High Point ‘Knocking on the Door of Something Special’

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Junior Asher Nolting already ranks fourth on High Point's career scoring list with 158 points after a 44-goal, 48-assist blitz last spring.


One of High Point’s most riveting moments last season came on a Monday in mid-February, when the visiting Panthers toppled Virginia.

Only a few months earlier, coach Jon Torpey and his staff made the nearly 200-mile trip to Charlottesville to take a peek behind the curtain of another team just beginning its run at a national championship.

Torpey walked away from watching a Virginia basketball practice impressed with how player-driven the Cavaliers were. He quickly wanted to figure out if the Panthers had anything like it. So he miked up some veteran players during a fall practice and was eager to see the results.

“As a staff, we sat down to see if we had a Ty Jerome-type of personality based on doing this,” Torpey said, referring to the Virginia point guard. “We watched two hours of Chris [Young], of Jake [Schleppy] and of Timmy [Troutner]. After watching the full two hours, it was like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to be really freaking good.’”

And the Panthers were, toppling Duke and Virginia on the road and beating three other eventual NCAA tournament teams in the regular season (Richmond, Robert Morris and UMBC). They went 6-1 in one-goal games and obliterated Jacksonville in the Southern Conference semifinals.

But there would be no happy ending: The combination of a poorly timed dud (a 15-7 loss to Richmond in the SoCon title game) and an unremarkable RPI of 20 left High Point on the outside of the NCAA tournament.

The tempting thing to dwell on when sizing up the Panthers is whether there is a lingering aggravation from what could be viewed as a postseason snub (or, more accurately, a process that is flawed independent of the people tasked with selection and seeding the NCAA tournament). And it’s worth revisiting in a bit, at least a little.

But the most compelling part of High Point’s fall might just be the process of figuring out who can emerge not as the able replacement for Young’s finishing (42 goals) or Troutner’s ability to anchor the defense after posting a .541 save percentage as a senior.

Instead, it’s a matter of identifying whether the same leadership foundation is in place that allowed the Panthers to flourish during a 13-3 season last year.

“It gives a lot of these guys the opportunity to say we’re knocking on the door of something special,” Torpey said.







And who might they be, beyond the obvious choice of junior attackman Asher Nolting, who already sits in fourth place in the program’s brief history with 158 points after a 44-goal, 48-assist blitz last spring?

There’s junior Sean Coughlin, a 13-goal scorer last year who will be a vital off-ball target. With the way he’s moved since returning to campus, Torpey believes he looks like a right-handed version of Young.

There’s redshirt freshman Devon Buckshot, who has lost 40 pounds since arriving at High Point and has impressed with his scoring ability in practice.

And then there’s a do-everything breakout candidate: sophomore Joel Scerbo, who is poised to be a tone-setter as a wing on faceoff who can stay on at either end of the field and shoots as hard as anyone on the Panthers’ roster.

“He gives us a total Swiss army knife,” Torpey said.

The point isn’t what High Point will miss from its seven-man senior class. And it especially isn’t to dwell on any lingering bitterness about its Selection Sunday disappointment.

For the Panthers, this fall already gives Torpey the impression he has a team hungry to make the most of an opportunity that seems more realistic courtesy of last year’s success, not less so based on how it ended.

“While disappointed, it was quickly on to the next-thing mentality,” Torpey said. “We preach that a lot. I don’t think they’ve carried a lot of that over. There’s a sense that there’s work to be done to get to where we need to be this year.”

Fall Ball Focus
High Point

Three points of emphasis as High Point turns the page on 2019 and prepares for 2020:

1. Next up in the cage

Torpey minced no words when asked to size up the Panthers’ fall priorities.

“I think the big one would be the goal,” he said. “We’re losing arguably the best goalie in the world based on the way he’s playing this summer.”

Troutner earned rookie of the year honors in the PLL’s inaugural season, so it’s no surprise minutes were scarce for his High Point backups last spring.

Redshirt junior Griffin Basile has logged less than 55 minutes in three seasons. Sophomore Antonio Arcona got into three games for about 10 minutes last year. Freshman Parker Green arrives after a stellar high school career in Memphis, Tenn.

While there wasn’t a clear-cut top option at the start of fall ball, Torpey is hopeful the Panthers can close in on a choice in the coming weeks.

2. Smoothing the edges

Size up High Point’s statistical profile, and it’s clear the Panthers were good in most areas, and at least average nationally in nearly everything else. The one exception? Their 21.1 turnovers per game ranked 71st nationally.

A team willing to force the issue in the middle of the field is likely to cough up a couple extra possessions in the pursuit of applying pressure. So Torpey knows so long as High Point is aggressive, some turnovers will be part of the equation. But trimming basic pass-and-catch errors could save the Panthers a possession or two a half.

“It’s the unforced A-to-B turnovers that we’re trying to eliminate,” Torpey said.

3. The scheduling dilemma

High Point’s breakout year has gotten it a mixed bag when it comes to nonconference scheduling. After the Panthers beat Duke and Virginia in midweek games, high-profile programs aren’t in a hurry to deal with them on a short turnaround.

Yet there’s two new noteworthy additions to the February slate on weekends. High Point opens the season Feb. 1 at Maryland, and it will meet Cornell in Baltimore on Feb. 22. Clearly, the Panthers are seen as added value for strength-of-schedule purposes after spending last year ensconced in the national rankings.

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