Coastal Carolina

‘We have a lot pieces’: CCU basketball team undergoing makeover, youth movement

Coastal Carolina senior forward Zac Cuthbertson, pictured in a game earlier this season, scored a team-high 21 points in his final collegiate game on Wednesday night. CCU lost to DePaul in the semifinals of the CBI tournament.
Coastal Carolina senior forward Zac Cuthbertson, pictured in a game earlier this season, scored a team-high 21 points in his final collegiate game on Wednesday night. CCU lost to DePaul in the semifinals of the CBI tournament. file photo

The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team lost just three players to graduation off last year’s squad, yet it has seven new additions this season.

The team has increased from 12 to 15 players this season after coach Cliff Ellis was left with a smaller roster when some recruits weren’t admitted into CCU last year, and the team features six freshmen or redshirt freshmen and a sophomore.

“We’ve got a lot of pieces,” Ellis said. “We have veteran guys mixed with a lot of new faces. New guys coming into the mix are really giving us the depth I think we need. We’re going to be a work in progress, but I think for the first time going into the Sun Belt [Conference] era we have the depth we need. We have a lot of depth, it’s just young depth.”

He believes his young players will be a foundation to build on.

“We’ll be one of the youngest teams in the league, but in time it’s going to pay off,” Ellis said. “Going into the Sun Belt it’s a work in progress . . . You need a young class and let them grow, this is going to be that young class, let them grow.”

The Chants lost guards Jaylen Shaw and Christian Adams, as well as forward Demario Beck, to graduation, and also lost their third-leading scorer last year as Artur Labinowicz, an explosive and athletic guard who shot 34 percent from three-point range, transferred to Evansville for his junior season, according to Ellis.

“He was a talented guy,” Ellis said. “We wish him well, it’s just part of what we go through here. It’s a day and time when a lot of kids transfer and a lot of one-and-dones. It’s a different era of college athletics.”

Though Coastal has lost three of its top four scorers from last season, it returns 6-7 senior Zac Cuthbertson, who essentially tied Shaw for the team lead in points with 14.7 points per game.

The versatile and lengthy forward Cuthbertson shot 45 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range last season and also averaged 6.8 rebounds.

He has added 10 pounds of lean muscle in the offseason and is now 195 pounds.

“I had to go in the weight room to start off. I had to gain some weight,” Cuthbertson said. “Some of those guys were big last year so I had to go out of my way to gain some weight and fight with them down low a little bit. The offense will come, I just had to focus on defense and getting stronger.”

In addition to Cuthbertson the Chants return some experience inside with 6-9, 240-pound senior Josh Coleman and 6-8, 240-pound junior Amidou Bamba, who combined to average more than nine points and seven rebounds in about 30 combined minutes per game.

The Chants have added 6-8, 210-pound junior Tommy Burton from Southern Idaho Community College for more inside production.

Devante Jones of New Orleans, who redshirted as a freshman last season, is expected to take over point guard duties from Shaw, and freshman 6-6 guard Ebrima Dibba from Sweden and St. Benedict’s Prep School in New Jersey is also expected to be a playmaker.

Freshman David Kralj, a 6-4 freshman from Slovenia, is a shooter with FIBA international basketball experience. Freshman 6-3 guard David Pierce may also produce.

Other returners who could see a larger role this season include seniors Ajay Sanders and Matt Lindsey of North Myrtle Beach, junior Tyrell Gumbs-Frater and sophomore Tre Brown, who are all guards.

“I think we’ve got good chemistry to start off with,” Cuthbertson said. “I think the new players will bring a lot to the table as far as what we need.”

Cuthbertson said the team has more athleticism to run the floor this year, and Ellis promises to play fast.

“I know it will be an exciting brand of basketball because we’re going to up tempo, we’re going to play fast and try to get after you,” Ellis said.

The CCU men’s and women’s preseason basketball celebration dubbed Hoopla is Nov. 1 at the HTC Center, and the men’s 2018-19 schedule begins at home against Ferrum College on Nov. 6.

The schedule, which was released Monday, includes 13 home games among 30 scheduled contests, highlighted by a Dec. 5 game against Hampton and three-game homestand early in Sun Belt Conference play from Jan. 10-19 against Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Appalachian State. Reigning Sun Belt tournament champion Georgia State visits the HTC Center on Feb. 23.

