Team preview: Coastal Carolina

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Good things come in small packages, they say. Coastal Carolina proved it on the basketball court last season.

The Chanticleers rarely played anyone taller than 6-6, and nearly always employed three and four guards. The little team came up with big results, winning 20 games and reaching the Big South championship game for the first time in 12 years.

"We're not the biggest team in the world so we try to get stronger and out-work people, and then rely on our quickness and speed," said coach Buzz Peterson, the architect of the speedy turnaround. "In our system, everybody has to dribble it and pass it."

But now Peterson must find replacements in that backcourt for gutty point guard Colin Stevens and for dynamic wing Pele Paelay, two of the ringleaders in a magical run that saw Coastal win 14 of its last 16 games. The Chants hadn't won more than 14 games in a season since 1993-94.

Peterson's open-post passing game and speedy, scrappy defense make a lot of the parts on this team interchangeable, but the return of Big South Player of the Year Jack Leasure (17.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.1 apg, .491 3PT) is a huge plus. A 6-3 gym rat, Leasure probably benefited most from the contributions of Stevens and Paelay. His coach has no doubts, though, that the 2006-07 season will again be Leasure time.

"He got better and better, he's a student of the game," Peterson said. "He's always in the gym, dedicated to the game. He's one of the smartest players I've ever coached or played with. He's not the fastest guy out there, but he's so intelligent."

Leasure was the Big South's Scholar Athlete of the year, in addition to earning honorable-mention All-America honors from the Associated Press. He finished second in the nation with 4.17 three-pointers per game, set a Big South record with 125 on the season, and was a big part of the reason Coastal led the conference with 8.03 treys per game.

"The thing he's going to have to adjust to is people coming at him harder this year," Peterson said. "He was a freshman and that was a little different, but now you're player of the year and people get pretty fired up to play against you."