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November 23, 2012

Basketball Preview: High Point

The Western Michigan men's basketball team concludes a 10-day break as they return to University Arena on Thursday, November 29th at 7:00 p.m. to host the visiting High Point Panthers.

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Opponent Profile
Team: High Point Panthers
Current Record: 3-1
Location: High Point, North Carolina
Enrollment: 4,500

Conference: Big South
Last Year: 13-18 (8-10)
Home Record: 10-6
Away Record: 3-12
WMU vs. High Point (all-time series record): 0-0


Coaching
The Panthers are led by fourth year head coach Scott Cherry. Cherry was a senior captain for the North Carolina Tar Heels' 1993 NCAA Tournament championship team. As expected, a lot of Cherry's coaching philosophies are deeply influenced by former UNC head coaching legend Dean Smith.

Cherry has had assistant coaching stints at South Carolina, Western Kentucky, George Mason, Tennessee Tech, and MTSU.

The rest of High Point's coaching staff also includes former collegiate basketball players who have since been converted to assistant coaches; Ahmad Dorsett (2nd season), Neill Berry (1st season), and Trey Brown (2nd season).


Key Departures
The Panthers lost a dynamic duo in guards Nick Barbour and Shay Shine. Both recently signed contracts to play professional basketball in Europe, and were two of the most prolific scorers in High Point history.

Shine averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists per game and shot 40% from three-point land. Barbour (All Big-South, all four seasons) averaged 20.4 points per game and shot nearly 50% from deep last season. Barbour scored 30 points or more in six games last season, including a 44-point effort against Campbell on February 2, 2012.


Key Arrivals
The Panthers have several Junior College transfers entering the program this season. Probably the most impactful is graduate student Allan Chaney, with previous stints at Florida (2008-2009) and Virginia Tech (2009-2012).

Chaney is coming off two consecutive double-doubles against William & Mary (22 points and 10 rebounds) and St. Andrews (14 points and 10 rebounds). Chaney is a load inside, but can also be a threat from behind the arc.

JUCO transfers Derrell Edwards (South Plains College) and DeJuan McGaughy (Mercyhurst University-North East) have also made immediate impacts for the Panthers.

Edwards has started all four games for High Point and is averaging 6.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. Edwards leads the team in minutes and three-pointers attempted.

McGaughy is among High Point's first off the bench averaging close to 22 minutes a game and averages 8.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game.

Freshman guard Adam Weary is High Point's
proverbial sixth man as he's second on the team in minutes per game. Weary is a physical guard that puts up pretty consistent numbers on offense and defense. He's averaging 10.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.0 steal per game.


Key Returners
Redshirt freshman forward John Brown is undoubtedly the Panther's top defender and scoring threat. Brown has scored over 20 points in 3 of High Point's first 4 games and is also averaging 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.8 blocks per game.

Junior Justin Cheek is the Panther's starting shooting guard who averages a modest 5.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 0.8 steals per game.

Leading senior returners Corey Law (9.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg last season) and Branimir Mikulic (5.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg last season) also look to make an impact coming off the bench for High Point. They've both been relatively quiet so far this season but bring valuable depth and experience to a somewhat otherwise inexperienced group.

Experienced starting point guard Jairus Simms averages 5.3 assists per game, including a 9-assist effort against St. Andrews and a 7-assist effort against UNC-Greensboro. Simms rarely shoots the ball as proven by his current season high (3 attempts) against William & Mary.


Outlook
The High Point basketball program began its transition into Division I athletics during the 1997-1998 season from the North State Conference (NSC) where they previously won 15 regular season championships and 13 tournament championships.

In 1999-2000, the Panthers officially joined the Big South Conference and made it to the conference championship game in their first year of eligibility during the 2001-2002 season. They returned back to the conference championship in 2004, but again, came up just short.

High Point has since recorded one 20-win season (2006-2007), but hit a low-point finishing the 2008-2009 season at 9-21, and 4-14 in the conference and were forced to make a coaching change.

Under fourth year head coach Scott Cherry, High Point has consistently finished around the middle of the pack in the Big South. However, the Panthers are largely thought of as being on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of the conference, as they're currently off to their best 4-game start (3-1) since the 2005-2006 season.

High Point was predicted to finish the 2012-2013 season third (receiving 3 first place votes) in the Big South's North Division behind Campbell and VMI. The Panthers return three seniors and added seven newcomers.

All of Scott Cherry's past High Point teams have one thing in common: they like to push the tempo. As previously mentioned, Coach Cherry's style of play is highly influenced from his days at North Carolina, so fans can expect to see a pressure defense and a high-scoring offense.

The Panthers push the ball up the floor, and move the ball quickly as an upbeat style of play is emphasized. In Scott Cherry's first season as the Panthers head coach, High Point went from averaging just 64.4 points per game to averaging an improved 72.3 points per game. This season, the Panthers are currently averaging 80.3 points per game, good for placing in the top 15th percentile in the nation.


Projected Starting Lineup
(PG) Jairus Simms
(SG) Justin Cheek
(SG) Derrell Edwards
(SF) John Brown
(PF) Allan Chaney


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