High Point Panthers
Overall Rank: #137
Conference Rank: #2 Big South
2006-07: 22-10, 11-3, 2nd
2006-07 postseason: none
High Point has quietly put together a solid program under the shadow of fellow Big South member Winthrop. Coach Bart Lundy, who once attended and coached at the school he is now chasing, has done an amazing job turning High Point into a consistent contender after taking over the program in 2003. Led by superstar Arizona ‘AZ’ Reid, who averaged 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds last season, the Panthers will get a step closer to Winthrop. And Reid’s senior season may be the best chance they get to unseat the reigning champs.
The graduation of Landon Quick and the transfer of Troy Bowen will cause a few problems in the backcourt. Quick, who started all 32 games, averaged 8.2 points and 3.8 assists during his senior campaign. Bowen has opted to transfer after earning 22 starts as a sophomore. Mike Davidson, who is transferring, and Josh Lamons, who is retiring from basketball for medical reasons, are also headed out of the Panthers program.
Incoming freshmen Matt Smigielski, Ibrahim Appiah and Alquan Mendenhall will provide some depth to the backcourt. Smigielski is a tough 6-3 shooting guard who can not only score, but also help on the glass. Appiah may make the biggest impact of the newcomers. The Ghana native who is heading to High Point via Montreal, Canda, is a superb shooter and even a better defender. Mendenahall is a score first point guard, but he is a smart player who will find his open teammates. High Point could use some depth in the frontcourt and the program hopes Earnest Bridges can provide that. At 6-5, the Raleigh, North Carolina native is a little undersized, but he is a strong, powerful athlete who has plenty of potential.
Who to Watch:
Reid may be the star of the team, and the most fun to watch, but it is the play of forwards Jerald Minnis and Cruz Daniels that is the most important. If Coach Lundy wants to play big, both Minnis and Daniels will be in the game, but starting both may be risky until the depth behind them is solidified. Minnis, a 6-7 235 pound senior, started 19 games last year and is a solid rebounder. He will do some scoring inside as well, but doing the dirty work under the basket will be enough to help out the Panthers. Daniels performed admirably as a redshirt freshman, averaging 3.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The offensive game needs to continue to develop and staying a presence under the basket on the defensive end without the constant foul trouble will keep Daniels on the floor much longer.
As long as the big guys can hold their own High Point will be very good. Mike Jefferson is a steady point guard, a good senior leader and a prolific scorer. Gene Harris had a surprisingly effective freshman season and is the most reliable three-point shooter returning. Tim Burns and Melvin Crowder both have the potential to become more productive options out of the backcourt. Due to the foul and depth concerns up front, Burns or Crowder, or one of the newcomers, is likely to earn a starting role in the backcourt, allowing Coach Lundy to run a three guard offense. With Reid on the floor, the Panthers can beat anybody in the Big South. If the rest of the team takes a step closer to Reid’s level, High Point can compete with anybody in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Mike Jefferson, Senior, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Gene Harris, Sophomore, Guard, 8.4 points per game
Arizona Reid, Senior, Forward, 21.0 points per game
Jerald Minnis, Senior, Forward, 8.0 points per game
Cruz Daniels, Sophomore, Center, 3.1 points per game