The Charlotte 49ers men’s and women’s basketball teams open preseason practice Monday. Under NCAA rules, they have 40 days to hold 30 practices before a season-opening doubleheader on Nov. 8 in Halton Arena (men vs. East Tennessee State; women vs. Liberty).
A few preseason observations as the 49ers prepare for their returns to Conference USA:
• Coach Alan Major says senior transfer Ben Cherry is already making an impact with his leadership skills. Cherry, a guard who is finishing up his college career as a grad student (he’s already made stops at The Citadel and Tulane) will shore up the 49ers’ outside shooting. But Major also says Cherry (who played at Myers Park High) is more than just a spot-up shooter and "crafty" in how he gets open. The addition of Cherry and sophomore Shawn Lester (as well as the continuing development of Denzel Ingram and Ivan Benkovic) gives the 49ers more outside shooting than they’ve had in recent seasons.
• The 49ers’ two all-star candidates – point guard Pierria Henry and forward Willie Clayton – had productive off seasons, Major said. Henry worked on his outside shot; Clayton worked on adding a jump hook to his offensive game, as well as expanding his range to 15 feet.
• Freshman to watch is forward Marcus Bryan, who signed with the 49ers in August. Bryan, a 6-7 forward from Raleigh, is a tough rebounder who also can score from outside.
• Major said discipline for Lester and guard Terrence Williams, who were arrested on second-degree trespassing charges in August, hasn’t been decided on yet. They have court dates scheduled for October.
• Coach Cara Consuegra loses two of the best players in 49ers history in forwards Jennifer Hailey and Amanda Dowe. "I worry about replacing their leadership as much as their stats," said Consuegra.
• Junior forward Gabby Tyler, who redshirted last season when she couldn’t recover from a concussion, is back. But Consuegra said she is going to be careful with Tyler (an all-Atlantic 10 rookie team selection two seasons ago) and work her into practice gradually.
• Consuegra thinks the 49ers backcourt could be as good as any in Conference USA, with Ny Hammonds, Hillary Sigmon and Ayanna Holmes returning.
• Consuegra expects freshman guard Ciara Gregory to contribute. Gregory was a Parade Magazine All-American at Jeanette (Pa.) High.
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