HPU Men’s Basketball Picked Third in Big South Preseason Poll

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The High Point University men’s basketball team was picked to finish third in the North Division of the Big South Conference in the league’s Preseason Poll announced at Big South Media Day on Tuesday. The Panthers return three seniors and added seven newcomers for this season.

“Looking at the players we have and the way the guys have been working in the preseason, I feel really good about the team we have this year,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “Campbell brings back two preseason All-Conference guys, VMI brings back the Preseason Player of the Year. We lost Nick Barbour and Shay Shine.

“A lot of the voters are going to look at those things on paper to base their decisions. At the same time, I think a lot of the voters know the reputations of some of our new players, which is what got us ranked as high as third.”

High Point earned three first-place votes and tallied 103 points in the poll. HPU was ranked behind Campbell, which earned 21 first-place votes, and VMI, which earned five first-place votes. The Keydets return the Big South Preseason Player of the Year, Stan Okoye. Also in the North Division, Liberty ranked fourth, Radford fifth and new league member Longwood sixth.

In the South Division of the Big South, Charleston Southern ranked first with 16 first place votes followed by Coastal Carolina (eight) and defending Big South champ UNC Asheville (five). Winthrop ranked fourth followed by Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian.

High Point returns three seniors, including top returning scorers and rebounders Corey Law and Branimir Mikulic. Law averaged a career-high 9.5 points per game along with 7.2 rebounds per game and shot 57.7 percent from the floor in 2011-12. Mikulic came in as a junior last year and averaged 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds.

High Point has added two forwards with experience: fifth-year senior Allan Chaney and redshirt-freshman John Brown. Chaney is a transfer from Virginia Tech who was ranked No. 64 in ESPN’s Top 100 in the high school class of 2008. Brown was the Florida 1A Player of the Year in 2009-10 before attending prep school and redshirting at High Point last season.

Senior point guard Jairus Simms is the most experienced player in the back court, having played in 89 career games in which he has averaged 1.9 assists to just 1.1 turnovers along with 2.8 points per game. HPU also features Devante Wallace and junior Justin Cheek on the wing as well as four newcomers on the outside who will vie for playing time. They will have to make up for the loss of Barbour and Shine, who combined to average 36.0 points last season.

In the Athlon Sports preview issue that was recently released, High Point was picked No. 1 in the North Division of the Big South and Chaney was named to the Preseason All-Conference team. The Panthers were picked ahead of No. 2 VMI, Campbell, Liberty, Radford and Longwood.

The Panthers will look for a breakthrough season after going 13-18 overall and 8-10 in the Big South last year. High Point ended the season with momentum: the Panthers went 5-3 in their last eight games. HPU tied for sixth in the Big South regular season, which didn’t have divisions last year. The 2012-12 campaign will be Cherry’s fourth at High Point.

2012-13 Big South Preseason Poll
Rk.     North Division (first-place votes)      1       2       3       4       5       6       Points
1.      Campbell (21)                           21       8      --      --      --      --      166
2.      VMI (5)                                  5      14       6       4      --      --      136
3.      High Point (3)                           3      4        9       5       6       2       103
4.      Liberty                                 --      2       13       8       6      --      98
5.      Radford                                 --      --       1       8       9      11      57
6.      Longwood                                --      1       --       4       8      16      49

Rk      South Division (first-place votes)      1       2       3       4       5       6       Points
1.      Charleston Southern (16)                16       9       4      --      --      --      157
2.      Coastal Carolina (8)                     8      15       6      --      --      --      147
3.      UNC Asheville (5)                        5       5      18       1      --      --      130
4.      Winthrop                                --      --       1      14       7       7       67
5.      Gardner-Webb                            --      --      --       8      13       8       58
6.      Presbyterian                            --      --      --       6       9      14       50