Post and Courier
February 13, 2012
The school records just keep falling for College of Charleston sophomore Dena O'Brien.
Saturday at the Tiger Paw Invitational indoor meet in Clemson, O'Brien broke her own record in the mile run with a time of 4:58.38, the third time she has run the event in under five minutes.
A week earlier at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York, O'Brien won the 5,000 meters in 16:40.39, breaking her own school record of 16:46, which she set when she won the event in the Southern Conference Indoor Championships.
O'Brien currently holds eight school records in cross country and indoor and outdoor track.
So what does O'Brien, a talented runner in high school, attribute to the continuing improvement on the college level?
"I've devoted more time to it. I do all the little things that add up," said O'Brien, who also is a solid student.
O'Brien said her workouts are pretty high mileage, 60-65 miles per week as well as workouts with weights. The team does not have its own track, so
the Cougars train in various locations. They may be run downtown, along the West Ashley Greenway, in I'on and even Magnolia Cemetery. They also work out at James Island Charter High School.
When O'Brien came to the College of Charleston, coach Amy Seago said her times at various distances didn't add up, and as a freshman O'Brien's cross country goal was to break 19 minutes
"We were saying this girl has 18-minute skills, but we didn't want to push too hard, take it one step at a time. She ran 18:05 in her first cross country meet for us. It was a lot of hard work over the summer."
Seago said O'Brien has made big strides in the last year and a half. She has gone from 19:12 to 16:21 in the 5,000-meter outdoor event. And Seago has tried to tone things down a bit for O'Brien and get her to understand the value of pacing.
Post and Courier
February 12, 2012
Daron Taylor, teaching pastor of St. Andrew's City Church and mission team member for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, has volunteered for three years as chaplain of the College of Charleston's men's basketball team.
“To be honest, most of what I do is not on game night,” Daron Taylor said. “It’s more about the relationship.” Taylor is a volunteer chaplain for the College of Charleston men’s basketball team. Here he encourages Antwaine Wiggins and other Cougars as they prepare to take the court against Western Carolina at TD Arena on Thursday in Charleston.
Taylor said he applies his Christian views; the team has no Jews or Muslims and seems to appreciate his presence.
"It's a delicate dance, so to speak," he said. "I make myself available. As I've done that, there are certainly those guys who pursue me" for spiritual guidance or fulfillment.
Often, it's coaches who want to add a religious component to the team experience. Taylor was invited by head coach Bobby Cremins to contribute to the basketball team, he said. And when Mark Byington took over after Cremins recently stepped aside for health reasons, he told the chaplain that he wanted him around, "until I hear otherwise from players," Taylor said.
Some professional football coaches or team owners have made no bones about their Christian faith and often promote it publicly.
Former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs gave the keynote address at the 2009 prayer breakfast organized by the Charleston Leadership Foundation and spoke openly about his faith.
Public displays of religious faith, such as players on the football field making the sign of the cross when they score, do no harm, Gibbs said.
Everyone is responsible for himself and chooses the ways in which his beliefs are expressed. Overt religiosity "doesn't bother me at all," he said. "I kind of admire that. There's plenty of the opposite."
Legendary NFL coach Tom Landry was a Sunday school teacher and member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
And increasingly, professional sports provides (or arranges for the provision of) opportunities for Christian worship. Chaplains such as Taylor will lead team members in prayer. Football players sometimes gather before a game for a brief worship session. And weekend services occasionally are offered to athletes in a chapel setting.
The combination of religion and sports has even spawned an organization called Athletes in Action Sports Ministry founded by Dave Hannah. Athletes in Action, an offshoot of the far-reaching Campus Crusade for Christ International, operates evangelistic ministries among professional sports teams and on college campuses, and mentors athletes, coaches and sport administrators.
For coaches, religion is a way to foster a sense of community. For chaplains and pastors, it's a way to nudge players closer to Christ, to show them that there's something greater than winning a game.
"Since 1966, AIA has committed to sharing a victory beyond competition that is found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ," the Athletes in Action website states.
"I tell basketball players two things they need to know," Taylor said. "That God loves you and, two, the world is not the way it's supposed to be, it's broken."
He avoids preaching, focusing instead on "just being available." He will say a quick prayer before the game, then recite the Lord's Prayer before the players hit the court.
"I never pray that we'll win," Taylor said. Rather, he asks God to protect the athletes from injury, grant them strength, make the team more unified.
It's more about character-building, he said.
"God is about drawing us to him to become more like him: just, fair, generous, loving, peaceful. Winning the Southern Conference can bring peace and joy, but it's temporary," Taylor said. "God uses wins and losses to draw us closer to him, to cause us to learn something about ourselves."
