Changing of the Guard? Or Just Fool's Gold?

By Ian Guerin - October 09, 2007


CONCORD, N.C. -- Winthrop has dominated.

High Point thinks it can.

The Panthers were selected as the preseason favorite to win the Big South in 2007-2008, and they will need to overcome the stigma of a team that underproduced a season ago despite having the best player in the league.

Forward Arizona "AZ" Reid finished last season as a consensus all-conference first-team selection. He scored 21.0 points per game while adding 9.5 rebounds - a first in league history. It couldn't help High Point beat VMI in the Big South tournament semifinals, putting a dissapointing exclamation point on a relatively successful season.

With Reid returning, the Big South's sports information directors and selected media found it enough to select High Point as the favorite to win the league this season.

Winthrop was second, followed by VMI, Coastal Carolina, UNC-Asheville, Liberty, Charleston Southern and Radford.

The voting panel also gave preseason player of the year honors to Reid.

Joining him on the first team is VMI guard Reggie Wiliams, Coastal guard Jack Leasure, and Winthrop guards Chris Gaynor and Michael Jenkins.

Williams led the nation in scoring (28.1 ppg), but he also averaged eight rebounds and nearly five assists per game. He shot 53.1 percent from the field. Still, many argued he was a product of the Keydets' run-and-gun offense that led the country in scoring. Williams tested the NBA draft waters last spring before making a wise decision to return to school.

He comes back needing just 351 points to set the conference's all-time scoring record.

Leasure, after a spectacular sophomore season, slumped at times last year despite averaging 15.6 points per game. Coastal struggled to a .500 finish and a first-round exit from the Big South tournament.

Jenkins grabbed numerous post-season awards after last year and could be the focal point of this year's Winthrop team. The Eagles' leaned heavily on now-departed players Craig Bradshaw and Torrell Martin, and Jenkins (14.8 ppg last season) should emerge as one of the dominant players in the Big South.

Gaynor, a 5-10 point guard, certainly looks like the Big South's premier player at the position this season.

If Winthrop is going to overcome preseason expectations, it will have to do so knowing opponents are looking to stop Jenkins and Gaynor first. And as teams saw last year when Martin or Bradshaw struggled, that was no easy task.

Despite the vote, this league is Winthrop's until High Point -- or anyone else -- proves otherwise.

Posted by Ian Guerin at 12:40 PM on October 09, 2007
Comments (1)

Comments

Even with Arizona Reid I don't think High Point is the best team in the Big South. Winthrop has quality depth and experience and remains the team to beat.

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