College Basketball Preview: High Point starts fresh under GG Smith

Leading scorer John-Michael Wright is gone after transferring to Oklahoma State

Jaden House and High Point will be playing their first full season under new coach G.G. Smith. (James Crisp / AP Photo)

Last year was a transition season for High Point, as legendary alumnus Tubby Smith stepped down as head coach in February and was replaced by his son, G.G. Smith. This will be the younger Smith’s first full season as head coach of the Panthers, and the team returns an experienced nucleus, including four starters.

2021-22 record: 14-18 (7-9 Big South)

Top players: Zack Austin, the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year, returns, adding preseason All-Big South first-team honors to his resume. He led the Big South in rebounding, was third in blocks and in the top 10 in steals while averaging 14.4 points. Junior guard Jaden House, senior guard Bryant Randleman and senior big man Emmanuel Izunabor round out the returning starters. High Point also gets back Ahmil Flowers, a 2021 Big South All-Freshman performer who missed last year with an injury.

Key additions: The Panthers add a pair of transfers. Abdoulaye Thiam played sparingly for Minnesota last season and will join the backcourt. Forward Ahmard Harvey had inconsistent playing time in three years at Coastal Carolina. Freshmen Justin Taylor, Sam Perez and Liam Carney also join the squad.

Departed players: Leading scorer John-Michael Wright averaged 18.4 points last year, adding 3.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds as well as a steal a night. He entered the transfer portal and joined Oklahoma State for the upcoming season.

Expectations: With stability in the head coaching seat and most of the team back, look for High Point to improve over last season’s sub-.500 conference record. They were picked fifth in the league but could crash the top tier if things break right.