It’s a little bit of everything, but all the same.
This season, the Wofford Terriers‘ roster is a mix of veterans, players poised for increased performances, and a large, intriguing freshman class. In spite of the variety, and perhaps the unpredictability that such a team brings, associate head coach Dustin Kerns said the staff’s approach remains unchanged.
“We’re not guys that believe in rebuilding,” Kerns said. “We want to win now, and that’s always been the mentality and the mindset here. Yes, we might have some younger players, but our urgency and what’s important now is winning.”
Anchoring the Terriers is point guard Eric Garcia, who in his senior year will be viewed as a leader in terms of both production and emotion.
Garcia, a native of Aurora, Colorado, dished out the Southern Conference’s top assist-to-turnover ratio last season, and had the second-best 3-point shooting percentage, behind teammate Fletcher Magee.
Magee garnered attention as a true freshman in 2015-16, as he connected on a league-best 48 percent of shots from behind the arc. The product of Orlando, FL was close to perfect in free-throw shooting (92.5 percent, top nationally), and the Terriers as a team made 75 percent of its foul shots.
At season’s end, Magee was voted the College Court Report Freshman of the Year.
Eight players return alongside Garcia and Magee, including redshirt sophomore Cameron Jackson, a 6-8, 235 lb. forward looking to rebound from a year stolen by knee and foot injuries, and seniors Jaylen Allen and Ryan Sawvell.
Allen, a 6-3, 185 lb. guard, and Sawvell, a 6-8, 215 lb. forward, averaged the most playing time out of returning non-starters a season ago, and should play key roles going forward.
Also back are reserve point guard Derrick Brooks and sophomore big man Matthew Pegram, along with Trevor Stumpe, Eric Wagenlander and Bobby Perez.
Wofford has six freshmen on the roster, its largest incoming class since 2012. A few of these players will likely get some early looks, but Kerns stressed the importance of player development over immediate contribution.
“We don’t recruit at a necessity like, ‘Oh my gosh, we got to have this guy play right away.’ All that stuff kind of works itself out when the kids get here,” he said.
“We’re just trying to recruit the best fit for Wofford and our program, and certainly it’s a pleasantry if they can contribute right away. I think that’s one of the things that’s been very successful about our program is our older guys always step up and our guys are developed.”
The Terriers begin the season this Saturday against an SEC squad, the LSU Tigers. Other standouts from its non-conference schedule include an appearance in the Gulf Coast Showcase from Nov. 21-23, and match-ups with the Miami Hurricanes (Dec. 3) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Dec. 22).
“We’re excited,” Kerns said. “It’s an interesting team, and I think our team chemistry is very good. You know, this is a group that has a personality of toughness and togetherness, and I think they’ll continue to embrace that.”
– H. Hudson