Basketball Preview: North Carolina
As the high school basketball season tips off, national interest grows. Five-Star is adding to that fever pitch. It's unveiling an all-encompassing new preview package: 50 States in 50 Days. Until Nov. 23, it will examine a different basketball state, breaking down its top teams, players and rivalries.
Which schools are title favorites? Which players are flying under the radar? All the answers are to come. The package -- which can be found in its entirety
Christ School is off to a hot start, knocking off Veritas Christian Academy, Greensboro Day and Wesleyan to begin its season 3-0. The results should come as no surprise: Last year, the Greenies went 32-5 and claimed their fifth consecutive state championship. Duke's Marshall Plumlee and BYU's Damarcus Harrison are gone, but three-star point guard Jerome Hairston leads a group ready to reload.
Last year's top-ranked team in the state, Quality Education Academy is again brimming with talent. Dayton-bound Jevon Thomas and Georgetown-bound Brandon Bolden form a potent one-two punch, and three-star recruits James Ford and Cinmeon Bowers can hold their own around the basket. Expect more of the same: The Fighting Pharaohs should be playing deep into March.
Led by the inside-outside tandem of Chris Jones and Jacob Lawson, Oak Ridge Military tallied 33 wins last season. Even after their graduation, the Cadets should contend. Senior shooting guard Carlos Rankins can light it up beyond the arc, and junior Alioune Badara Diagne is growing into his 6-7, 230-pound frame. Their test comes on Feb. 25: Coach Justin McClendon and Co. travel to perennially ranked Oak Hill Academy (Va.), a contest that should define the Cadets' national standing.
The Knights lost a heartbreaker in last year's Class 3A final, falling to Christ School 59-57. This year, they have the talent to exact revenge. Clemson commit Patrick Rooks, senior Ryan Potocnik and sophomore Matthew Fisher-Davis form a stat-stuffing trio: In the team's season-opener, a 83-54 win, they combined for 43 points and 19 rebounds.
The Rams prepare for a season of transition, as T.J. Warren, a five-star small forward, transferred to Brewster Academy (N.H.) in June. But don't write off Word of God yet. Josh Newkirk, Donte Reynolds and Shane Whitfield, three D-I caliber seniors, should help John Wall's alma mater challenge for a repeat 23-3 campaign.
Senior, Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.)
If last year's 25.4 scoring average was any indication, Upper Room Christian's Rodney Purvis is a force to be reckoned with. He possesses coveted size for a point guard, and has the speed, strength and savvy to torch defenders in the lane. A polished finisher and ball-handler, Purvis committed to N.C. State in September.
Junior, Olympic (Charlotte)
Olympic went 28-2 last season, winning 17 straight games before losing in the Class 4A playoffs. That's thanks, in large part, to the development of Allerik Freeman. His ability to score in the paint and around the perimeter gives defenders fits, and has launched him onto the national scouting radar. Just a junior, Freeman already holds offers to Arizona, Georgetown, Kansas and Florida, among others.
Junior, Webb (Oxford, N.C.)
Few forwards are better-rounded than Webb's Isaiah Hicks. At 6-8 and 200 pounds, he possesses a rare blend of athleticism and speed, and averaged 15.5 points as a sophomore. Despite transferring to a new system (he attended Body of Christ in '10-'11), Hicks should continue to generate buzz. The high-flying junior committed to North Carolina in August.
Sophomore, Wesleyan Christian Academy (Greensboro, N.C.)
Don't be fooled by his striking youth: Theo Pinson, a sophomore at Wesleyan Christian Academy, is already a star. He has good size for a shooting guard (6-5, 170), and even better court sense. He averaged 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists as a freshman. His precocious talent hasn't gone unnoticed. Pinson already owns offers to Duke, UNC and Kentucky, among others.
Junior, West Charlotte (Charlotte)
If there was any doubt about Kennedy Meeks' potential, reference last year's Class 4A championship. Meeks bullied his way to 19 rebounds in West Charlotte's 78-69 triumph, simply outmuscling opponents on the interior. That physical presence isn't lost on colleges. Meeks has offers from Tennessee, Wake Forest and Xavier.