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Coastal Carolina looks to make a splash in first Sun Belt season

Cliff Ellis and the Chanticleers join the Sun Belt from the Big South in 2016-17.

NCAA Basketball: Coastal Carolina at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

As an athletic program, some may know Coastal Carolina best by its remarkable run to the 2016 College World Series championship. Starting next year, however, the Chanticleers take a step up on the national scene, transitioning from the Big South to the FBS Sun Belt.

Your average college basketball fan may not follow Coastal Carolina closely on the hardwood, but there's a good chance they know their head coach, Cliff Ellis.

Ellis enters his 10th season with Coastal Carolina, where he has compiled a 179-110 record, including a 99-56 mark in Big South play. Ellis is currently 20th all-time in Division I history with 713 victories, and is the only coach to win 150 games with four different programs (South Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, Coastal Carolina). He also has 10 career NCAA Tournament appearances and has been to the Sweet 16 three times (1990 with Clemson, 1999 and 2003 with Auburn). Ellis is no stranger to the Sun Belt, as his nine-year stint at South Alabama resulted in a 171-84 record and NCAA Tournament appearances in 1979 and 1980.

Last season, the Chanticleers reached the final four of the CIT, dispatching Mercer, New Hampshire and Grand Canyon along the way. After three consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins and now six postseason appearances in seven years, four members of the Chanticleer rotation depart via graduation and one via graduate transfer, leaving Ellis in a rebuilding mode as the team tries to adjust to a new conference.

Badou Diagne (11.2 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game), Marcus Freeman (5.8ppg., 5.5rpg.), and Tristian Curtis (6 ppg.,6.9 rpg.) will leave a tough void to fill in the front court, while guard Ron Trapps (5.2 ppg.) graduated a year early and transferred to North Carolina Central.

However, the starting backcourt and top two leading scorers are set to return for Coastal Carolina. Shivaughn Wiggins averaged 12.6 points per game and recorded 3.6 assists per contest for the Chanticleers, and turned in a 30-point performance against Campbell last season. However, he was arrested and charged with assault the night before Coastal Carolina’s loss to UC Irvine in the CIT semifinals and his status for next season is uncertain.

His backcourt mate, Elijah Wilson, led the Chanticleers in scoring 14 times a year ago, averaging 13.7 points. He led the team with 76 total three-pointers and poured in 25 points in a narrow 81-78 loss at Auburn.

Coastal Carolina featured a three-guard look for most of the year last season, with Jaylen Shaw making 28 starts in 2015-16 and posting 11.1 points per game and 3.9 assists. Knocking down 40 percent of his three pointers a year ago, he can be a reliable scoring option if Wiggins does not return. At 6'5, Colton Ray-St Cyr (8.6 ppg., 5.6 rpg.) gives the Chanticleers depth and size in the backcourt.

Newcomers for 2016-17 include guards Jaylan Robertson (JUCO-Highland CC), Artur Labinowicz (Charlotte, NC), and forwards in Joesph Williams-Powell (JUCO-Palm Beach State), Demario Beck (JUCO-South Georgia Technical), and Amidou Bamba (Ontario, CAN).