Post and Courier
February 12, 2012
There were plenty of reasons College of Charleston should have lost Saturday to Davidson. Poor free-throw shooting in the first half. Foul trouble. Injuries that left the Cougars short-handed.
But a resilient Cougars squad kept Southern Conference leader Davidson on its heels and managed to pull off an 86-78 upset before an exuberant homecoming sellout crowd of 5,112 at TD Arena.
Senior Antwaine Wiggins, who played everything from point guard
to center, picked up his fourth double-double of the season with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Cougars to their third straight win and fourth in the last five games.
Foul troubles cost the Cougars (16-10, 8-7) all three post players. Sophomore Trent Wiedeman, who had 17 points and six rebounds, went to the bench with 4:39 left; sophomore James Carlton followed him with 3:31 remaining; and freshman Adjehi Baru fouled out on a technical foul with a minute left. Starting point guard Andrew Lawrence was limited to only 22 minutes after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half. And junior Matt Sundberg sat out the game because of an injury suffered in the first half of Thursday's win over Western Carolina.
Interim coach Mark Byington, 4-2 since taking over for Bobby Cremins who is on a medical leave of absence, said this was a big win for a team.
"They needed to see a result like this," Byington said. "I told them in the lockerroom that I didn't want this to be the highlight of the season. I want our guys to have bigger goals and higher aspirations."
Charleston didn't back down from the Wildcats and took the lead for good at at the 12-minute mark of the first half on a steal by Lawrence who got the ball to Carlton for a dunk and a 16-15 lead. The Cougars expanded the lead to 12, but lead 38-33 at the break.
The Cougars quickly opened the gap in the second half and had a 17-point lead with 16 minutes left. But Davidson pulled within striking distance, and trailed by four with five minutes left, but Charleston managed to hit most of its free throws down the stretch to hang on.
Davidson (19-6, 13-2), the No. 2 free throw shooting team in the country, was 25 of 33 from the free throw line but missed five free throws in the final 4 1/2 minutes. Charleston, which has been hitting only 65 percent of its foul shots and was 2 for 10 in the first half, was 11 for 14 from the foul line over the final 4 1/2 minutes and finished by hitting 22 of 35 free throws.
"It was crazy and fun at at the same time," Byington said of the coaching challenges, which had him making offense for defense substitutions the final 10 minutes of the game. "I'm really happy for Antwaine. He played well. He kept us together. He's the silent leader. He showed great poised and stayed on an even keel."
Wiggins credited the crowd for helping the team pull out the win.
"The crowd was excellent, and our team played with a lot of intensity. We were focused and ready to play."
Ron Green, Jr.
February 11, 2012
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The thing that most bothered Davidson basketball coach Bob McKillop in the aftermath of his Wildcats' 86-78 Southern Conference loss to College of Charleston on Saturday at rambunctious TD Arena wasn't printed on the stat sheet.
But it had been imprinted on the Wildcats' actions early in a game in which they spent most of their time futilely trying to chase down the inspired Cougars.
Through 25 minutes, only three Davidson players had scored a field goal, none of them backcourt players. The result was a 17-point second-half hole that was too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
"Part of it was the aggressive defense by the Charleston guards," McKillop said. "But our guys were a little bit hesitant, which is very surprising. For a team that (was) 19-5, 13-1 in the Southern Conference to have a hesitancy at this point in the season, was a little bit surprising."
For the Wildcats (19-6, 13-2), it was a familiar theme. In earlier losses to Charlotte and Samford, McKillop pointed to his team's difficulty answering opponents' intensity. It was fundamental to the Wildcats' struggles against the Cougars (16-10, 8-7).
"They told our backcourt what to do. Our backcourt needed to respond to that. They have enough experience, enough talent. They should have been able to (respond)," McKillop said.
On a homecoming Saturday that featured a noisy sellout crowd, Charleston played the role of aggressor, even when foul trouble eventually put three Cougars out of the game. Matching Davidson's physical play, Charleston answered every challenge, getting a dynamic 25-point performance from Antwaine Wiggins, who started at forward but played four positions due to the Cougars' foul problems.
Wiggins' 3-pointer from the left corner as the shot clock was expiring with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining, was the final blow to the Wildcats' persistent comeback effort. After surrendering 14 consecutive points early in the second half to fall behind 54-37, Davidson got as close as three points with less than three minutes remaining only to have Wiggins pierce their rally.
"They had a number of daggers (today)," McKillop said.
