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Big South Preview: Can John Brown take down Coastal Carolina?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big South Conference.

A month before the Big South Tournament started, seven teams were tied for first place in the conference standings. Once the tournament began, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds were bounced in the quarterfinals. Despite all the parity and chaos in the league, the tournament champion remained the same.

Coastal Carolina is eyeing a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament in its final season in the Big South before moving to the Sun Belt Conference.

The Chanticleers bring back Elijah Wilson, the Big South Tournament MVP, point guard Shivaughn Wiggins and power forward Badou Diagne. That trio could make a three-peat possible. Coastal Carolina boasted one of the conference’s most efficient offenses and defenses, and tops in both offensive and defensive rebounding 2014-15. The production of graduating guards Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron won’t be easily replaced, but if they defend and crash the boards like they’ve done in the past, the Chanticleers will be in a good position when they host the Big South Tournament again in March.

Like the Chanticleers, many of the teams across the Big South have lost start players. Of the 15 players named to the all-conference teams last March, only two of them return this season.

One of them is High Point senior John Brown, the ultra-athletic and physically imposing forward. Through his first three years he’s averaged 18.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s helped the Panthers win at least a share of the last three regular season titles, but has no NCAA tournament appearances to show for it. Click here and check out some of the dunks he’s thrown down over the years. Now imagine him playing on the first Thursday or Friday of the NCAA tournament. Fun, right? Surrounded by a cast of upperclassmen, Brown could finally get that shot this spring.

Winthrop graduated two double-digit scorers, including first-team selection Keon Moore. Keon Johnson will be the key holder over in a new-look perimeter that could feature not one, but two Division II transfers. Jimmy Gavin’s amazing journey was chronicled back in May. Roderick Perkins, a 6-foot-5 wing, was the second-leading scorer in all of D2 in 2013-14. Winthrop’s defense, rated as the most efficient in the Big South, returns a pair of shot-blockers — Xavier Cooks and Duby Okeke — the frontline. Zach Price, the former Louisville and Missouri big man, is eligible this season, as well.

Longwood could be a dangerous team, especially if the Lancers can get quality play from the back court. The Lancers have one conference’s best front courts. Shaquille Johnson is one of the league’s top athletes. Lotanna Nwogbo, the 6-foot-8 forward, is back after missing the last 17 games of conference play with a thumb ligament tear. In three full Big South contest, he was averaging 19.3 points and 12.0 boards per game. Gardner-Webb is dealing with the loss of Jerome Hill and Tyler Strange, but returns six of its top nine scorers, including Tyrell Nelson. Radford should be another potential sleeper. YaYa Anderson is joined by senior Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones, the potential breakout star of the league.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “In my mind, it would probably be High Point. There will be several teams that have really good players back, but High Point has several really good players back and John Brown has been one of the top players in the league for the last three years. Probably the team with the most experience, top to bottom, coming back is Coastal. I think they have four starters back, but I think they lose two really good players. On paper, as you look at it, Coastal makes sense to pick first.”
  • Sleeper: “I think a lot of people would say Longwood. I think they have a talented roster and they have a player on their team (Lotanna Nwogbo) I think a lot of people would talk about having a chance to be one of the better players in the league. He got hurt the second or third game in the conference season.”
  • Star to watch: “I’d say John Brown should be the favorite for preseason player of the year. There are a lot of good ones, but he’s definitely been really good for a long period of time. I think it starts with his motor and how hard he competes and how physical he is. He just stays after it every possession. He really plays so hard on both ends. He’s great at working at working on catching the ball at the rim and using his size and athleticism to score in the paint. Then he’ll get stuff in transition and on the offensive glass. He’s a monster.”


Brown, maybe the best dunker in all of college basketball, returns for his senior season after averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 2014-15. The 6-foot-8 nightmare matchup plays with a consistent motor. He understands angles and where to position himself on the floor in order to get easy buckets. Brown also creates opportunities for himself in the open floor and offensive glass.


  • Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: The 6-foot-7 center was top-10 in the Big South in both scoring and rebounding at 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a night.
  • Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina: Had a strong finish to last season, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors. The 6-foot-4 guard is the top returning scorer at 11.3 points per game.
  • Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: The best athlete in the conference not named John Brown, Johnson averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season.
  • DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: The Blue Hose will rely heavily on the 6-foot-5 sophomore, who recorded five double-doubles during conference play last season.



1. Coastal Carolina
2. High Point
3. Winthrop
4. Longwood
5. Gardner-Webb
6. Radford
7. Charleston Southern
8. UNC Asheville
9. Campbell
10. Presbyterian
11. Liberty

John Brown with another ridiculous one-handed alley-oop dunk (VIDEO)

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The NFL season just ended five days ago, so I’ll forgive you if you’re just getting into the current college basketball season. That being said, this is John Brown, a junior forward from High Point University. He’s has his fair share of highlights.

For Brown, this might be his best dunk to date. He rolls off the ball screen as teammate Adam Weary is in the process of making the pass. Weary lobs it way too high, which would be a problem for any other player in the Big South, but not for John Brown.

There’s a reason why he was listed as the second best dunker in the nation heading into this season.


Pregame Shootaround: Important matchups in Atlantic 10, Big South highlight schedule

AP Photo/Skip Peterson
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Dayton at George Washington, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Dayton arrives in the nation’s capital one game out of first place in the Atlantic 10, setting up what is a very important game for both the Flyers and Colonials. At 6-3, Mike Lonergan’s team is two games behind VCU and they need a win to remain in the regular season title race. GW has some talented options in the front court, led by Kevin Larsen, but taking advantage of Dayton’s lack of size has been a task easier said than done for the majority of their opponents. The guard play should be solid, with the Flyers being led by Jordan Sibert and Scoochie Smith and GW countering with Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE NIGHT: High Point at Coastal Carolina, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

This is one of two quality matchups in the Big South tonight, with Charleston Southern visiting Radford in the other. Coastal Carolina, trails High Point and Radford by a game in the conference standings, and with Cliff Ellis’ team having already beaten High Point on New Year’s Eve a sweep of the season series would be a nice tiebreaker to own should they need it at the end of the regular season. Josh Cameron leads a balanced attack for the Chanticleers, who have five players averaging between 9.3 and 13.5 points per game. High Point is led by electric forward John Brown, who’s averaging 18.2 points per game and is one of the best finishers in college basketball.

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?: Iona (-11) vs. Siena, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

This matchup changed when it was announced Friday afternoon that Iona junior guard A.J. English was suspended for his actions following the team’s win over Saint Peter’s last weekend. Without English, the Gaels will move forward with the talented duo of forward David Laury and freshman guard Shadrac Casimir. However, that could open the door for a Siena team that has struggled defensively at times this season. Not having to worry about English will help Jimmy Patsos’ team, and they’re facing an Iona squad that has its own issues defensively.


1. Yale looks to move to 5-0 in Ivy League play as they host Dartmouth. James Jones’ Bulldogs, led by forward Justin Sears, have limited opponents to 38.4% shooting in their four Ivy League games thus far.

2. Harvard (3-1) looks to remain on the Bulldogs’ heels as they visit Brown, with a matchup with Yale scheduled for Saturday night. With the Crimson having already lost a conference game, they can’t afford to lose to the Bears. 2-1 Princeton visits Columbia in another key Ivy League matchup.

3. Charleston Southern visits Radford in the other key Big South tilt, with the Highlanders tied with High Point for first place and Bucs a game back. Radford’s won eight straight, with forward Javonte Green (15.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg) leading the way.

4. North Florida, tied atop the Atlantic Sun standings with FGCU, looks to move to 7-1 as they take on Jacksonville. Matt Driscoll’s Ospreys won the first meeting by 23 (86-63) January 10, shooting 50 percent from the field with Dallas Moore scoring a game-high 20 points.

5. Another key game in the MAAC is 7-5 Canisius visiting 8-4 Manhattan, with the top six teams in the conference moving directly into the quarterfinals of next month’s conference tournament. Manhattan, which still has two games to play against first place Iona, still has hopes of making a run at the regular season title.

