The Seahawk

On a team full of questions, Cacok provides some answers

The junior hopes to improve on a breakout sophomore year and become a leader in the process

Devontae+Cacok+%2815%29+goes+up+for+a+basket+in+a+home+game+vs.+Delaware+during+UNCW%27s+2017+basketball+season.
Devontae Cacok (15) goes up for a basket in a home game vs. Delaware during UNCW's 2017 basketball season.

Devontae Cacok (15) goes up for a basket in a home game vs. Delaware during UNCW's 2017 basketball season.

John Crouch/UNCW Athletic Communications

John Crouch/UNCW Athletic Communications

Devontae Cacok (15) goes up for a basket in a home game vs. Delaware during UNCW's 2017 basketball season.

Brandon Sans, Assistant Sports Editor

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After a breakout sophomore campaign that included winning the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year (DPOTY) award and setting a NCAA record for single-season field goal percentage (80 percent), UNC Wilmington forward Devontae Cacok enters this season as the program’s stabilizing presence.

Being stable will be important, considering the series of unstable events that transpired after UNCW’s season ended with a loss to Virginia in the NCAA Tournament on March 16.

The Seahawks saw head coach Kevin Keatts venture up I-40 to take the job at North Carolina State a day later, then watched guard C.J. Bryce and his 17.4 points-per-game join him in Raleigh. And though all incoming recruits de-committed from the program, the turnover never felt daunting for Cacok.

“I’m still doing what I’ve been doing,” said Cacok at UNCW’s annual Media Day. “I do as much as I can to tune it out and be ready to play.”

The junior’s listed weight remains at 240 pounds, which is where it was last year after adding 30 pounds before his sophomore campaign. He’s currently the only player guaranteed to start for new coach C.B. McGrath.

Cacok has sought to improve his game like any player, citing his jump shot, basketball I.Q. and vision as areas he tried to improve on this past summer. Emphasis on these skills is telling about the lineups McGrath may elect to use this season.

“Instead of just dunking the ball, I want to be able to mix up my game,” said Cacok. “Make it harder for my opponents to guard me, that’s what I’ve been doing this whole summer.”

If McGrath intends to deploy a traditional lineup similar to what he learned under North Carolina coach Roy Williams, that will mean the insertion of another big man next to Cacok.  That will free him up to play beyond the paint, to which he was restricted under Keatts’ four-guard lineups, which allows Cacok to attack opponents with more facets of his game.

“With all his experience and knowledge of the game, it’s a great experience,” said Cacok of McGrath. “Being able to work with a (post-player) coach every single day helps my game to expand.”

Playing bigger should provide Cacok with additional support on the defensive end. On his way to being named CAA DPOTY, he led the conference in blocked shots (46) and his 6.4 defensive rebounds per game was good for third in the CAA.

The biggest change facing Cacok is responding to a heightened level of responsibility and leadership. Over the past two years, the Seahawks have graduated leaders like Craig Ponder and Chris Flemmings. Cacok is now the old head of a team lacking the built-in cohesion of last year’s squad.

“It’s a fun experience being a leader of a college basketball team. It’s a learning experience as well,” said Cacok. “I take it into consideration to show I’m ready for this role, being able to lead in any way I can by showing they can trust me in any situation, whether it be on or off the court. It’s a great feeling to have.”

The Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook named Cacok a preseason CAA First-Team All-Conference player, yet the Seahawks are projected to finish sixth according to “the Bible,” as it’s called in college basketball circles.

Most agree with Blue Ribbon that College of Charleston is the odds-on favorite to win the CAA title this year, but if the Seahawks want to win their third-straight title, they will need the pieces around Cacok to get used to filling their roles.

Thus, it falls on Cacok to take the leadership mantle previously held by Ponder and Flemmings in their respective senior years. Coaches and players have changed for the Seahawks this year, but the winning culture remains. It’s no coincidence Cacok remains as well.

Video by Noah Thomas

1 Comment

One Response to “On a team full of questions, Cacok provides some answers”

  1. Rose Cacok on October 19th, 2017 9:18 pm

    Go Seahawks!!! Exciting year ahead.

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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On a team full of questions, Cacok provides some answers