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The Observer’s 1A/Private School Basketball Preview

Inside 1A/Private school Basketball

Contenders

Charlotte Latin boys: Hawks were 22-7 last season and return three starters and a slew of strong newcomers, including 6-foot-2 junior guard Anthony Bilas, the son of former Duke forward and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. College recruits Rusty Reigel and Joey Baynard have started every game since they were freshman. Experience counts.

Charlotte United Christian boys: Former Charlotte 49ers coach Mitchell Baldwin’s team is long, fast and athletic. Senior 6-1 point guard Stefan Kostic is terrific and 6-4 junior wing Michael Baez is a star. The Warriors were 30-10 last season.

Gaston Day boys: After going 22-9 last season, Gaston Day returns four starters and three Division I recruits – guards Trevor Anderson,Derek McKnight and forward Troy Henderson – in hopes to challenge Northside Christian for the state title.

Grace Academy boys: Former West Charlotte football star Fred Staton’s team was 18-9 last season and has four legitimate Division I recruits.

Kennedy Charter boys: Coach Oscar Walker returns five starters from last year’s 21-12 team, including 6-5 Division I recruit Lucas Johnson. Kennedy Charter has six players around 6-6 or taller.

Northside Christian boys: Knights have won two straight state titles and are a solid favorite to win a third, thanks to four senior Division I recruits, including future Charlotte 49er Keyshawn Woods.

Providence Day boys: Led by Davidson recruit Jordan Watkins, the Chargers are deep and talented. There hasn’t been a local 3A private school champion in nine years. This team – led by Watkins, 6-6 sophomore center Grant Williams and 6-2 wing Devin Mills – will challenge for a title. Eight of the team’s top nine players return.

Providence Day girls: The Chargers won a state championship, again, last season and return the state’s top player, 6-4 post Jatarie White, who has committed to South Carolina. And keep an eye on 6-3 freshman Janelle Bailey, who could be the next in a long line of Chargers’ stars.

United Faith boys: The Falcons are playoff-eligible for the first time since the 2010-11 season and coach Muggsy Bogues has two all-state caliber stars in sophomore guard Ty Gadsden, who has an offer from Charlotte, and 6-6 forward Nehemiah Mabson.

Boys Starting 5

Michael Baez, Charlotte United Christian, 6-4, Jr, G: Smooth and explosive, Baez has unlimited shooting range, is a good defender and can get to the basket as well.

James Demery, Northside Christian, 6-5, Sr., F: Committed to St. Joseph’s, Demery is a top-flight athlete who can play multiple positions.

Nehemiah Mabson, United Faith, 6-6, Sr., F: Has expanded his game to include a legitimate 3-point shot. Mabson, a D1 recruit,is one of three returning starters for the Falcons.

Justas Narusas, Grace Academy, 6-7, Sr., F: Getting recruited by SEC, Big South, SoCon, Atlantic 10, Ohio Valley and Ivy League schools, Narusas has a 4.2 GPA and can play all five positions. He averaged 15 points and nine rebounds last season.

Rusty Reigel, Charlotte Latin, 6-3, Sr., G: All-state and All-Mecklenburg player averaged 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds. Reigel has committed to Davidson.

Boys Notes

• Albemarle looks like the conference favorite in the Yadkin Valley, returning two all-conference players: Terrace Ellis (10.0 ppg) and Bryan Blanton (8.0 ppg) … Keep an eye on Queens Grant and 6-7 sophomore Patrick Tape’ (13 ppg, 10 rpg, 4 bpg last season) who is starting to get Division I looks. Queens Grant returns three starters, including Tape’, from last season’s 13-12 team.

• Country Day’s Michael White, a 6-1 junior point guard, has serious recruiting interest from Cornell, Winthrop and Liberty. He averaged 13 points per game last season and set a school-record for 3-pointers made in a game and season in 2012-13. … Charlotte Christian lost Vanderbilt recruit Matthew Fisher-Davis who transferred to Butler, but the Knights return Trey Phills, a 6-3 junior, who averaged 10.6 ppg and is getting multiple Division I offers, including Stanford, Davidson and Virginia.

• Charlotte Latin returns 10 of 15 players from last season. All 10 have been there since middle school. …Best nickname in town? That goes to Grace Academy’s Rob ‘Drain-O’ Hobson. He’s getting recruiting looks from MEAC, SWAC and Big South schools. As his nickname suggests, he can really shoot. And Drain-O grew, incredibly, from 5-4 to 6-3 this year.

• Cherryville 6-2 senior Kenny Poston averaged 13 points last season and will be on a team with several promising newcomers – senior 6-1 guard DJ Cunningham, 6-4 freshman post Yung Sherrill and 6-3 freshman post Chris Dean. …SouthLake’s Jalen Sanders (13.1 ppg last season) returns from an all-conference season with help. Lincoln Charter transfer Andrew Howard (6-7, Sr., C) was conference player of the year last season.

Girls Starting 5

Janelle Bailey, Providence Day, 6-3, Fr, F: Promising newcomer could be a difference-maker as the Chargers are expected to make another title run.

Desiree Newman, Charlotte United Christian, 5-9, So., F: Returning Observer All-Mecklenburg player averaged 14 points per game. She’ll team with 6-0 wing Salem Cuthbert (13 ppg).

Shakira May, Queens Grant, 5-9, Sr., F: Versatile starter averaged 14 points per game last season and returns with sophomore guard Julianna Leimer and promising freshman Marney Ketchem to lead a young team.

Kerstie Phills, Charlotte Christian, 5-11, So., G: Averaged 16 points and eight rebounds for an 18-8 team last season.

Jatarie White, Providence Day, 6-4, Sr., F: South Carolina recruit ranked among the nation’s top 10 players. Averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds last season. Reigning N.C. Gatorade player of the year.

Girls Notes

•  Providence Day’s girls have won eight of the past nine N.C. Independent Schools state championships in their class. The Chargers, 27-4 last season, return two starters, All-American Jatarie White and guard Nikyah Morgan.

•  Davidson Day returns three starters from a 17-7 team and has three players at 6-foot or more (Parker Tompkins, Kelsey Garrison and Maya Caldwell). …Charlotte United is starting a fifth grader on varsity, Kennedy Calhoun, who looks to have a promising future.

• Metrolina Christian was 10-16 last season but returns four starters, plus Sun Valley transfer Hannah Gordon. Coach JarMark Parker played at Catawba and was an assistant on the 2008 Concord state championship team.

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