Late-game execution the difference as Hawaii falls to High Point

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Hawaii acting head coach Benjy Taylor was given the unenviable task of leading a program dealing with off-court issues last month, with an NCAA investigation leading to the coaching change and the loss of the team’s best player in All-Big West forward Isaac Fotu. However through two games Taylor’s Rainbow Warriors made do with the remaining pieces, picking up wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Bakersfield ahead of their Tip-Off Marathon matchup with High Point.

After building a nine-point second half lead with an aggressive offensive attack, things fell apart for the home team down the stretch. The energy that was a positive for most of the game gave way to a frenetic display in which Hawaii lacked the poise needed to put together the quality possessions needed to close out the game, and High Point took advantage.

Scott Cherry’s Panthers closed the game on a 20-3 run, winning by the final score of 62-54, and their 3-0 start is the program’s first as a Division I member.

John Brown, one of the Big South’s best players, led the way with 19 points and Tarique Thompson added 13 for High Point. The Panthers had their issues offensively, shooting 37.5% from the field, but they did manage to make 47.5% of their two-point attempts. By comparison Hawaii shot 13-for-34 from two, which works out to 38.2%, and that combined with the untimely miscues led to their first defeat of the season.

Hawaii committed just 12 turnovers on the morning, but six of those came in the final 6:23. Take better care of the ball, and the Rainbow Warriors likely would have won the game despite shooting 31.4% from the field. Mike Thomas led the way for Hawaii with a career-high 14 points, scoring all of those points in the first half.

Ultimately Hawaii’s remaining pieces were put together with the idea that Fotu would be their focal point offensively. Now that he’s no longer with the program, Taylor and his staff are going to have to figure out a system that works best moving forward. Being aggressive on both ends of the floor is great, but there’s no substitute for depth or sound execution. Those areas ultimately cost Hawaii Tuesday morning.

Last-second steal, layup gives High Point a four-overtime win over CSU Bakersfield (VIDEO)

Devante Wallace
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Friday night featured 157 games, including the season opener for Kentucky and its platoon system, the debut of Jahlil Okafor at Duke and a wild finish in Oxford, Mississippi with Charleston Southern handing the SEC one of its four losses of the night with a buzzer-beating dunk.

Lost in the shuffle was the Outriggers Hotels Rainbow Classic. High Point and Cal State Bakersfield capped off a four-overtime game with a crazy finish of its own. The Panthers, trailing 99-98, forced the Roadrunners’ in-bounds pass to the corner, Brian Richardson came away with the steal, and found Tarique Thompson hanging right in front of the basket for the game-winning bucket.

High Point guard Devante Wallace scored a game-high 32 points. The Panthers were without the services of top player John Brown.

On Saturday, High Point had enough legs to pick up its second win of the season in a 74-62 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The season will continue to be unusual, as the Panthers’ next game is Tuesday against Hawaii at 5 a.m.

[h/t Matt Norlander, CBS Sports]

How High Point’s John Brown went from JV QB to NBA prospect in five years

High Points John Brown, via HPU Men's Basketball
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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

John Brown shouldn’t be playing basketball at High Point.

I’m not saying that to be mean, and I’m not trying to assassinate his character. By all accounts, Brown is a dedicated, hardworking student-athlete with a fun-loving personality whose biggest flaw, depending on where you’re from, is either his willingness to dress up like Grand-Ma-Ma or his affinity for Florida Gators football. He’s bar-none one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done.

But he’s also a hyper-athletic, 6-foot-8 combo forward with a motor that doesn’t stop running and a feel for the game that goes beyond his five years of organized basketball. Players like that belong in the ACC, not the Big South.

I know it. High Point head coach Scott Cherry knows it. Deep down, Brown probably knows it, too, which is what makes the tale of a JV quarterback becoming the Big South Player of the Year so interesting.

As a sophomore in high school, Brown wasn’t a basketball star. He wasn’t even a basketball player, focusing all his energy on calling plays for his high school’s JV football team with his sights set on one day playing in “The Swamp.” That summer, however, Brown not only transferred schools, he also grew to 6-foot-6, which created a bit of a problem. He was too tall to be a quarterback, but seeing as he struggled to keep his weight above 160 pounds, he was too skinny to do much else.

