HPU men’s hoops opens 2016-17 Saturday vs. Averett

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team will begin its quest for a fifth-straight Big South regular season title when the Panthers open the 2016-17 Saturday (Nov. 12) vs. Averett University.

Tip-off between the Panthers and Cougars is set for 7 p.m. inside the Millis Center. Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on the Big South Network, featuring commentary from Ford Martin and Colin Giuliani. In addition, Kevin Burke and Stafford Stephenson will call the game on the High Point Panthers Radio Network, with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m.

• The Panthers are coming off a 2015-16 season in which HPU posted a 21-11 record and claimed the Big South regular season title for the fourth-straight year. HPU advanced to the NIT for the second time in three seasons.

• HPU has won 20+ games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1994-95/1995-96.

• The Panthers welcome seven new players in 2016-17. Four of those seven are eligible this season, including freshmen Jamal Wright, Cliff Thomas Jr. and Luke Vargo, and junior college transfer Jalen Williams.

• Brandonn Kamga (Northeastern), Jahaad Proctor (Iona) and Sam Berlin (St. Thomas Aquinas) are transfers and will sit out in 2016-17 due to NCAA transfer guidelines. Kamga and Proctor have three years of eligibility remaining; Berlin has two.

• HPU will look to replace its departing senior class with a committee of talented players. That 2016 senior group of John Brown, Adam Weary, Lorenzo Cugini and Haiishen McIntyre graduated as the all-time winningest class in school history (77 wins over four seasons).

• HPU will play four of its first five games of the 2016-17 inside the Millis Center. It’s the first time the Panthers have hosted at least four of its first five games at home since the 2001-02 campaign.

• The Panthers were picked fifth out of 10 teams in the Big South preseason poll. Winthrop earned all 30 first place votes and was picked to win the league.

• Redshirt-senior Miles Bowman Jr. earned preseason Big South second team honors. He provided a spark for HPU in the final games of 2015-16, averaging 21.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in the Big South Tournament while becoming HPU’s first all-tournament team selection since 2006-07.

• HPU returns eight letter winners from last season’s team, including senior Anthony Lindauer, who started 23 of 32 games last season and ranked fourth on the team with 8.3 points per game.

• HPU Is one of four programs out of 351 nationally to have won four-consecutive regular season conference titles. The elite group also includes Kansas, Gonzaga and Stephen F. Austin.

HPU is 65-24 all-time in season openers, including a 9-8 mark in the Division I era. The Panthers are 40-10 when the team begins the season at home (7-0 in Div. I era). The Purple & White have not started the season at home since 2012-13. HPU has won five of its last seven season debuts. The Panthers started the season with a bang in 2014-15, defeating Bakersfield, 100-99, in four overtimes on Nov. 14, 2014 as part of the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. Last season, HPU led at Texas Tech, 68-65, with three minutes to go, but ultimately fell to the Red Raiders in Lubbock, 77-73.

HPU welcomes seven new players in 2016-17 and graduates the all-time winningest class in program history. As a result, the Panthers enter the campaign short on experience but high on potential. Entering last’s season’s opener at Texas Tech, HPU’s starting lineup had played in a combined 385 games with 221 career starts. This year’s projected starting lineup vs. Averett has combined for 105 games played and just 28 starts, with 23 of those coming from Anthony Lindauer.

Saturday’s game marks the second-ever matchup between High Point and Averett in men’s basketball. HPU won the only other meeting, 89-53, on Dec. 10, 2011, in the Millis Center. Former HPU standout Shay Shine led the Purple & White in the contest with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Then-freshman guard Devante Wallace totaled 18 points and redshirt-junior forward Corey Law – a current member of the Harlem Globetrotters – supplied his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

HPU has posted a 20-1 (.952) all-time record against teams from the USA South Conference. The Panthers most common USA South opponents are Greensboro College (7-1), Ferrum (5-0), Piedmont (2-0) and Covenant (2-0). HPU also will play USA South opponents Ferrum (Dec. 11) and North Carolina Wesleyan (Dec. 16) this season. In the most recent meeting with a USA South school, HPU defeated Methodist, 96-50, on Dec. 28, 2015. Tarique Thompson (18 points), Austin White (15), Andre Fox (15) and Ricky Madison (11) all scored in double figures for the Purple & White.

Averett was picked to finish eighth in the 2016-17 USA South preseason poll. The Cougars return six letter winners from a 2015-16 team that posted a 15-11 record, including a 6-8 mark in league play. Averett lost four of its top five scorers to graduation, but returns senior guard Charles Bryant who averaged 10.9 points and 8.6 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game last season. Junior guard James Contreras Jr. chipped in 9.6 points and dished out 2.0 assists per contest in 2015-16.

High Point hits the road for the first of two games against ACC opponents during the non-conference slate. The Panthers will travel to Blacksburg, Va., to take on Virginia Tech Tuesday (Nov. 15) at 7 p.m. in Cassell Coliseum. The game will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra/ESPN3, while coverage on the High Point Panthers Radio Network will commence at 6:30 p.m.