Only 42 days until its season opener at defending national champion Louisville and the College of Charleston men's basketball team was hard at work as the first official day of practice was held on Saturday morning at TD Arena.
CofC Head Coach Doug Wojcik, now in his second year, is excited for the earlier two-week start, voted on and approved by the NCAA legislation this summer.
"We will see how it goes this year," Wojcik said. "You can always adjust it in the future. But, I'm excited to do it now and manage things over the next 42 days leading up to the Louisville game (on Nov. 9).
During this six-week period, teams will be allowed up to 30 practices, and the change moves men's basketball rules in this area closer to the practice rules for women's basketball teams, which are allowed to begin practice 40 days before their first game.
"The change isn't too different, because we have been able to work with our kids in the summer two hours a week. But now, you can plan it out, and still give the players some rest during the week and academically have them take care of their studies, before we have to travel on the road."
Charleston returns 10 letterwinners from last year's 24-11 squad including four key starters in redshirt senior Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.), senior Anthony Thomas (Winston-Salem, N.C.), junior big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) and junior point guard Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.). Baru, who led the Southern Conference in rebounding averaging 8.3 boards per game a year ago, has already received preseason billing as a first-team performer in the new Colonial Athletic Association.
Does the early start help in preparation for a tough non-conference slate the Cougars' have lined up in the month of November in Louisville, Miami (Fla.), San Diego State and a potential matchup with either Creighton or Arizona State in the second round of The Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, Calif.?
"Everyone has the same advantage and it depends how you manage it with your individual team," Wojcik said. "I do think that it is nice that you are together with a purpose earlier as you work on team goals, chemistry and your subsitutions and rotations."
That returning chemistry will be bolstered by six new players – two of which have already had one year under their belt in Charleston in redshirt sophomore David Wishon (Concord, N.C.), who sat out a year in residency as a transfer from Tulsa, and redshirt freshman Canyon Barry (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
The other four new faces to the program include a talented freshman class headlined by point guard Joe Chealey (Orlando, Fla.), forward Terrance O'Donohue (Norcross, Ga.), combination forward/center Glen Pierre, Jr. (Orlando, Fla.) and guard Johnathan Burroughs-Cook (Memphis, Tenn.).
Wojcik's theme for the team's first practice was, ‘Be A Champion' with a heavy focus on defensive drills that have become signature to the program's current style of play. Last season, the Cougars ranked third in the SoCon in scoring defense (62.2) and led the league in field-goal percentage defense (40.8%), three-point field-goal percentage defense (30.1%) and rebounding margin (+5.4).
"This is a team that knows how to win," Wojcik said. "We won 24 games last year and there's a standard there. It's more wins than any other team in the CAA. Talking about winning is different than knowing how to win. We are certainly trying to become conference champions this year."