CAA Preview: College of Charleston Cougars

Last Season: 24–9 (12–6 CAA, third place), lost in CAA semifinal

Head Coach: Earl Grant (sixth season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Second

Losses

  • G Marquise Pointer
  • G Trent Robinson
  • F Jarrell Brantley
  • F Nick Harris
  • F Jermaine Blackmon Jr.
  • F Isaih Moore

Additions

  • G Brenden Tucker
  • G Trevon Reddish
  • G Jeffrey Pizano-McInnis
  • G/F DeAngelo Epps
  • F Dontavius King

By Michael Petillo

The book on the College of Charleston for the 2019–20 season is pretty simple: they have Grant Riller, and he’s the reason the Cougars could recapture the CAA crown.

Earl Grant’s bunch won the conference two years ago but slipped to third in 2018–19 before falling to Northeastern in a close CAA Tournament semifinal game. Now, Charleston will have to overcome the graduation of star forward Jarrell Brantley (now a member of the Utah Jazz), but in a year where most CAA teams are overhauling, the Cougars could do a lot worse than having Riller to fall back on.

Riller burst onto the CAA scene in 2016, averaging 13 ppg as a redshirt freshman, then achieving All-CAA first team recognition each of the past two years. A gifted scorer, he netted 22 ppg in 2018–19 while improving as a passer (4.1 apg). Riller is a terror in the open court, isolation, and the pick and roll who always looks to drive to the rim, where he shot an astronomical 71 percent last year. His offensive rating was fourth in the country, trailing only Zion Williamson, Mike Daum, and Justin Wright-Foreman. This summer, CBB Central ranked him the best mid-major point guard in the country. With Brantley’s departure, the pressure of carrying the scoring load and running the offense falls squarely on his shoulders.

Alongside Riller, the Cougars return an assortment of quality role players looking to take the next step. Chief among them is junior guard Brevin Galloway, a quality shooter who blossomed into a starter last year and will now be a top option. Sophomore guards Jaylen Richard and Zep Jasper will look to build upon solid freshman seasons as they battle for a starting spot.

Replacing Brantley is a tall task, but senior big men Sam Miller and Jaylen McManus both had good moments last season and will be asked to do more. Miller spreads the floor with perimeter shooting; he knocked down 42 percent of his triples last season. McManus, the superior athlete of the two, has improved steadily each year under Coach Grant, and offers some scoring and floor spacing as well.

The Cougars boast a solid class of incoming freshmen, headlined by athletic guard Brenden Tucker. If Tucker — who turned down offers from Clemson, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Northwestern, and Xavier — can contribute right away, he’ll provide scoring punch and much-needed depth.

Bottom Line: Riller is the favorite to win Player of the Year. Grant is one of the league’s best coaches, so there is good reason to believe in the continued development of players like Galloway, McManus, and others. The combination of talent and good coaching makes Charleston an upper-echelon group. If Tucker hits right away and other role players take a step forward, Charleston could emerge as the clear-cut favorite by the time conference play begins.

CAA Class of 2019 Goes Pro

Picture credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

On April 7th, four CAA basketball players stood on a speedily assembled court in America’s largest shopping mall as dollar bills fluttered around them.

Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman, Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley, and UNCW’s Devontae Cacok had won the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship — and its $100,000 prize — after seven straight wins over teams representing other conferences.

It was an entertaining, financially rewarding experience for two-thirds of the CAA’s 2019 First Team. But it would pale in comparison to where they were headed.

Pusica went first. Two weeks after the 3X3U Tournament, he signed a contract with KK Partizan, the winningest team in his native Serbia’s top basketball league. Since joining the team, he has averaged eight points, two rebounds, and two assists over 12 games. Pusica possesses the deliberate ballhandling, mature decision-making, and versatile scoring skill to isolate or to attack in the pick-and-roll.

Brantley and Wright-Foreman went next. The Indiana Pacers drafted Brantley with the 50th pick, then flipped him to the Utah Jazz for Utah’s 2021 second-round pick and $2 million. The Jazz also nabbed Wright-Foreman 53rd with their own pick. It marked the first time since 1992 that two CAA players were chosen in the same draft.

Both have great upside; Brantley is a 6-foot-7-inch, 255-pound powerhouse boasting strong athleticism, positional versatility, and a diverse offensive skill set. Wright-Foreman is an electric combo guard who displays blazing quickness, on-the-catch and off-the-dribble shooting, and strong drives courtesy of deft handles and space-consuming spins.

On Tuesday, the Jazz signed both of them to two-way contracts. These contracts allow players to alternate between the NBA and G League (minor league basketball). Brantley and Wright-Foreman will likely spend most of their time with Utah’s G League affiliate (the Salt Lake City Stars), but they can spend up to 45 days with the Jazz.

They will make about $80,000 (prorated) for their G League time and about $900,000 (rookie minimum, also prorated) for their NBA time. The Jazz can make either contract into a standard NBA contract at any time, provided they have a free roster space. Should the pair finish their two-way deals, they would be eligible for qualifying offers and restricted free agency.

Brantley played four Summer League games — he was limited by a hamstring injury — averaging nine points (38 percent shooting) and five rebounds in 22 minutes. Wright-Foreman also played four games, averaging 12 points on 33 percent shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 26 minutes per game.

But it was Devontae Cacok who shone brightest in Summer League. The 6-foot-7-inch, 240-pound dynamo averaged 23 minutes across eight contests, logging 12 points on 60 percent shooting, nine rebounds, and two steals a game for the Los Angeles Lakers. His Summer League coach and teammates have praised his defense, rebounding, energy, and toughness.

On July 9th, the Lakers signed Cacok to an Exhibit 10 contract, essentially a training camp invite with a bonus attached. It incentivizes Cacok to remain with the Lakers’ G League affiliate by paying him $5,000 to $50,000 if he is waived by the NBA club, signs with the G League team, and remains there for at least 30 days. The Lakers can also convert the deal into a two-way contract, allowing Cacok to transition between the NBA and G League clubs.

Just 100 days ago, these four athletes donned glitzy plastic sunglasses, gold-colored chains, and shot dollar bills from guns as they celebrated a win in a high-octane but mostly-for-fun tournament. Now they’ve all got real jobs, and how they develop and expand their skills will determine their longevity in an ever-changing sport.