SPARTANBURG - Junior Salters is scoring half as much and having twice the fun.
The Wofford senior guard and four-year starter from Broome High averaged 15 points per game last season. He came into this one as a preseason all-conference selection. There were no postseason honors for Salters, however, except one: The Terriers are going to the NCAA tournament.
"It's not about scoring," he said. "It's about how you can help your team win."
Although his scoring average is 7.3 points per game, the lowest of his career, he has become a better all-around player and has served as captain of a team that won a school-record 26 contests
Wofford beat Appalachian State 56-51 in the Southern Conference tournament championship to earn an automatic berth in the NCAAs. Salters took three shots, making them all, for eight points. He's not the scoring machine he has been in the past, but he is a key reason the Terriers (26-8) are seeded No. 13 in the East Regional with a first-round game at about 3 p.m. Friday in Jacksonville, Fla.
"I keep hearing people say Junior has had a tough year," Wofford coach Mike Young said. "It's as though we're supposed to feel sorry for him. It's as though he hasn't achieved his goals. The guy's had a great year. So what if he hasn't scored 15 a game. He's been a great scorer in the past. I think, for the first time, he's a great player."
Salters' shooting percentages (.352 on field goals, .365 on 3-pointers, .563 on free throws) are at their lowest of his career, but his defense and ball-handling are at their highest. For the first time, he has more assists (46) than turnovers (28).
"This season, I have become more of a facilitator," Salters said. "Instead of feeling like I have to score points, I'm setting guys up and putting them in position to score. Sometimes I'm just a decoy. People know I am capable of scoring, so they watch out for me. It opens up a lot for our offense. .... I think I fit in well. I hope it shows people that I can do other things. I have other talents."
Defense has been Wofford's mantra this season, and players who aren't defending well don't stay on the floor long. Salters turned his defense up when he was trying to dial in his jump shot.
"He's a very solid contributor defensively," Young said. "He's just a more complete player today than he's ever been."
Salters said he knew he wasn't going to score as much this season even if he had gotten off to a hot start and had stayed on target.
"We just have so many weapons now," he said. "I didn't feel pressure to score with the way Noah (Dahlman) came on at the end of last year. I knew (transfers Jamar) Diggs and Cam (Rundles) were added this year and how everybody else on our team has improved their individual games. I knew I was going to score less."
But while he figured his scoring would be down, on some nights it seemed hardly there at all.
"He was really pressing," Young said. "He was really starting to feel unlucky. He was starting to feel that he was letting himself down and letting down the team.
"There came a time very quickly, well before Christmas, when he realized he could help in every area. He didn't have to score 30 points. He could be a great defender and a selfless guy. He didn't have to be the man. He had to be a piece of the puzzle. He's embraced that role. He's done a great job in that role."
Salters went over the career 1,000-point mark this season. He ranks among the top five 3-point shooters in school history. Among his career highlights: 28 points in a win against Air Force; making six of seven from 3-point range against Clemson; handing out six assists against UNC Greensboro; and making five steals against Dayton.
"He's going to leave here as one of the very best players we've ever had," Young said. "That has not changed."