Men's Hoops: High Point game preview

VeeMan breaks down Vanderbilt's Sunday night matchup against High Point University from North Carolina. The Commodores (5-2) try to rebound from a road loss at Indiana when they take on Coach Jerry Steele's Panthers (2-3) Sunday at Memorial Gym (7 p.m. CST).

So far, the games of the Vanderbilt Commodores have gone almost exactly as one would have predicted before the season began.  After seven games, the record is 5-2, as anyone could have foreseen.  The two losses are to Connecticut at home and Indiana on the road, also according to the book.

The Indiana game was a respectable showing for a young team.  It was not an obvious beginning to a new age in Vanderbilt basketball, but no rational person would have expected it to be.  There is no doubt that the play of big men Matt Freije (18 points) and David Przybyszewski (14 points) was the high point for the Commodores.  The defense was respectable and the outside shooting was, for the second consecutive game, a disaster area.

The High Point Panthers of the Big South Conference come into this game with a 2-3 record.  Their last scheduled game, with non-Division I team Averett, had to be cancelled last Saturday because of a power outage caused by the big ice storm that hit the Piedmont Carolinas.  Before that they had won the Mohegan Sun Classic in New Britain, Conn., defeating Northern Arizona 70-65 and Central Connecticut 74-63.  Then they were badly beaten by Clemson in the Greensboro, N.C., Coliseum 91-65, and dropped road games to Kentucky 84-64 and Citadel 82-67.

High Point is the alma mater of Kentucky coach Tubby Smith.  It looks as though the Panthers pointed toward the Kentucky game, in which they played very well, and somewhat overlooked the games that came directly before (Clemson) and afterward (Citadel).  The Panthers' coach is veteran Jerry Steele, who has a 470-423 record in thirty years at High Point, and is 621-497 in 38 years of head coaching.  Steele was a good player himself at Wake Forest, completing his eligibility in 1961.

Danny Gathings, 6-5 sophomore transfer from Virginia Tech, is the high scorer for High Point.  A native of nearby Winston-Salem, N.C., he leads the team in point production (16 per game), rebounds (average of 6.2), steals, and turnovers.  His coach is quoted in BLUE RIBBON COLLEGE BASKETBALL FORECAST as saying that Gathings is really only about 6-3, "but we list him taller."  Regardless, he is the best all-around player on the team, and has hit a surprising 59.4% of his field goal attempts to date.

In the long run, 6-6 senior forward Dustin Van Weerdhuizen, from La Center, Wash., may prove to be a better shooter and scorer.  He is averaging 14.2 ppg and 4.6 rebounds, and does most of the three point shooting for the team.  Unfortunately he has made only 25.8% of his attempts so far this season (31-8).  Last year he averaged 16.9 ppg.

The third leading scorer is 6-2 sophomore Joe Knight of Columbia, Tenn.  He was freshman-of-the-year in the Big South last season, averaging 13.1 points, and played point guard.  This year he has moved back to shooting guard, and is scoring 11.3 ppg in the four games in which he has appeared.

 The point guard is 6-0 freshman Jeff Allen of Woodbridge, Va. (4.8 ppg, 3.6 assists per game).  He will probably be a four-year starter at High Point.  Kashawn Hampton, 6-8 senior, packs 275 pounds, and starts at center.  He walked on after transferring from Alabama A&M and is averaging 6.8 points and five rebounds.  About him the coach says "he really weighs 300."  (One wonders what the purpose of falsifying the heights and weights of the players could be?)

6-5 junior Brett Halsch is the team's sixth man.  He is scoring 5.6 ppg and can step out and make the three.  Matt Anderson, 6-0 freshman from Lenoir, N.C., 3.8 ppg, is playing a lot of minutes.  Ron Barrow, 6-6 senior from Sacramento, Calif., is scoring 4.6 ppg in limited minutes.  The only other players to see action in the first five games are 6-8 John Stonehocker and 6-11 Jeremy McCall from London, Ontario, a definite project.

The Panthers never have played Vanderbilt before in men's basketball, and they are badly outmanned in this game.  They play in one of the lowest-rated Division I conferences, and may be contenders there, but the Commodores simply have better and bigger players.  This looks like a Vanderbilt victory, in the 15-to-25 point range, barring a letdown.  However, it must be admitted that Vanderbilt teams have been known to play badly during and immediately after fall semester examinations, a situation that will apply to this game. Top Stories