Friday, December 15, 2006

Ken Burger's article from today's Post & Courier, "Signs of life on George Street"

On a day when the College of Charleston was breaking ground on its basketball arena of the future, the Cougars were more concerned about the present.
And rightly so.
Feeling the weight of a four-game losing streak, Bobby Cremins' first-year team was in dire need of a victory over a conference opponent, or any opponent for that matter.
While there was plenty of hoopla surrounding Cremins' hiring at the College back in July, results on the court had been ... well ... less than inspiring.
Most fans were quite willing to give the Cougars a break because they were playing bigger teams like Kentucky and South Carolina. But what they didn't foresee was trouble with non-conference clubs such as Virginia Commonwealth and Charleston Southern, and league foes such as Appalachian State.
With a 3-6 record, the team picked in the preseason to win the Southern Conference could ill afford to lose its second conference game before the Christmas break.
But that reality loomed large as the College of Charleston faced Chattanooga on Thursday night.
Something magical
When Cremins' club got off to a 10-0 start against the Mocs, a familiar feeling fell over the crowd of 3,133 in Kresse Arena.
This felt much more like the old days when the Cougars owned their home court and nobody was allowed to push them around here on George Street.
Those days, however, sometime seemed like a distant memory over the last few years when not only did the Cougars lose much more often than they did under legendary coach John Kresse, but they were sometimes blown out under former coach Tom Herrion.
Such insecurity made fundraising for the school's new arena much more difficult.
But the hiring of Cremins rejuvenated the fan base, opened some pocketbooks and allowed officials to finally turn the first shovel of dirt on the Cougars' new 5,000-seat arena slated to open in 2008.
But you could almost hear those wallets slamming shut when C of C blew that early 10-point lead, fell behind by 10 points and looked to be on its way to yet another uninspiring loss.
Then, something magical happened.
That magic came in the form of senior point guard Dontaye Draper, who scored Charleston's final six points to give the Cougars the lead and blocked the Mocs' last shot to preserve the 62-60 win.
Nice surprise
"We were down and out," Cremins said in the aftermath of the victory. "I don't think anybody in the building thought we could win this game.
"They are a quality team, they know how to win. But our kids showed some guts. They really did."
Which is exactly what the home crowd has been waiting patiently to see. Some guts.
Too many times during these early games the Cougars have lacked that killer instinct necessary to win close games like this.
A new motion offense certainly helped the cause. But whatever it is that makes a guy like Draper come alive like this, it needs to be patented.
"We wanted to put the ball in Dontaye Draper's hands," Cre-mins said. "And he did some great things."
Great may be an overused adjective in sports lingo, but it just might apply here.
Not only did he single-handedly bring the College back and gain the lead, he blocked the final shot to win the game.
To which Cremins, a veteran of many a miracle in his time, could only smile and say, "I think everybody is really surprised we won that game."
Surprised maybe, but in a good way for a change.

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