CONWAY — They are the last of the bunch. The two remaining engineers of Coastal Carolina’s basketball resurgence the past few years. Considerable contributors to the foundation the Chanticleers hope to build upon for years to come.
And this night is at least partly about them.
Senior guards Kierre Greenwood and Anthony Raffa are the headliners as Coastal honors its senior class prior to its final regular-season home game Wednesday night against Winthrop inside The HTC Center.
Senior reserves Charles Ashford and Bisi Addey will also be recognized before tip-off, but as it has been most of the season, the spotlight will be on the veteran backcourt leaders who are still intent on making one more postseason push.
“They were a part of that three-year run,” CCU coach Cliff Ellis said, referring to the Chants’ 75 wins over the last three seasons. “That run started when Kierre was a freshman. Raffa sat out that year, and the next year he came in and helped keep the ball rolling.
“That backcourt had significant success at a time when Coastal was struggling. There had been one winning season in about 15 years before that 28-win breakout, so they were part of changing the dynamics of Coastal Carolina basketball. We have to understand that and acknowledge that.”
A four-year starter at point guard, Greenwood’s arrival in the 2009-10 season coincided with the Chants’ breakout 28-7 campaign and first of two straight regular-season Big South championships.
He tore his anterior-cruciate ligament late the next season during another 28-win run, but returned to help Coastal to a 19-12 finish last year. Overall, he ranks 13th in Big South history with 472 career assists (second in program history) and is 14th on the Chants’ career scoring list with 1,159 points.
“Anything I’ve ever accomplished here, it means a lot,” Greenwood said before practice Monday. “I didn’t really have too many accomplishments back in high school, so … anything I’ve done here to help this team, and the coaches helping me, I’ll cherish it [and] just be humble about it. I appreciate everything I’ve gained from Coastal.”
Raffa, meanwhile, has needed only three seasons at Coastal to move into ninth place on the school’s career scoring list (1,406 points). He comes into this game second in the Big South in scoring for the season at 18.8 points per game, trailing only VMI’s Stan Okoye (20.6).
“My main focus was to get a college degree, and I got that last year. I can’t complain,” Raffa said. “In my three years here, I went to the Big South championship – unfortunately we lost, but that was a great experience – playing in the NIT, winning regular-season championships, I can’t forget about that stuff. I think I’ve had a good career here. Hopefully this year we can [do] better and go to the NCAA tournament and we’ll go out on a bang.”
In regard to that matter, the Chants (13-13, 8-6 Big South) are still very much leaning on their senior guards.
Raffa and Greenwood have been the stabilizing forces – as best they can – throughout an up-and-down, inconsistent, mostly unstable season as Coastal transitions to what will be the program’s new core for the next several years.
With two regular-season games remaining, the Chants are mathematically eligible but likely out of contention for a top-two seed in the conference’s South Division, which would net them a first-round bye in the tournament. So that means Coastal will have to win four games in the tournament next week to keep its season going and secure a long-awaited NCAA tournament berth.
That is, of course, the missing line on the resume of both Greenwood and Raffa, and while this Coastal team hasn’t played quite like its recent predecessors, that goal is still very much on their minds.
“As leaders with me and Kierre, we’ve got to teach these young guys because we’ve been there – we’ve been in this situation, we’ve been in Big South championships,” Raffa said. “We’ve just got to tell them, ‘Guys, it’s our senior year … and it’s do or die. If we lose, we’ve got no more college basketball. You guys have three more years, so we don’t want to go out like that.’ We’re just giving them little scenarios that might help them, might build their confidence going into the tournament.”
And what better time to signal that the Chants are up to the task than on Senior Night. Both players will have family in the stands and spoke of the significance of the evening.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” Greenwood said. “I’m passionate about this game. This is a must-win for me.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.