New-look Panthers start fast
This year’s High Point University men’s basketball team is, in many ways, different than those of the last couple years. It just has a different look and a different way of getting things done.
Gone are the days of one or two guys carrying the team. Instead, the Panthers have a number of guys ― returnees and newcomers alike ― who can contribute, as they showed in Saturday’s exhibition game, in which they beat Mars Hill 96-62 in the Millis Center.
“My last two years, we relied heavily on two guys to score: Shay (Shine) and Nick (Barbour),” said coach Scott Cherry, in his fourth season. “We’re going to rely on guys to score, but I think you’re going to find a bunch of guys scoring and us having more balance. …
“So, we’re not relying on two guys every game to produce points. Like if Nick struggled, we struggled. I like to have balance, to be able to go with different guys. We’ve got to keep everybody healthy and out of foul trouble. And once we get guys back from injury, I feel like we’re going to be an even better basketball team.”
Five players scored nine or more points Saturday, including newcomers Allan Chaney and Derrell Edwards leading with 16 points each, while 11 players overall scored for HPU, which opens its regular season Friday against UNC Greensboro in the Millis Center.
Also, no one player grabbed more than seven rebounds, but the Panthers finished with 52. And no one dished more than five assists, but they also ended up with 18. So, they showed a sense of confidence in their teammates and no one player needed to push.
“For me, as a player, my focus isn’t on doing it all,” said Chaney, a graduate student who was one of the top recruits in his class but is returning after a couple years away from the game for medical reasons. “John (Brown) can do a lot; I can do a lot; Branimir (Mikulic) can do a lot.
“It’s great for me to that I can say, 'Coach, I need a breather,' and know who’s coming in is ready to go. That’s the same thing for them. If they need a breather, they know that I’m coming in ready to go. That’s definitely a positive.”
The downside coming into this season is that there are so many new faces (eight), particularly with returnees Devante Wallace and Corey Law sidelined with injuries. And it will take time for them to learn the system and learn each other. But they’re working on that.
If Saturday’s game ― in which they achieved nearly all their pregame team goals ― is an indication, there’s already progress toward realizing their goal of being a very good team and one of the best in the Big South Conference. It’s the first step in many, though.
“I’m excited about this team ,” Cherry said. “I think we have guys who have the will and the want and they respond when I ask them to respond. Like when when we had a lull in the game a couple times and I brought them over, we got a response.
“And that’s what I like about this team. I think we’re really going to have a chance to do some good things this year. We need to get our guys back who are hurt, just to have more depth. But I think guys are really doing some good things for us.”