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College Basketball

INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Rebuilt and Ready to Go

by Kelli Anderson

Posted: Wed March 4, 1998

 
In the aftermath of the College of Charleston's 72-63 win over Florida International in the Trans America Athletic Conference tournament final in Charleston last Saturday, it was hard to pick out the game's heroes. One knew that Cougars coach John Kresse was in the house because his distinctive New York-accented voice, a mixture of Rick Pitino's and Jimmy Durante's, could be heard on a courtside microphone, thanking the fans for their support. But most of his players had been swallowed up by the crowd of average-sized citizens.

  CB03091.JPG (28k)
President went airborne to score 15 points as Charleston won the TAAC title and a return trip to the NCAAs.    (Jim Gund)
The Cougars' diminutive stature—the starting lineup includes two 5'11" guards and a 6'6" center—is only one reason that Kresse was among the many who had doubted that Charleston (24-5) would return to the NCAAs this season. There was also the unsettling fact that the Cougars had lost four starters (including their first NBA draftee, Kings point guard Anthony Johnson) from the squad that upset Maryland in the first round of the 1997 tournament. "When you lose the kind of size and experience we had last year, you think maybe you have to rebuild," says Kresse, "but that didn't turn out to be the case. Now I'm convinced this is a darn good basketball team."

The Cougars may be small, but they are quick and stingy. They were second only to Princeton in fewest points allowed per game in the latest NCAA rankings, but unlike the Tigers they don't have any particular use for the shot clock. And it's not just guards Shane McCravy and Jermel President who push the pace. Sedric Webber, Charleston's 200-pound junior center who was named the TAAC's co-player of the year, leads the Cougars in scoring (15.2 a game) and rebounding (8.1), and was co-leader in the conference in steals (2.3). During the TAAC tournament he bettered his average with 19.0 points a game despite having the flu, which he wouldn't fight with medication because his Pentecostal faith doesn't allow it. However, Sedric adheres to the strictures of his religious beliefs less fervently than his parents, James and Marion, who have never seen him play at Charleston despite living only a couple of hours away in Columbia, S.C., because their faith doesn't approve of competition. "They may not be here, but they still support me," says Sedric. "We're very close."

Webber, who grew up in the Bronx before moving to Columbia as a teenager, has played not only out of his parents' sight but also out of position for most of his career. "I always wanted to be like Scottie Pippen," says Webber, who like the Bulls forward does everything well—shoots, rebounds, passes and plays defense. "In fact, I thought about not coming here because his number, 33, wasn't available."

Short of ripping the number 33 jersey off Marc Himes, who's now a senior, Kresse did everything he could to lure Webber, who settled for number 23. He scheduled Webber's recruiting visit to Charleston during a time when the New York Knicks were in town for training camp. "I think every New York connection helped," says Kresse, who's a New Yorker too. "Sed and I speak the same language. We walk and talk a little faster than most."

A frantic tempo could be exactly what the undersized Cougars need to rise above their first-round opponent in the national tournament. Can they pull an upset again? Kresse has no doubt. "In the NCAAs," he says, "anything can happen."

Issue date: March 9, 1998

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Rebuilt and Ready to Go

Return of the Spiders

Be Gentle. It's Their First Time

Victory Was in The Stars

Weekly Seed Report

Spotlight: Robert (Tractor) Traylor

 
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