Wiggins had back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half as the Cougars built a 12-point lead despite missing eight of 10 free throws before halftime. Davidson was able to close to 38-33 at the break and McKillop thought his team had found its bearing in a bruising game.
Post and Courier
February 11, 2012
A 3 p.m. matchup with Southern Conference leader Davidson preceded by Hall of Fame inductions will highlight Homecoming activities today at the College of Charleston.
The Cougars, who have won two straight games and three of their last four, will face the Wildcats in a game that will be televised on the SOCON Network. Davidson defeated the College of Charleston, 87-69, in January.
Davidson, 19-5 overall and 13-1, has already clinched one of the two South Division byes for next month's Southern Conference tournament. After snapping a four-game losing streak, the College of Charleston (15-10, 7-7) has moved into fourth place in the SoCon South, one game behind third-place Wofford and one game ahead of fourth-place Furman.
The Hall of Fame inductees are former men's basketball star Thaddeous Delaney (1994-97), former women's golfer Eve Lux VanderWeele (1994-97) and longtime sailing coach George Wood (1976-2007). The induction ceremonies are scheduled for 10 a.m.
Delaney, who was known as the "Shaq of the TAAC (Trans-America Athletic Conference)," ranks fifth in career scoring with 1,564 points and second in rebounding with 1,119. During his career, the Cougars amassed a 101-17 record and went to the NCAA tournament twice and played in the NIT twice.
Lux VanderWeele played in 44 career tournaments for the College of Charleston and was the individual medalist in three tournaments. She was a Curtis Cup alternate and played in four U.S. Women's Amateurs. Lux VanderWeele is the assistant women's golf coach at the College of Charleston.
Wood began his career as a volunteer sailing team advisor and eventually coached 60 All-Americans, four Collegiate Sailors of the Year and two Olympic medalists. He is the development officer for the C of C Foundation.
Post and Courier
February 10, 2012
Playing with a short bench that became even shorter in the first half, interim College of Charleston basketball coach Mark Byington offered apologies to Cougars fans for the team's offensive performance Thursday against Western Carolina.
But the Cougars managed to outlast the Catamounts for a 62-58 victory before a crowd of 3,637 at TD Arena.
Byington played only seven players, and junior forward Matt Sundberg, already playing on a gimpy ankle, went down hard in the first half and did not play in the final 20 minutes. Sophomore guard Trent Wiedeman sat out the game with an ankle injury after playing in 61 straight games for the College of Charleston. Two other starters were on the bench in street clothes, junior Willis Hall, who is out for the season with an ACL injury, and freshman Anthony Stitt, who is recovering from a broken hand but is expected to be back before the Southern Conference tournament.
But the Cougars got career highs from sophomore Nori Johnson, who led the team with 17 points, freshman Adjehi Baru, who collected 17 rebounds, and sophomore James Carlton, who blocked five shots in the first half.
"We're falling like flies," said Johnson, who hit 4 of 8 3-point attempts. "It's tough, but when you get a win like this under tough circumstances it makes memories. It gives us a good feeling, that when everybody comes back healthy, we'll be tough."
Charleston (15-10, 7-7 Southern Conference) got off to a slow start with the Catamounts (10-16, 4-9), taking a 12-3 lead. But the Cougars went on a 14-0 run, and the rest of the half was a back-and-forth battle.
Byington said he told the players at halftime to find a way to win and said they persevered when a lot of things were going wrong.
Antwaine Wiggins, who was 5 of 13 from the floor, hit his only 3-pointer of the game with 4:10 to go, putting the Cougars ahead for good at 50-48. Western Carolina was within a point, 52-51, but junior guard Andrew Lawrence drew a foul and began to take control at the free-throw line.
Lawrence scored seven points in the final 1:13, all but two coming from the foul line, and Wiggins added a pair of free throws down the stretch to offset a pair of 3-pointers by Keaton Cole that kept Western Carolina within striking distance.
"I apologize to all the purists. We may have set basketball back 60 years, maybe back to the days of the peach basket," Byington said. "We found a way. We made enough plays and our defense carried us. By no means was it a pretty win."
Byington said there were players playing in different positions and the Cougars never got into a rhythm. He said in the first half the team wasn't getting high-percentage shots, but that's something he will fix.
"I felt like we got more comfortable, we ran our offense more and guys made plays later in the shot clock. We're still young. We saw glimpses early in the season (of how good the team could be). We're sticking together and playing hard. Right now, that's all I can ask of them," Byington said.
Post and Courier
February 9, 2012
The College of Charleston was picked by the coaches while Georgia Southern was the choice of the media to win the 2012 Southern Conference baseball championship it was announced Wednesday.
