Cougars Tip Off ESPN Charleston Classic with St. John’s

The ESPN Charleston Classic presented by Foster Grant kicks off in College of Charleston’s TD Arena on Thursday, November 15, 2012 and continues through Sunday, November 18 when the championship game is held at 8:30 p.m. The Cougars play in their first game on November 15 at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU. Other teams competing include: Auburn, Baylor, Boston College, Colorado, Dayton, Murray State and St. John’s.This year’s field may be the strongest ever with the likes of NCAA Elite Eight and preseason No. 16-ranked Baylor out of the Big 12 Conference and last year’s Cinderella team in Murray State out of the Ohio Valley Conference. Back in 1979, Former Cougar Coach John Kresse left Lou Carnesecca’s coaching staff at St. John’s to take over the reins at the College. The native New Yorker from Ridgewood, Queens, who led the Cougars to unprecedented success in their NAIA and early NCAA heyday, never imagined 33 years later that his alma mater would play on the same court which bears his name today.

On Friday, the Cougars will take on either Murray State or Auburn, depending on Thursday’s outcomes.

The Cougars (1-0) and Red Storm (1-0) both won their regular-season openers leading into their first-round matchup of the Charleston Classic . It will mark a first-time meeting between the two schools. Having built the reputation as “Giant Killers” under the regimes of Kresse and former head coach Bobby Cremins, also a New Yorker from The Bronx, the Cougars are primed and ready to do the same under first-year head coach Doug Wojcik. Although he hails from West Virginia, the College has stuck to some of the core values of coaching past with the added emphasis on hard-nosed defense under the Wojcik system. The Cougars held Towson to just 23.1 percent shooting from the floor (6-of-26) in the first half of play on Nov. 9 and 30.6 percent for game against USC Aiken in their exhibition tune-up on Nov. 3. the Cougars will play three tournament games in the course of four short days, prior to traveling to Baylor for a post-Thanksgiving matchup on Nov. 24 in Waco, Texas.

St. John’s will enter the tournament with the quickest turnaround of all participating schools after opening the year with a close 77-74 decision over Detroit on Nov. 13 as part of ESPN’s 24-Hours of College Basketball Tip-Off Marathon. The Red Storm trailed 37-29 at halftime in head coach Steve Lavin’s return after missing the majority of the 2011-12 season recovering from prostate cancer. The College will be one of two schools from the Palmetto State the Johnnies will face in their next six games including a home tilt with South Carolina on Nov. 29. Although it returns four starters from last year’s 13-19 squad, the St. John’s roster is still youth-driven with eight newcomers in the fold.

#22 Anthony Stitt, G, 6-1, 180, So. (9.7 ppg*, 1.7 rpg*, 1.9 apg*, 27.5 min*)
#4 Andrew Lawrence, G, 6-1, 185, Sr. (13.0 ppg*, 2.9 rpg*, 5.5 apg*, 35.4 min*)
#3 Anthony Thomas, F, 6-7, 207, Jr. (DNP)
#44 Trent Wiedeman, F, 6-8, 255, Jr. (12.1 ppg*, 8.7 rpg*, 0.9 apg*, 31.3 min*)
#1 Adjehi Baru, F/C, 6-9, 225, So. (7.8 ppg*, 6.3 rpg*, 0.6 apg*, 26.7 min*)

#1 Phil Greene IV, G, 6-2, 182, So. (7.6 ppg*, 2.6 rpg*, 3.0 apg*, 31.4 min*)
#15 Sir’Dominic Pointer, G, 6-5, 198, So. (6.6 ppg*, 4.6 rpg*, 1.5 apg*, 30.0 min*)
#4 Christian Jones, F, 6-7, 222, Fr. (DNP)
#22 Amir Garrett, F, 6-6, 211, So. (7.4 ppg*, 4.0 rpg*, 1.3 apg*, 26.9 min*)
#14 JaKarr Sampson, F, 6-8, 204, Fr. (DNP)

*2011-12 Statistics

Although it will be a first-ever meeting with St. John’s in the 103rd history of the Charleston Basketball program, the Cougars have faced Auburn (0-2) twice in 2003 and 2004 and Dayton (1-0) in 2011 in the first round of the Postseason NIT.

The Cougars last participated in the Charleston Classic during the inaugural season of the tournament in 2008. They went 2-1 with a 72-66 opening-round win over SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 14, 2008 – the first game ever played in TD Arena under former head coach Bobby Cremins, who is still the chairman of the event. The College also defeated TCU, 86-75, in its final game of the tournament on Nov. 16, 2008, after dropping a five-point decision to Temple (70-65) on Nov. 15, 2008. Former standout and all-time leading scorer, Andrew Goudelock, earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

Coach Kresse is the program’s all-time winningest coach with a career record of 560-143 (.797). He retired in 2002 after 23 years at the helm of the program. His 560 career wins ranks among the top 40 on the all-time career coaching list and fifth on the all-time winningest percentage list in the NCAA record books. Kresse led the Cougars to four NCAA Tournament (1994, 1997, 1998 and 1999) and three NIT (1995, 1996 and 2003) appearances. After prepping at Holy Trinity in Queens, he went on to play college basketball at St. John’s under former head coach Joe Lapchick from 1960-63. Kresse served two assistant coaching tenures with the Red Storm under his mentor, Lou Carnesecca, from 1965-70 and 1973-79.

“Coach Kresse has said this many times, ‘who would have thought when he came here in 1979, his alma mater would be playing in Charleston.’ That’s a big statement there – to see how far our program has come since then. It’s (our program’s success) a real tribute to Coach Kresse.” – Coach Wojcik

The Cougars are 0-7 all-time versus schools hailing from the BIG EAST Conference including past meetings with Georgetown (0-1), Louisville (0-2), Providence (0-2), Syracuse (0-1) and Villanova (0-1). Two of the Cougars’ last three outcomes against a BIG EAST opponent were decided by seven points or less including a 69-62 (-7) setback at then No. 4-ranked Louisville last season on Dec. 20, 2011 and a close 69-64 decision (-5) at Providence in the NIT Second Round on March 22, 2003.

• Coach Wojcik has never faced a BIG EAST opponent in his eight years as a Division I head coach. Ironically, this is Wojcik’s second appearance in the tournament in back-to-back seasons after the Golden Hurricane posted a 1-2 record against Western Kentucky (W, 65-49), Northwestern (L, 69-65) and Saint Joseph’s (L, 79-75) in the 2011 Charleston Classic. He is the only head coach to lead two different teams in tournament history.

• Dayton returns to Charleston for the second time in three years after a 94-84 loss in the first round of the Postseason NIT to CofC on March 15, 2011. Coach Wojcik’s younger brother, Dave, served as an assistant for one season at Dayton in 2004-05.

• Cougars assistant coach Amir Abdur-Rahim will reunite with Murray State head coach Steve Prohm. Both were MSU assistants under Billy Kennedy, now the head coach at Texas A&M. Abdur-Rahim served as an assistant coach for the Racers from 2008-11. This is also Abdur-Rahim’s second-straight Charleston Classic appearance serving as director of player development for head coach Brian Gregory at Georgia Tech last season.

• College junior big man Trent Wiedeman, who is a native of Suwanee, Ga., played AAU basketball with Auburn freshman guard Jordan Price, who is a native of Decatur, Ga.