Panthers seek to replace bench experience
Even with all five starters returning, High Point University men’s basketball coach Scott Cherry sees this year’s team as different from the one that won the Big South Conference’s North Division title last February.
“Every team is different,” Cherry said. “The personalities are different. We do have a lot of experience, the top five or six scorers, two or three of our top rebounders, a big percentage of points and rebounds and all that. What we are going to miss is senior experience coming off the bench.”
The returning starters include post players John Brown and Allan Chaney, wing Adam Weary and guards Dejuan McGaughy and Derrell Edwards.
Throw in reserve wing Devante Wallace and reserve forward Lorenzo Cugini and the Panthers have seven of their top eight scorers returning, while Chaney, Brown, and Weary represent three of last top four rebounders.
The experienced depth not returning includes center Corey Law (fifth in scoring and third in rebounding), 3-point shooter Branimir Mikulic and point guard Jarius Sims.
Wallace, Cugini, sophomore Haiishen McIntyre and redshirt freshman Cliff Cornish are expected to take up a lot of slack left by the departure of the seniors.
“If your bring guys like Devante and Lorenzo Cugini, Haiishen McIntyre (a sophomore guard) and Cliff Cornish off the bench, it makes us a pretty good basketball team. And if you insert one of those into the starting lineup and take a guy like Derrell Edwards or someone else out, we’re got a lot of game experience.
“Those guys are going to have to some of the roles that our seniors played off the bench or starting. Lorenzo could have a really good year and Devante battled injury so much. I could see their production being greater, and their roles being greater as far as minutes and points and rebounds and steals.”
For more depth, Cherry will be looking to get production from three freshmen -- 6-6 East-West all-star participant Tarique Thompson from Hoke County, 6-1 point guard Jorge Perez-Laham of Puerto Rico and 6-3 freshman Anthony Lindauer.
“Instead of relying on (Law, Sims and Mikulic), we’re going to have to rely on some youth,” Cherry said. “They’re talented guys, very good on paper. But being good on paper doesn’t mean anything. You’ve got to translate that to the the game.
Cherry does see Perez-Laham adding depth at point guard.
“He’s not explosive or athletic, he’s very cerebral,” Cherry said. “He’s a smart pass-first point guard where Dejuan can score the ball. It’s not that Jorge can’t make open shots but he can find the open guy, get in the paint. He’s more crafty than he is with speed.”
Cherry described Lindauer as “tremendous shooter, if the gets his feet set, he can really shoot the ball but had a habit of reaching on defense when he got here, which he has corrected” and said Thompson would most likely be able to add depth in the frontcourt but is “more skilled than I though he was when we saw him in AAU.”
As for the team as a whole, Cherry said the Panthers must rebound better, foul less (they had 25 more than the opposition for the season) and take care of the ball better without Sims, who had 89 assists and 39 turnovers.