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Duggar Baucom provides The Citadel a calming influence in an unpredictable storm

The Bulldogs turn to their head coach to provide a steadying presence.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 20 The Citadel at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As calm as the waves breaking across a cool, crisp fall Charleston morning, The Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom comes into this season with a laser-focus on his team redeeming itself for last year’s 6-24 overall record and 0-18 mark in league play.

His demeanor and the serenity of the Low Country in general seem in direct contrast to the frenetic pace the Bulldogs embrace.

While Baucom ponders how to weather a pandemic and win games in a mid-major conference that seemingly gets tougher with each passing season, it’s never far from his mind that he and his Citadel team have a chance to make a new positive mark on a program tradition that is lacking in historical accolades.

“I’m not going to change how I approach things, although I will say this Zoom stuff is different and I’ve had to learn how to use it,” he said. “I was doing a Bible study with other coaches and realized I was the only coach holding my phone wrong on the Zoom video, so that’s one thing I’ve had to figure out.”

Baucom’s run-and-gun style took a bit of a dip last season, as his team ranked only 10th in the nation in adjusted tempo. That’s partly the product of the Bulldogs having more injuries than Baucom had ever encountered, as either an assistant or head coach.

“We had one guy Brady Spence, who was literally playing on one leg for the whole season,” Baucom said.

Baucom’s style of fast-break basketball stems from the friendships he has established over the years, including with Division III Grinnell head coach David Arseneault and former Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead.

The Bulldogs struggled to score last season, averaging just 74.8 PPG — an all-time low for Baucom’s tenure.

“One of the neatest things to see was practice every day,” Baucom said. “I don’t recall a practice at any point last season where our guys not only showed up ready to play, but wanting to play and wanting to get better.”

From 2015-19, The Citadel led the nation in three-pointers made, as well as scoring offense. Under Baucom’s leadership, the 2018-19 season saw the Bulldogs set 10 new program records,

The run-and-gun basketball isn’t always a fool-proof plan, but at a military school like The Citadel (or VMI, where he was previously), it can work.

The Citadel’s offensive style is not just predicated on shooting threes and scoring in bunches; there are nuances to it.

What Baucom will have this season as a result of all those injuries last season is depth, particularly in the backcourt.

“I am excited about this upcoming season because we will be able to get back to playing the type of the basketball our guys are more accustomed to,” he said.

The point guard position is the most important part of any basketball team, but at a program that utilizes the run-and-gun style, it is magnified even more. In previous seasons, the Bulldogs have been able to procure a graduate transfer at the point. Two years ago, the Bulldogs welcomed in a point guard that helped up the pace even more with addition of grad transfer Lew Stallworth.

“Earlier this summer my wife and I were taking a walk on the beach and I told her you know I could see where we might be able to play Rudy [Fitzgibbons] 20 minutes and and Tyler [Moffe] 20 minutes, or Rudy 22 and Tyler 18 or vice versa,” Baucom said.

What coach Baucom likes about both Moffe and Fitzgibbons is the differences they bring to the floor when they are in the game running the offense. Moffe brings maturity and experience to the table, and is most like a coach on the floor for the Bulldogs.

Moffe is a 6-1, 175-lb guard grad transfer from Mansfield University that started 60 of 61 games at point guard during his time there. He shot a solid 33.3% from in three seasons with Mansfield, while contributing 12.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.5 APG.

Fitzgibbons added quickness and explosiveness off the dribble last season for Baucom’s Bulldogs. He’s a pace-changer for the Bulldogs, whereas Moffe can do either, but is more of a controlled decision-maker on the floor. Fitzgibbons can get the game going at a different pace quickly.

It’s why coach Baucom said in the preseason that both could see as much as 20 minutes of playing time per game, which was split down the middle.

Stallworth was a huge success for Baucom’s Bulldogs even though the season turned out to be somewhat of a disappointing one. Unfortunately, the timing when things were starting to all come together for the Bulldogs, it also turned out to be a time when the SoCon’s overall strength was at its absolute best. Had The Citadel had that squad in a different season...who knows?

Adding to the depth and overall versatility of the backcourt will be the sharp-shooting guard Fletcher Abee and 6-7 senior Kaiden Rice.

Last season, Abee ranked 52nd in Division I basketball in three-point field goal percentage, hitting shots at a 37.6% (80-of-206) clip from beyond the arc. His 80 three-pointers in a single-season ranked sixth in single-season history for a Citadel player, and are the most in the history for the Bulldog freshman.

Rice finished his junior season with 791 points and became the 62nd Bulldog in the history of the program to eclipse the 790-point mark of his career. His 182-career three-pointers also already rank him ninth in that career category heading into the 2020 season.

In the front court, things would have certainly been different for the Bulldogs with a fully healthy Hayden Brown. Brown was probably the Bulldogs’ best player. He posted his best performance against Georgia, scoring 26 points in what was a nine-point loss on the road.

With a hobbled Spence and Brown having to basically hang it up for the season prior to the start of conference play, it led to a trying season on the boards for Baucom’s Bulldogs. The Bulldogs ranked last in the SoCon and 327th in the nation in rebounding margin last season

Stephen Clark is a good shot blocker and gives the Bulldogs good athleticism in the paint. Clark will get minutes alongside Brown, according to Baucom. Brown scored in double figures in four out of the six games he logged action in last year.

“When Hayden [Brown] was playing…we played ETSU early and when he was in the game, he had 12 points and we were up by four and then he goes out its obviously different. And then after that we tried to play him at Samford and he only played three possessions and we ended up losing that game by one and then he never played again. He’s back and he’s stronger and everyone that sees Hayden says he looks stronger. I’m actually going to look at having he and Stephen Clark on the floor at the same time this season, as they will give us a solid presence in the paint,” Baucum said of his big man.

Expect the Bulldogs to run. Expect them to be better, and expect Baucom to be smiling at the end of it all no matter what happens.