The Cougars were picked by six of the 11 coaches and finished with 93 points, one point ahead of the Eagles. Samford got the other first-place vote and was picked to finish third with 83 points. The Citadel was picked eighth with 33 points.
Georgia Southern received 20 first-place votes in the media poll and had 269 points. The Cougars received three first-place votes and were second with 246 points and Elon was third with two first-place votes and 220 points. The Citadel also was picked eighth by the media, receiving 112 points.
Four College of Charleston players and two Citadel players were named to the SoCon preseason all-conference team as picked by the league's coaches.
Starting pitcher Christian Powell and outfielder Daniel Aldrich of the College of Charleston, and third baseman Drew DeKerlegand of The Citadel were first-team picks. Outfielder Nick Orvin of The Citadel, along with Cougars starting pitcher Josh Renfro and outfielder Marty Gantt, were named to the second team.
February 9, 2012
College of Charleston simply is not deep enough to overcome serious bouts of illness, injury and fatigue. It was the story of the fall for the Cougars.
Head coach Jamie Futrell watched his already short roster shrink with the loss of Anna Martin, first to a wrist injury and then to an appendectomy. About the same time, senior standout Leigh Whittaker traveled to Austria to play the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open on the Ladies European Tour (she gained an exemption by winning the Austrian Amateur during the summer). Upon return, jetlag and classroom catch-up left a fatigued Whittaker short of where she had been in the spring.
“That’s kind of how the fall went. We just never could get all the pieces together,” Futrell said. “I think we’re better than what our ranking is and everybody knock on all the wood that I can find that everyone stays healthy. If so, we could have a good spring.”
As the second half of the season draws near, Futrell notes that every indication from early practice sessions is that the Cougars' roster will be intact. It might even lead to a changing of the Southern guard, so to speak.
Chattanooga typically has dominated in the Southern Conference, earning the NCAA automatic qualifying spot out of the league for the past two years. The Mocs graduated the top two players in the conference last spring, and it gave other Southern contenders a bit of hope.
Based on recent history, College of Charleston might be in the best position for an upset. The Cougars finished runner-up to Chattanooga each of the past two years, and Futrell returns the same lineup that went to the East Regional as freshmen (and one sophomore) in 2010.
“It’s a wide-open field this year,” Futrell said. “Whoever is playing the best when they get there I think will be able to win. Hopefully that’s us.”
Post and Courier
February 7, 2012
If you're not prepared for the first major storm of the season and a hurricane throws a brushback pitch at your roof, you probably start stocking up on bottled water and canned grub at the first mention of a tropical depression starting with the letter "B."
College of Charleston head basketball coach Bobby Cremins came up the coast from Hilton Head on Monday, and we were all glad to see him smiling on the 10th day of an indefinite medical leave.
But when a 64-year-old man says this is his second clash with career "burnout" and that the latest episode "didn't happen overnight", it's time to buy flashlights.
This is at least the beginning of the end of Cremins' tenure with the Cougars, a time to evaluate the most likely four post-Cremins options for the program. Too bad, because a dynamic coach with Hall of Fame credentials gained while winning three ACC titles at Georgia Tech gives Charleston value beyond victories.
"I'm really happy where everything is right now," Cremins said in a TD Arena room aside John Kresse Court.
Which is better than he felt on Jan. 27, the day the school announced Cremins was taking a break.
"I had nothing," Cremins said. "I had no gas."
Maybe and hopefully Cremins will be back at Charleston in some leadership capacity. No way the Cougars get such juicy non-conference home games without him. He put fans in the seats and put charm and effort into making the Charleston Classic a success for ESPN.
The interim head coach is 2-2 since Cremins left, with extra credit for winning two of three Southern Conference games on the road last week.
With nine years on the Charleston bench dating to the Tom Herrion years and a solid reputation as a recruiter, Byington at least deserves a long look.
Clearly, Byington is Cremins' favorite option.
"Mark has put us right back in this thing," he said.
Until Andrew Goudelock broke in with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, A.J. was the Cougars' only NBA player. Recently retired after a 13-year career, Johnson repeatedly has said he wants to coach and helped the Philadelphia 76ers' coaching staff during the 2011 playoffs.
The 37-year-old Charleston native would get support from lots of fans of Kresse glory years that included three NCAA tournament appearances.
Presumably, the school hired athletic director Joe Hull to make decisions like this. Hull made a very good hire in tabbing Monte Lee as baseball coach, but inherited Cremins.
Of course, an official committee will offer advice and Charleston might hire a search firm. If Hull guides the process, he might lean on his ACC roots and pick a top assistant from within that conference.
