For the past two years, the Christopher Newport University men’s basketball program has been thriving, with a record of 35-7 since the start of the 2011-2012 season and still many games to play in the 2012-2013 season. It’s no accident that the major increase in the team’s winning percentage coincided with the arrival of current sophomores Mike Cherry and Nik Biberaj.
Head Coach John Krikorian called the pair “two of the biggest recruits in our [the coaches’] first recruiting class” and the statistics unquestionably confirm that he has not been let down.
Cherry has played in every game of his career, and has made a name for himself in the substantial minutes he has spent on the court. He was the first player in CNU men’s basketball history to receive All-state Rookie of the Year honors (VaSID). He was the USA South Rookie of the Year and earned Second Team All-USA South honors in the 2011-2012 season. This season, he is currently averaging 16.9 points per game and has a handsome 31 assists.
Biberaj’s track record proves no less impressive than his teammate’s. He has played in every basketball game since the first of his freshman year, with an average of 15.1 points per game and 38 assists in the 2012-2013 season. Last year, he led the team in rebounds (195) and blocks (43) as well as recording a team best 50.6% shot accuracy from the field. He was awarded All-USA South Honorable Mention Team.
Coach Krikorian demands high standards for all of his athletes. He expects them “to be engaged on campus in the four years they are here” and “to take our basketball program to the highest level it has ever been.”
Cherry and Biberaj have been nothing but exemplary in the eyes of their coaching staff.
“They, at this point in their careers, are leaders by example. They both have [an] exceptional work ethic, they both are very coachable, and they both are very talented,” said Coach Krikorian.
When asked about the players’ qualities off the court, Coach Krikorian’s statement was short and to the point: “I think it’s really simple. I think they’re both great guys.”
Biberaj and Cherry have obviously been increasing their individual statistics and awards in the past couple of years, but they do not give the credit to themselves. They count on their teammates just as much as their teammates count on them. Biberaj says that his coaches and fellow players “work their hardest by playing at the top level in practice and encouraging us to play our best in the games.”
Biberaj claims that the experience he has now was cultivated through endless encouragement from those around him. Cherry claims he can rely on the other players at all times, both to play well and for moral support, particularly when he is not quite on his game or is being guarded heavily.
Of Biberaj, Cherry states, “When he is having a good game, that excites me more and makes me want to play harder, because I know we feed off of each other’s success. It also makes it harder on the other teams.” Biberaj chimes in, “We pretty much play off each other.”
With more than two seasons still to play for the Captains, Nik Biberaj and Mike Cherry have the potential to lead their team to even higher achievements and recognition than they have already attained.
Coach Krikorian summed up his opinion of Cherry and Biberaj nicely: “I could say a lot about them, but we are thrilled that they chose to attend CNU two years ago, and I could see them making a positive impact on their campus, not only through basketball but socially as well. And I’m very excited to see the young men they will grow into two years from now when they walk across that stage as leaders.”