Two days before most of his players will be back on campus, UNCW men's basketball coach C.B. McGrath stopped by the WECT Digital Studio Monday to discuss the offseason and his upcoming second season with the Seahawks.
While UNCW will lose three seniors (Jordan Talley, Nick Powell and Marcus Bryan) from the squad that went 11-21 in McGrath's first season at the helm, it will welcome back star forward Devontae Cacok for his senior season.
Cacok, who set an NCAA single-season record by shooting 80 percent from the field as a sophomore, led the country in rebounds per game as a junior with a 13.5 average.
“Rebounding is something that’s all sort of in you," McGrath said. "No player could ever come up and say, 'Coach drew up plays for Devontae to rebound.' He goes and gets them. He has something in him. You hope you coach some guys who have that. I’ve been around a lot of great rebounders and guys who put up great stats, but never anyone who led the nation in rebounding average per game."
Now McGrath is hoping Cacock's offensive game continues to develop. Last season, he led the team in scoring with 17.7 points per game.
"He really developed a lot more along the season in terms of his skill level," McGrath said. "He came off a year where he shot 80 percent from the floor. So he’s thinking in his mind he has to shoot somewhere close to that. But that was all dunks.
"And hopefully his confidence is growing that he can make these outside shots. Because he can. He’s got great touch. He’s got a nice free throw line jump shot."
McGrath hopes to get a boost from two players who were with the team last year but didn't play in a game — Jeantal Cylla and Matt Elmore.
Cylla sat out last season after transferring from Florida Atlantic, where he started all 26 games as a sophomore and averaged 7.1 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Elmore played in 13 games as a freshman in 2016-17 before missing all of last season due to an injury.
Five newcomers are also joining the ranks.
Along with incoming freshmen Kai Toews (point guard) and Jaylen Sims (shooting guard), point guard Ty Gadsden is transferring from Vincennes (Ind.) University and will be eligible to play immediately with three years of eligibility.
The Seahawks also will get immediate help in the form of graduate transfer Shawn O’Connell, who has one year of eligibility but can play right away after transferring from Georgia Southern. He played in 32 games last season and averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game with a team-high a 71.4 field goal shooting percentage.
“We needed to add some players for more depth so we could play at a faster tempo, we could defend more aggressively and not worry about foul trouble,” McGrath said.
While he'll have to sit out the upcoming season, McGrath expects big things in the future from Valparaiso transfer Marten Linssen. The 6-8, 240-pound power forward averaged 2.0 point and 2.0 rebounds in 22 games last season.
“It’s hard to find guys with size that are pretty darn good who are available," McGrath said. "A lot of times they get snatched up pretty quickly. You've got to do a lot of work to find guys you think that can play for you that have size."
McGrath also talked about the upcoming schedule, which includes a trip to his old stomping grounds of Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels. UNCW will face UNC on Dec. 5 before the Tar Heels come to Wilmington the following season. A third game in the series will take place in Chapel Hill during the 2020-21 season.
“The fans here are knowledgeable about basketball," he said. "They want to see good college basketball. So I wanted to get a nice home nonconference schedule together. And obviously, I wanted to play Coach Williams while he’s still in Chapel Hill.”
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