Or try to find another older, friendly coach still capable enough to win games and sell tickets.
The local guy
Want one of the most overachieving head coaches in mid-major college basketball this season?
Barclay Radebaugh is just up I-26 at Charleston Southern. The 1987 East Tennessee State grad also has worked at ETSU (for Les Robinson), Wofford, Furman, South Carolina (for Eddie Fogler), Winthrop (for Gregg Marshall) and Miami.
Ideally, Cremins comes back for a few more years.
But whenever the search for Cremins' long-term successor begins, harmony disappears.
The Cougar Family will split in four directions or more.
That's a good thing, a sign that Bobby Cremins coaching before good crowds in a wonderful House That Kresse Built has made Charleston one of the most attractive jobs in any college basketball conference that historically has received only one NCAA tournament bid per year.
Post and Courier
February 7, 2012
Bobby Cremins returned to the College of Charleston campus Monday to put to rest rumors about his health and return the focus to the Cougars basketball program.
Looking happy and relaxed, Cremins, 64, said his decision on Jan. 27 to take a medical leave of absence came about because he was "physically exhausted, fatigued and lacked the energy to coach our basketball team."
"This didn't happen overnight. It was building," said Cremins, who said he experienced a similar situation when he was coaching at Georgia Tech. That bout with exhaustion, he said, occurred at the end of the season. "The bottom line is a leader has to be able to lead his team. I recognized I was not able to do that."
Cremins said he underwent medical tests to rule out other health issues. His physician in Charleston, whom he declined to name, told Cremins he needed to step away from the game immediately or risk jeopardizing his health further.
His doctor's orders have been rest and exercise. Cremins said he has played tennis and golf and has been taking lengthy walks while staying at a home he owns on Hilton Head Island. Cremins said he would have liked to stay in town, but his downtown Charleston home is situated too close to TD Arena.
He spent a couple of hours in his office Monday, catching up on emails and visiting with friends before addressing the media. Later, Cremins spoke to the team. He said one of
the highlights of being in town was unexpectedly running into senior Antwaine Wiggins on campus and "seeing the smile on his face."
While keeping his distance from the program, Cremins has kept up with the team's fortunes. Cremins said he has timed his long walks to take place during Cougars basketball games. Upon returning, he would ask his wife Carolyn to tell him not whether the team won or lost but how they played and he could judge from that. His walk last Thursday did not last long enough to cover the two overtimes in the Cougars' 99-98 loss at Elon, so he did listen to the radio broadcast of the final 10 minutes.
Cremins said he is trying to give interim coach Mark Byington room to handle the progam as he sees fit.
The Cougars are 2-2 since Byington took over and 14-10 overall and have six games remaining before the Southern Conference Tournament. Charleston plays host to Western Carolina at 8 p.m. Thursday and faces league-leading Davidson at home Saturday at 3 p.m.
"Mark and I talk almost every day. We do not talk basketball. He's in charge. I basically ask him if there's anything I can do," Cremins said. He added that he has sent text messages to team captain Andrew Lawrence and asked him to forward them to other team members.
"I think it's important I keep my distance. Mark is in charge of all basketball-related issues. I just want to be there if he needs anything.
"The team has helped me the most. This team has played some great basketball. It's so great to see those guys respond the way they have."
February 7, 2012
Cremins said Monday he was physically exhausted and advised by his doctor to make drastic changes or risk jeopardizing his long-term health. That's when the popular coach, famous for his blinding white hair, knew he'd have to make one of the most difficult decisions of his career.
"I had nothing. I had no gas. The tank was empty," Cremins said Monday. "The kids knew. They could feel it."
So Cremins went on an indefinite medical leave of absence — one that the 64-year-old coach didn't seem ready to end anytime soon.
"My energy level is still not where it needs to be, but I'm definitely feeling a lot better," he said.
The coach said he has had several tests done and nothing life-threatening was uncovered.
Cremins came to campus from his home on Hilton Head to answer emails, complete paperwork and see athletic department colleagues. He planned to talk with the team before practice and visit more friends Monday evening before heading back to his island house about two hours south.
Cremins also wanted to set to rest whispers of more serious medical conditions that might've caused him to step aside. Cremins said it was exhaustion, plain and simple.
"I wish I could explain it," he said. "It's in my DNA."
He joked that he and Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, who used to have a home on Hilton Head, could've recuperated together. Calhoun took a medical leave from the Huskies last week for spinal stenosis.
Cremins would not discuss when or if he might return to basketball. "I'm not even thinking about that," he said.