Smith, HPU move on without Wright

2022-10-09 05:58:49 By : Mr. David liu

Oct. 8—HIGH POINT — With an experienced roster that included four returning starters, three key reserves and two transfers, High Point University head basketball coach G.S. Smith believes there is enough talent to offset the transfer of scoring machine John-Michael Wright to Oklahoma State.

"We have some big-time scoring," Smith said. "Obviously, we lost John-Michael Wright. But, I think it's going to be good from addition by subtraction ... Not that John-Michael wasn't good. He's somebody we're going to miss. But, I think sometimes we had some ball-watching, waiting for John-Michael to do his thing. Now, we can share the ball more and we have different options."

Redshirt freshman forward Zack Austin, a probable preseason All-Conference selection, is rated by Smith as the No. 1 option to offset the loss of Wright, who led the Big South last season with an average of 18.4 points per game. Austin is the Panthers' top returning scorer at 14.4 ppg and led the conference in rebounding at 8.0 per game.

Smith said Austin must improve his ball handling and shot selection.

"He's the best pro prospect in the league," Smith said. "His Achilles heel is ballhanding. He's really good off one dribble, it's that second move he has trouble with. He's been competitive and developed better practice habits. He has a chance to play at the next level, so this is a business for him."

The Panthers also return wing Jaden House, who averaged 12.3 ppg last season, starting point guard Bryant Randleman and interchangeable post players Emanual Izunabor and Alex Holt, and reserve guards Bryson Childress and Brock Williams. Ahmil Flowers, who missed last season, won't be ready for action at the start of the season.

Smith said House needs to limit his turnovers, improve his off-ball defense.

"His assist/turnover ratio hasn't been great since he's been here," Smith said. "With John-Michael gone, he's going to have the ball more, so he has to make better decisions. I project him to be in the starting lineup and to make better decisions. Otherwise, it's come sit down by me."

The transfers are 6-3 sophomore guard Abdoulaye Thiam from Minnesota and 6-7 junior forward Ahmard Harvey from Coastal Carolina. Neither saw much playing time last season. Thiam is 22, Harvey 24.

Thiam is projected to shoulder some of the scoring burden.

"We brought him in to fill John-Michael Wright's spot," Smith said. "He can really score, really shoot it. He shoots it funny, kind of comes across his face but it goes in. And he could be one of our better perimeter defenders."

Thiam spends time working on his shooting as much as anybody, according to Smith.

"He didn't get much playing time at Minnesota but he has the experience of practicing against Big Ten players in practice," Smith said. "He picked here because our facilities are just as good as some of the facilities he saw in the Big Ten."

Smith's projected starters at this point are Austin, Randleman, Thiam, House and either Izunabor or Holt.

The Panthers will try to play at a faster tempo this season, Smith said.

Points of emphasis in the first week or so of practice were free throw shooting and offensive efficiency.

Subtracting Wright's 77.8% free throw shooting last season, the other Panthers made 59.6% of their tries from the line. Of the returners who took at least 47 attempts, Austin was the only one who topped 70% (72.4) and the other above 60% was House (68.6). Izunabor and Holt were below 50.

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