By Kevin Russell, Sports Editor
The High Point University women’s basketball team will open up its regular season at home tomorrow, Nov. 10, against East Tennessee State at 2 p.m. The Panthers will look to build upon last year’s impressive 20-win season.
DeUnna Hendrix will lead the team this year following the departure of Jennifer Hoover to Wake Forest. Hendrix, a first year head coach is learning on the fly, but much is expected of her and this year’s team.
“I’ve learned a lot already,” said Hendrix. “I’ve been learning a lot from Coach Cherry and how he does things.”
The Panthers also lost Big South standout Shamia Brown to graduation and will need a way to replace her production.
“I don’t think you can truly replace a player like Shamia Brown, but we have to find a way to replace her production,” said Hendrix.
Making the transition for Hendrix easier will be returning players, Cheyenne Parker, Erin Reynolds and Tayler Tremblay. Parker and Reynolds have both been named to the first team All-Big South, while Tremblay will provide consistency in the back court.
Parker brings to the floor an abundance of talent. Last season, Parker was named Big South defensive player of the year, but also developed into a much better offensive threat. Parker averaged 13 points and 12 rebounds per game last season. She also collected the first triple-double in HPU history in a game against Winthrop, netting 13 points, 22 rebounds and 10 blocks.
“I’m really challenging myself this year and so is coach,” said Parker. “Coach is really doing a good job challenging all of us to be better.”
Reynolds will be looked at to lead the Panthers offensively in 2012. She has an incredible ability to score the basketball and will likely be close to the league lead in points at the end of the season. Last season Reynolds averaged just under 16 points per game, but in a Dec. 2 contest against The University of Pittsburgh, Reynolds dropped in a career high 36 points on 10 of 22 shooting.
Along with the returners, the Panthers also welcome in a few new faces, most notably red-shirt sophomore, Stacia Robertson.
Robertson, who comes from South Dakota University, brings another big post presence to the Panthers. In the Panthers’ exhibition game against Winston-Salem State University on Nov. 4, Robertson recorded a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
The Panthers have been picked to finish second in the Big South, but many believe this team can knock off conference juggernaut Liberty University. The coaching staff for the Panthers has done a great job of putting together a very tough non-conference schedule including Kentucky, Xavier and Davidson, which should help the Panthers later on in the season.
“Our schedule is very tough,” said assistant coach Kevin Nicholls. “We have a lot of tough road games which I’m a little worried about, but I think it will help us in the end.”
In 2011, this team was a few plays away from clinching its first-ever Big South Conference Championship, and this year’s team is hungry to take the next step.