HARTSVILLE, S.C. – To say that the Coker men's basketball team is thirsty for a title would be an understatement. A big understatement. And they're out to prove they can bring one home.
The Cobras were ranked sixth in the Conference Carolinas preseason poll. They finished last season 14-13 overall with an 8-8 mark in league play. A four-point loss against King College in the quarterfinals of the conference playoffs ended the Cobras' season, leaving a sour taste in their mouths.
"Last year, we didn't get to where we wanted to go," said senior Sharod Williams. "That just makes us even hungrier. We really want to win a title. Two years ago, we made it to the conference championship, but it wasn't something that was expected. Now, with this team, we don't just expect to get there. We expect to get there and win."
Coker returns its starting five from last year, including third team all-conference players Williams and Andrew Morris, both seniors. Fellow senior Austin Harper and juniors Bryce Arnott and Julian Nelson round out the lineup. Key reserves Eren Moses, a junior, and Errick Bethel, a sophomore, also return.
This is the last year for the Cobras playing in Conference Carolinas, as they're headed to the South Atlantic Conference beginning in the 2013-14 season. The pieces are in place for this team to make a title run, but that hasn't stopped its veteran coach from trying to get the best from his players.
"This has been one of the best preseasons we've had in the last five or six years," said head coach Dan Schmotzer, now in his 26th season at the helm. "We've challenged them more than we have in previous years.
"If you are trying to go somewhere you haven't been in a while, you need senior leadership and experience. I really believe we have the right combination of that this year. Our ultimate goal is to win a championship during our last season in this conference. It's an exciting time for Coker basketball."
Coker's schedule isn't a light one. The Cobras have a pair of Division I matchups on the slate – an exhibition at Campbell University in the season opener Nov. 1 – and a regular-season matchup at UNC Wilmington on Dec. 5, to go along with a holiday tournament at Francis Marion University. They open up their regular season Nov. 17 at Limestone College.