Oct. 15, 2011
Cullowhee, N.C. - With a hint of cooler temperatures dancing on the early autumn breeze outside of the Ramsey Center, the Western Carolina men's basketball team took its first steps towards defending its share of the Southern Conference's North Division crown from 2011.
Official team practice for WCU men's basketball got underway just after 5 pm on Friday evening in the Ramsey auxiliary gymnasium. Taking advantage of fall break on campus, the squad also took team head shots in the morning as preparations gear up for the 2011-12 campaign.
Larry Hunter, entering his seventh season in Cullowhee, is excited about the prospects of the upcoming season. The Catamounts have posted three-consecutive winning seasons in Cullowhee and have shared the SoCon North Division crown in two of the past three years. Including an 11-1 home record last season, WCU has won 38 of its last 44 home games including 26 of its last 30 Southern Conference games.
Over the past three seasons, the Catamounts are 36-5 at home - an 87.8% winning percentage, tops among SoCon teams.
Western Carolina returns three seniors including all-tournament team selection from a season ago in Harouna Mutombo, Canadian countryman Keaton Cole and local-product, Sam Smithson from Horse Shoe, N.C. The Catamounts also return reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year in Trey Sumler at the point.
All told, the Catamounts return three of their top five scorers in Sumler (11.5 ppg), Mutombo (10.1 ppg) and sophomore Brandon Boggs (7.7 ppg).
Off the court this off-season, Hunter added former point guard Brigham Waginger to his staff to compliment veteran assistant - and 1996 SoCon Player of the Year - Anquell McCollum (1993-96) and Eric Wilson (2004-08) - a move that gives him three former Catamount players on staff. WCU also added Randy Wood to staff as the Director of Basketball Operations, a position Waginger vacated to take the full-time coaching position.
Western Carolina opens the 2011-12 season against the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Colonial Life Arena on Friday, Nov. 11. WCU is winless in six previous meetings with the Gamecocks, last travelling to Columbia, S.C., in 2006. Tip-off is set for at 7:00 pm.