On the move to the CAA as a chance to grow the program:
“Yeah, I like the move to the CAA. If you look at it in a broad way, if you’re college athletics, if you know you’re at a school that wants to move and get better, then it’s a good call. You know, no different from the VCUs of the world and the George Masons. I totally understand that. We’re able to kind of jump in there and expand the footprint of the CAA. I feel a personal touch to the CAA, having played in the original first two years in the Colonial. So I think we’re helping them and they’re helping us.”
On the chance to compete for a championship, as early as this season:
“I think we’ll have a good team. We lose a very good offensive player in Andrew Lawrence. But yeah, we played Old Dominion, and I know that was an odd year for them, but they were still talented. We played Towson in our opener, and then we played George Mason in the CBI so we got a taste of the Colonial in the first game in November, in December, and then in March. So we’ll be competitive. Now what does that mean? Where do we end up? There are a lot of variables in that. I can’t say that I really know the league. I don’t know the teams. I’ve seen Delaware on tape, and I saw Northeastern on tape as we prepared for the George Mason game. But other than that, I don’t know where we stack up against everybody else.”
On the Cougars 13-3 record away from TD Arena, and keys to winning on the roads:
“I’ve got to give Andrew Lawrence a lot of credit for that. I really do. I felt like he was just kind of a calm guy on the road, but I will tell you it says a lot about my team in terms of being focused and playing in hostile environments. So (Lawrence) gets some credit, I thought he was a really big guard. But I think we’re pretty mature, I really do. I’ve got good balance on my team. You could say we’re experienced, we’ve got three seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, and six freshmen. So I think any time you’re at a mid-major place, if you can have balance and you can retain kids and you’re getting older and experienced every year, you’ve got a chance. I don’t know, I thought there were less distractions on the road. The kids really kind of responded to all that.”
How the move to the CAA affects travel:
“The only way it affects us is really when there’s bad weather. Here’s what I can say about that. I came from Conference USA. We stretched from East Carolina to Marshall to Southern Miss to Texas El-Paso. That’s three time zones, and we found a way to make it work. And people are going to love coming to Charleston. Your fans, the folks in Boston, are going to love coming down here in January.”
More about Charleston as a destination:
“Well I’ve coached at six schools, and at those six schools I’ve moved quiet a bit. It’s just the mixture of weather, water, hotels and history, restaurants. It’s a pretty special place.”
On the 16-game home-and-home conference schedule for the 2013-2014 season.
“Well we did that, almost, in the Southern. I think kids just play games. I think they just adjust to how we prepare. Quite honestly, I’m looking forward to 18 games. I think it’s really hard for places like ourselves, you know, the Elons, to schedule just because we don’t necessarily have the money to buy games. BCS schools are not going to play us all that often so it’s hard to schedule and still try to deal with the RPI. My goal in scheduling nonconference is to put myself in a position to be an at-large NCAA team, or an NIT team, and it takes a lot of work to put that kind of scheduling together.”
How the experience of playing with Andrew Lawrence will help Anthony Stitt in the future:
“I think he got a tremendous amount of experience. In the end Anthony Stitt could end up having a better career than Andrew Lawrence. That’s no knock on anybody. Andrew Lawrence was a two-year starter, and Anthony Stitt’s going to end up being a three-and-a-half-year starter. I think he learned how to be mature, the heart and soul, and that’s quite a process for kids. Some kids are just naturally born into that, and other kids have to acquire it. Anthony is definitely a competitor. He walks in as a junior, as well as Adjehi Baru, and they’re very, very experienced juniors.”
On Stitt as, potentially, the Cougars’ top playmaker:
“There are only so many kids that can come off of ball screens and make plays, and he’s one of those kids. He can make shots off of screens, he can break a guy down. Obviously, Adjehi Baru is an option for me, Anthony Thomas is an option for me, Willis Hall is an option for me. But (Stitt) probably has more points in his career than anyone on my team right now, so he’ll be called on to do a lot of things.”
On expectations for Baru, the Southern Conference’s leading rebounder last season:
“I think he’s going to mature and develop like any normal kid should mature and develop. The one thing Adjehi has that a lot of kids don’t have is a very, very high motor. He plays very hard. He can play for long stretches of time. That’s a skill. So I just think his feel for the game, his offensive feel, his offensive ability to score, you know, will just improve based on playing.”
On coaching Canyon Berry, son of NBA legend Rick Barry:
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I’m at an age where I can really appreciate Rick Barry. And his mom, I know her jersey’s in the rafters at William & Mary, so both of his parents were really, really good players. It’s pretty cool.”
Expectations for freshmen — will they play?
“Yeah I think so. There will always be injuries, there’s always sickness. There are highs and lows of the long college season. The beautiful thing is having them here this summer, and just realizing that they have to learn how to manage their time and things like that. It’s just such a great proving ground a great situation for us to prepare to and get them on the right track.”
The next post will feature a rundown of news and notes from around the league.