Quick trivia: Can you guess how many C-USA players finished last year averaging at least 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game? Would you believe only 1 player in the whole conference? It's true, and that one player was Pierria Henry, Charlotte's 6'5 senior guard who does EVERYTHING on the court for the 49ers.
Henry will go down as one of the most accomplished players in Charlotte basketball history, even if there have been flashier ones. After three years of basketball in Charlotte, Henry is only 45 steals away from becoming the school's all-time steals leader, 123 assists from becoming its all-time assists leader, and 89 points away from becoming the school's 25th 1,000 point scorer. As the numbers show, Pierria does it all for Alan Major's squad. To me, he's always seemed very similar a player to Julian Washburn. Obviously Henry is a few inches shorter, but the two players play similar roles on their respective teams in terms of usually guarding the opposing team's best player and providing consistent scoring. Both enter their senior seasons hoping to finish with an NCAA Tourney ticket and both will go down as illustrious players in their respective school's basketball history books as versatile, jack-of-all-trades type players.
As a senior, Henry and the rest of his 49er teammates hope to spoil the La Tech-UTEP party at the top of the league standings that everyone is seeming to expect. Charlotte, along with Old Dominion, are probably the most popular 'dark horse' candidates to challenge in Conference-USA. The 49ers underachieved somewhat in their first year in C-USA, finishing 7-9 in conference play, but they have some pieces in place this year. 6'9 junior Willie Clayton should be a double-double machine this year after nearly averaging double digit points and rebounds a year ago. 6'4 junior guard Shawn Lester averaged 11 ppg off the bench last year and could take a huge step forward. Terrence Williams is another 6'4 guard entering his senior season who can provide the Niners with some scoring and rebounds. So while the Bulldogs and Miners bask in the glow of being early season favorites, the 49ers gear up for a season where they hope to be surprise some people. It's not farfetched, but if it the Niners are to challenge, they will need a huge season from their leader and best all-around player, Pierria Henry.