UNCG poses stern test for Panthers
High Point University men’s basketball coach Scott Cherry firmly believes that his new players provide more scoring options, a bigger presence in the post and more depth.
He will get a good indication of how much better the Panthers might be compared to last year’s 13-18 club when they open the season by hosting UNC Greensboro at the Millis Center today at 7 p.m.
The Spartans are the preseason pick by coaches and media to win the Southern Conference’s North Division. They return four starters who include double-figure scorers Trevis Simpson (18.3 ppg) and Derrell Armstrong (12.5 ppg) plus point guard Drew Parker (85 assists) and leading rebounder David Williams (5.5 boards per game) from a team that took off and went 11-5 in its last 16 games after former Cherry assistant Wes Miller replaced Mike Dement as coach.
“He’s got a team with experience, he’s got a team that has athleticism and he’s got guys who can score,” Cherry said. “He’s got a veteran, experienced team. That’s one thing we don’t have as much of with eight new guys, getting them used to playing games and scouting reports and all the kings that go with Division I basketball. It’s going to be great test for us.”
Cherry expects his starting lineup to be the same as the one that started for Saturday’s 96-62 win against Mars Hill.
Newcomers expected to start include post players Allan Chaney and John Brown, plus junior college transfer Derrell Edwards at shooting guard. Holdovers who probably be on the floor for the opening tip are senior point guard Jairus Sims and junior wing Justin Cheek.
Chaney is playing for he first time in three seasons since being sidelined by a heart infection while at Virginia Tech while freshman Brown missed the past two seasons while trying to become academically eligible.
The addition of Chaney and Brown has pushed Branimir Mikulic to a reserve role. Lorenzo Cugini, a 6-6 freshman, also adds depth in the front court. JUCO transfer Dejuan McGaughy and freshman Adam Weary are also expected to see significant time at guard.
Senior forward Corey Law, freshman forward Cliff Cornish and sophomore guard Devante Wallace are still sidelined by medical issues.
“The relationships they’ve developed are great,” Cherry said of the new players mixing with the veterans. “We’ve developed good team chemistry. We’ve got to be able to live with a few mistakes of youth and inexperience and guys who haven’t played in a couple of years. We’ve got four freshman and two junior college kids, so you’ve got to live with the mistakes of their youth.”
Cherry expects the additions will give the Panthers more scoring balance instead of having two rely one or two main scorers as they did in having to count on Nick Barbour and Shane Shine providing much of the team’s offense the past two seasons.
Edwards and Chaney led the Panthers with 16 points each in the exhibition. Cheek had 14, and Brown and McGaughy added nine.
“In the exhibition game, John got into foul trouble right off the bat,” Cherry said. “We hit a bit of a lull and then responded very well. We went with a smaller lineup and put Edwards at (power forward) and we took off. In the second half, we had some more adversity (Weary and Brown were ejected) and we responded again. That’s where our depth is going to come in. We won’t have to rely on one person or two people. We’ve got different guys who can carry the scoring load.”