Sep. 14—HIGH POINT — There's no surprise that new High Point University men's basketball coach Alan Huss has been in teaching mode during off-season workouts and will be after official practices start on Sept. 27.
That's expected for someone installing a new system. Making the task more challenging for Huss, who was associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Creighton, is that he brings in offensive and defensive systems that he says aren't widely used on the college level while trying to install them with a roster that has little continuity as 10 and possibly 11 new scholarship players join the three that stayed after the end of the Tubby Smith/G.G. Smith era last March.
One challenge is breaking old habits, Huss said.
"All these guys had good coaches ... We're doing the opposite of what they were doing, so we're trying to break those habits. That's not to say they were bad habits. They were just different," Huss said.
There are seven transfers — 6-10 center Liam McChesney of Illinois State; 6-3 shooting guard Duke Miles from Troy, 6-8 forward Cade Potter from Utah State, 6-7 forward Kiamni Hamilton from Mississippi State, 6-2 Kezza Giffa of France by way of Texas-El Paso and two-year Daytona State in Florida, 6-4 guard Trae Benham of Concord by way of Lipscomb and 6-8 forward Pavlo Dziuba of Ukraine with stops at Arizona State and Maryland.
The freshman scholarship recruits are 7-foot center Juslin Bodo from Cameroon by way of a Southern California high school, 6-7 forward Denzel Hines from Fontana, California, and 6-4 guard Titas Sarguinas of Lithuania.
"We've made an effort to flip the roster to a different style of play with a mixture of transfers and high school kids who can dribble, pass and shoot," Huss said. "We're not a finished product but we're headed in the right direction."
The holdovers are three guards, top returning scorer Abdoulaye Thiam, 3-point specialist Bryson Childress and Justin Taylor.
Huss said his offense starts with three or so options which can morph into three or more options after that, instead of just moving the ball to certain points. His defenses feature physical play without fouling (Creighton was among the leaders in least fouls last season) while forcing opponents to go in a different direction instead of using rotations.
"Right now, we're doing a lot of good and we do a lot of bad," Huss said. "Part of the installation process is letting them fail so they can see why they fail. Once they fail a few times, they can understand what the right decision is ... We had a few possessions Tuesday where we looked pretty good, the ball snapped around, moved from side-to-side and guys jumped in and got a couple of paint touches even though we missed a shot. Those couple of possessions looked like basketball."
Huss said that Miles had some of the best early understanding of the offense because some of it was used at Troy. He said Childress had picked it up well and Benham was getting more comfortable as he gets more reps and will be "a big part of what we do."
Huss said he believes Miles has the potential to be an all-conference selection along with Thiam, who will also play on the wing. Huss would like Thiam to make better decisions and be more consistent in his shooting and raise his 3-point percentage from the low 30s to the mid-high 30s.
Huss sees Bodo as an impact player because of his size at 7-feet, 250 pounds with a 7-7 wingspan. Sarguinas, who is a point guard, could also have an impact coming out of a league in Lithuania that has a higher level of play than the Big South, Huss said.
Giffa, who is also a point guard with a lot of speed and athletic ability, was described by Huss as having been the best player in the gym at times and lackadaisical at others, with a chance of being special if he cleans up his ball-handling mistakes.
Potter has been a pleasant surprise because at age 21, he has no college game experience and four years of eligibility left after a religious mission, redshirting his freshman year and then not playing last year after suffering a foot injury.
Hamilton, a four-star recruit and the Player of the Year his senior season in Mississippi, has shown why he was highly touted coming out of high school but needs to improve in some areas. Huss said. Hines, a power forward, is learning how to put things together. Taylor, who was a role player last year, could be either a shooting guard or point guard.
McChesney, a 6-10 center who could serve as a point-center at times, is battling a foot injury while Dzubia dislocated his ankle on his team's first possession in the recent European U-20 tournament. And the Panthers could have another wing player if Dee Barnes, a grad transfer, is granted a medical waiver by the NCAA.
"There are guys who have shown glimpses of doing good things and few who have things to work on," Huss said. "Nobody has solidified anything at this point. That's way too premature. We hope by Oct. 14-15, we can start preparing for games. We have another month, so right now, we just need these guys to learn."