“I wasn’t going to do anything that year. I was basically just going to give up on everything,” Brown told NBCSports.com in a phone interview earlier this month, and it would have stayed that way if his new high school’s hoops coach hadn’t happened by during a pick-up game. “I was just playing and the coach saw me playing in the gym. He told me to come in for practice and try out. I was already athletic, because I played football, but I gave him what he asked for and all of a sudden I just started playing varsity, starting and everything.”

RELATED: Big South Conference Preview

HPU Men’s Basketball

As a junior, the first time in Brown’s life that he had played organized basketball, he generated enough buzz that people in northern Florida started to notice. He played AAU ball that summer, which is where Cherry saw him play the first time, before transferring to Arlington Country Day, one of the best high school basketball programs in the country, for his senior year of high school.

And it was during that one season at Arlington Country Day where Cherry realized just how good this kid could be. Cherry was there to watch one of High Point’s most important recruits, a 6-foot-8 bruiser named Travis Elliot that would eventually enroll with the Panthers before transferring out of the program. But it didn’t hurt that they would get a second look at a kid that impressed him during the summer, and as Cherry tells it, “[Brown] was really good in that game, too.”

Brown, however, has a different take on his performance: “I killed him, and then they started recruiting me.”

The truth is probably lost in the annals of time, but regardless of how the game actually played out, Cherry and his staff did their due diligence and got some good news. “All of a sudden word kind of filtered down that he was still available,” Cherry said, “and that there was a possibility of us getting involved with him.”

The reason for that? Brown’s academics were a mess.

The NCAA requires that a certain number of core courses be taken in high school in order to be eligible at the collegiate level. Brown didn’t realize he had a real shot to be a scholarship athlete for the first half of his high school career, and as a result “was put in classes that would only point him towards a trade school or junior college and was told differently,” Cherry said. The other problem was that the NCAA stop accepting credits from Arlington Country Day, meaning that the work that Brown did to try to make up for the start of his high school career wouldn’t count.

So he spent a year prepping at Oldsmar Christian School (Fl.), but even that wasn’t enough to be ruled a qualifier by the NCAA.

Brown was allowed to be on scholarship his first year at High Point, but he wasn’t even allowed to practice with the team, let alone play in games.

And it was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

“Don’t laugh at me, but I came here at 160,” Brown said. “Now I’m 205, so I came a long way. I was kind of glad that I had to sit out because I gained a little weight, so I won’t get completely pushed around.” It also gave Brown a chance to try and expand his game, which to this point in his career was more or less limited to his natural athleticism. “I had to learn how to dribble,” he said. “You can run, you can jump, you can catch, you can do all of that. You don’t know how to dribble? You might as well give it up.”

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Now, the x-factor here was that High Point couldn’t actually work with Brown through all of this. They couldn’t bring him into practice and he couldn’t join the team in the weight room. They were really quite limited on what they would be able to do to help him improve. The only outside influence on Brown was the distractions that every freshman faces in college. He was scheduled to be a part of the team the following year, but as a freshman, Brown was nothing more than a regular college kid that just happened to be 6-foot-8.

“You’ve got so many distractions here at college,” Brown said. “Because my teammates, they were always practicing. I didn’t have nobody coming in the gym with me. It was just me and my girlfriend, she would come and rebound for me.”

It was humbling, Brown said, just the wake-up call he needed.

“It let me know that the game can get taken away from you in the blink of an eye, so that’s why I try to go hard every practice, every workout, every day.”

Brown hasn’t slowed down since.

All you need to do is to talk to his coach to realize that. In our 20 minute conversation, Cherry repeatedly drove the point home that the most important skill that Brown has is his motor and his work ethic. It never stops. He goes all out every second that he is on the court, and that is very much a skill, one that’s as tough to develop as a consistent three-point stroke or a dangerous low-post game.

And it’s that level of effort, Cherry believes, that will one day get Brown into the NBA.

“What this guy offers is that he’s going to be a professional,” Cherry said. “He’s going to come to work every single day, that’s going to have the same attitude and work ethic every single day, that’s never going to change. He’s going to outplay guys higher than him on the draft board because he has zero and 100, there is no in between.”

“Coaches love effort,” Brown said. “That’s one thing I’ve found out in my years of playing, so I just give them what they love.”