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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.
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 wellshoots, 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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