WILMINGTON, N.C. – It might not show in the win column, but there is a sense of rejuvenation at UNC-Wilmington.
Yes, the Seahawks are only 3-7, but they did beat 8-3 Illinois State on the road, and have also hung tight with Maryland, Davidson and Wake Forest. Another example of renewed excitement in the program was Monday’s comeback win over Campbell, capped by a Matt Wilson tip-in with 1.4 seconds left.
“It means a lot,” junior forward Keith Rendleman said. “Going into the season, we knew we had a great freshman class. This was more about coming together. It may help us make a run in this league.”
After last season’s 13-18 campaign, head coach Buzz Peterson welcomed eight freshmen into the fold this year. Adam Smith has been the star, averaging 15.3 points and starting at the point guard spot. Cedrick Williams and K.K. Simmons have also been staples in the lineup, while Craig Ponder was the team’s best facilitator until an injury sidelined him.
Freddie Jackson provides a boost off the bench. Luke Hager, the team’s highest-rated recruit, will take a medical redshirt. Nate Anderson and Dylan Sherwood give minutes here and there, as well.
“We can’t hold back,” sophomore Dante Morales said. “Some of us only have two more years, three more years. We’ve got to come together.”
Fortunately, there is only one senior and two juniors in the rotation, meaning Peterson has the pieces to be an upper-half Colonial team within the next couple of years. The Seahawks haven’t had a winning season since 2007-08, when T.J. Carter led Benny Moss’ troops to a 20-13 record.
While UNCW might struggle to another poor season this year, there is certainly optimism in the locker room.
“We’re a way better team than we were at the beginning of the year,” Rendleman said. “We’re becoming more of a team now.”
Bouncing back from a 28-turnover performance against VCU to beat a talented Campbell team is something Seahawks teams of the past few years would have trouble doing. They took care of the ball, only giving it up five times. They also overcame horrendous shooting and a 2-for-12 outing from Smith to get the win.
Getting a win without hitting on all cylinders bodes well for UNC-Wilmington in the future. Peterson is excited about the possibilities in the program.
“We know what it’s like now,” Peterson said. "I think it will help them, give them some of the confidence they need.”
Photo: US Presswire