Coastal has its three most challenging non-conference games on the road this season at South Carolina on Nov. 30, at Wofford on Dec. 9 and at College of Charleston on Dec. 21. CCU is also at the Northern Kentucky tournament from Nov. 16-18, when it will face Manhattan, UNC Asheville and Northern Kentucky.

“We’re going to have to dig in fast and early,” Ellis said. “It will be a demanding schedule and season in which I think we’ll see some good moments out of our team.”

Men’s basketball season tickets are on sale and every seat in the HTC Center is now $175 for all 13 home games under a new pricing model. Call the ticket office at 843-347-8499, or visit the Arcadia Hall Ticket Office or for tickets or more information.

Baseball reloads

It appears the CCU baseball team has sufficiently reloaded for another run at a Sun Belt Conference championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

The 2018 recruiting class for the Chants, who last season won the Sun Belt tournament title and hosted an NCAA regional, has been ranked in the top 25 in the nation by three different major college baseball websites and publications.

The class is ranked as high as No. 14 by D1Baseball and is also ranked No. 18 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 25 by Baseball America. CCU is once again the lone Sun Belt team ranked in the top 25 by any of the three.

The class is highlighted by three signees who were all drafted in June’s 2018 MLB Draft – Nick Lucky (14th round by the Boston Red Sox), Garrett McDaniels (30th round by the Miami Marlins) and Jacob Maton (38th round by the Seattle Mariners).

The Chanticleers’ class is comprised of 15 newcomers, including 12 freshmen and three junior college transfers.

The D1Baseball Recruiting Class Rankings were compiled in consultation with the Prep Baseball Report. D1Baseball also sought input from recruiting coordinators and scouts in an attempt to balance instant impact with long-term potential. The ranking is based on newcomers on campus this fall.

Hardeman on top

Coastal Carolina can boast about having the top female athlete in the Sun Belt Conference.

Leah Hardeman, a previous four-year member of the Coastal Carolina indoor volleyball team and current beach volleyball player, has been named the 2017-18 Sun Belt Conference Female Athlete of the Year.

The award is the highest individual honor given in the conference, and is based on outstanding leadership, achievement and character.

She also has a national distinction. Hardeman was named the Sun Belt’s Indoor Volleyball Player of the Year last season, making her the first Division I player in NCAA volleyball history to earn a conference POY award in all four seasons of eligibility.

She claimed Big South Player of the Year honors from 2014-15 and Sun Belt Player of the Year honors from 2016-17. She also closed her indoor career with MVP honors in three straight conference tournaments (2015 Big South, 2016-17 Sun Belt).

In both 2016 and ’17, Hardeman was named Sun Belt Volleyball Player of the Year, Sun Belt Championship Most Outstanding Player, first team All-Sun Belt and Sun Belt Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Hardeman led the Chants to four straight conference championships and NCAA postseason berths. In the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at No. 9 Creighton, Hardeman registered 25 kills to become the school’s all-time leader in the category with 1,811.

In beach volleyball Hardeman posted a 5-9 record last season, and has played a role in helping to develop the young program since it started 2016. She has one season of competition remaining with the beach program, and will return to action with the Chants in spring 2019.

The 2017-18 Male Athlete of the Year award went to Taylor Lamb, the former quarterback for Appalachian State’s football team.

Streak intact

The indoor volleyball team has picked up where Hardeman left off, starting off conference play this season 4-0 with wins over Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State and Little Rock to increase its conference winning streak to 18 consecutive matches.

The Chants, who played at Georgia State on Tuesday, began the season 1-7 in non-conference play. Texas State is the other unbeaten team in the conference at 7-0.

The Chanticleers’ last loss in league play was a 3-0 setback to Texas State on Oct. 1, 2017.

Still ranked

Coastal Carolina’s men’s soccer team is ranked 22nd in this week’s United Soccer Coaches national Division I poll and is 5-3 on the season following its 5-1 win over USC Upstate on Saturday.

Two of Coastal’s three losses were to ranked teams in No. 7 Portland and No. 21 UCLA, and the Chants had a four-game win streak over Georgetown, Memphis, UAB and William & Mary.

The Chants return to action at 1 p.m. Oct. 13 when they host Appalachian State to begin Sun Belt Conference play and travel to Clemson on Oct. 16.