For much of the first decade of the 21st century, the Big South could have been stamped “Property of Winthrop.” Since Gregg Marshall departed for Wichita State, no other team has been able to establish a similar dynasty. Stable, well-coached teams like Asheville (Eddie Biedenbach) and Coastal Carolina (Cliff Ellis) seem poised, but neither is this year’s favorite.
That honor falls on the sturdy humps shoulders of the Campbell Fighting Camels, a team that has only made the NCAA tournament one time, in 1992, where they were easily dispatched by the Duke Blue Devils. This year, the ships of the desert are paced by three returning starters, including leading scorer Darren White (16.8 ppg) and top distributor Trey Freeman (3.8 apg) forming the team’s all-important backcourt. With freshman All-Namer Leek Leek coming off the bench, the Camels have that certain je ne sais quoi that could spell auto-bid.
The Charleston Southern Buccaneers are expected to make a strong run at the Camels, with sophomore ballhandlers Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper leading the attack. The Big South added former DI independent Longwood as a 12th member this season, allowing for two six-team divisions, and the Bucs are favored to lead the South while Campbell claims the North.
Also in the mix are the aforementioned Asheville Bulldogs and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, both in the South. The ultimate league wild card resides in the North division, where the helter-skelter, hoist-it-up VMI Keydets will once again attempt to wreak havoc with limited resources and unlimited energy. High Point, with five seniors, was the only other team to garner any first-place votes from league coaches and media reps.
All-League Team (*Player of the Year)
Darren White, 6’4” G, Campbell
Trey Freeman, 6’2” G, Campbell
Saah Nimley, 5’8” G, Charleston Southern
Anthony Raffa, 6’1” G, Coastal Carolina
*Stan Okoye, 6’6” F, Virginia Military Institute
2. Charleston Southern
3. Coastal Carolina
6. High Point
(Gaylord the Camel photo courtesy of Dana Laing/Campbell Athletics)