|The Bucs experienced plenty of the Dominican Republic culture while on their five-day trip. (Charleston Southern Athletics)|
Charleston Southern went to the Dominican Republic to play three games, but coach Barclay Radebaugh wanted to go for something different.
Radebaugh pressed his players to do more than just learn about the culture – he wanted them to feel it.
“We wanted to help the people of the Dominican Republic,” Radebaugh said. “We visited an orphanage twice. We visited a sugar cane village. We went to church as a team.”
On the court, Charleston Southern went 3-0 during the five-day trip, but Radebaugh said the most important thing was the experience.
“It was a little different flavor on the trip,” he said. “I just really wanted us to step outside of ourselves a little bit.”
What Radebaugh learned: “We can really score the ball. Defensively, they spread us out and drove us, exposed some of the man-to-man weaknesses we have. We were able to play everybody, so we could evaluate our players. I was pleased with the way we rebounded the ball. But I saw some things we could work on.”
Who stood out: Jeremy Sexton. “He had a great, great summer. He never worked as hard as he worked this summer. And it paid off. He scored the ball, the best he's been since he came to Charleston Southern. He's really done a great job in the weight room, worked out twice a day all summer. And you could see it. He's taken it to another level.”
Biggest concern: “Defensively, we know we have to improve. Our rotations in the Dominican were really suspect. All of our defense we have to improve on, but particularly guarding the ball. Also, Jeremy Sexton is a senior and Mathiang Muo is a senior, but we lost leadership with Kelvin Martin.”
- Some coaches around the Big South think the Buccaneers could be the favorite next season. “We're not going to run from the fact that we feel like we have a good team,” Radebaugh said. “We can compete with anybody in our league. Our success will be totally predicated by how we develop defensively. If we develop defensively and we're able to rebound the ball, we have a chance to have a really good year.”
- Kelvin Martin led the team in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks last season, but he's gone. Radebaugh said Martin's individual numbers can be replaced, but they could have trouble with the leadership aspect. “He gave us such confidence,” Radebaugh said. “That is going to be hard to duplicate.”
- Charleston Southern brings back almost everyone else. Saah Nimley, a 5-foot-8 point guard, was one of the most underrated freshmen in the country last season, while Arlon Harper was another double-figure scorer in his first year. Mathiang Muo was a starter, and Paul Gombwer was the team's top rebounder on the trip.
- One surprise could be Allie Fullah, a junior college transfer originally from London. “He's a big, strong presence on the inside,” Radebaugh said of the 6-foot-8 big man. “He's adapted well to our pressing style, our dribble-drive system.”
- The only other newcomer is Malcolm Bernard, a Florida native who should contribute on the defensive side of things. With all the scoring in the lineup, that might be all the Buccaneers need. “He struggled offensively because of the speed of the game,” Radebaugh said. “He hasn't been through a full month of practice, or skill development.”
- The Buccaneers have non-conference games against Arizona, Alabama, Wichita State, Charleston, Charlotte and East Tennessee State (twice). Along with the foreign trip, Radebaugh should have his team ready for the Big South. “It should really prepare us well,” he said. “It's by far our toughest schedule.”
- Six of Charleston Southern's 12 losses last season came by five points or fewer. “We were starting three freshmen last year,” Radebaugh said. “Hopefully the experience will help us. They're not just sophomores; they're sophomores with a ton of experience.”