3A Basketball Preview
Concord: Spiders are deep with three double figure scorers back (Connor Burchfield, Greg Childress, Jerry Burk). Freshman Ty-Shon Alexander is among the state’s best in his class and already has an offer from Charlotte. The Spiders are legitimate threat to win a 3A state title.
Freedom: Four starters return for coach Casey Rogers including three double figure scorers -- Khris Gardin (13.5 ppg), Chris Bridges (13.4 ppg) and Jeron Hemphill (14.1). Freedom was 21-6 last season.
Northwest Cabarrus: Three double-figure scorers return – Andrew Wheat (21), JD Murray (13) and Matthew Wheat (13). Northwest is adding size with two newcomers – 6-6 junior Derrick Farquharson and 6-5 sophomore Austin Davis.
Weddington: Warriors were 17-11 last season and return eight players who started last season, including 6-4 senior Brandon Watts, who averaged 12 ppg. In all, Weddington returns 98 percent of all its stats from last season’s team that finished second in the Southern Carolina conference.
Cuthbertson: Five starters back from an 18-11 team that will be a tight race with Weddington and Anson Senior in the Southern Carolina conference.
Forestview: Big South preseason conference favorites were 20-7 last season but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Enka, which ended up 13-16. One starer is back, 5-2 junior guard Nikkyanna McCaskill (7.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.3 apg)
Hickory: Coach Barbara Helms’ team has reloaded, led by all-conference stars Yazmen Hannah and Danasia Witherspoon. Two transfers will also help – 6-1 Sedasia Tipps and 5-8 guard Brittany Dixon, a Kennessaw State commit.
South Point: seven of the top players from a 19-6 team return, including guards Haley Stewart and Chrissy White
Weddington: 21-7 last season with three starters back, including senior guard Bailee Carter, an all-conference star and Anderson commit. Carter averaged 12.3 ppg last season.
West Rowan: Should be hungry after going 24-1 in the regular-season and losing in the first round of the playoffs to Carson.
Boys Players To Watch
Connor Burchfield, Concord, 6-4, Sr., G: Charlotte Observer all-region star averaged 20 ppg, 6 rpg last season.
Khris Gardin, Freedom, 5-9, Sr., PG: All-conference star led Patriots to a 21-6 record last season.
Nick Hough, Hickory Ridge, 6-2, Sr., G: All-conference star averaged 18 points and five rebounds and is one of four returning starters
Matt Morgan, Cox Mill, 6-2, Jr., PG: All-conference as a sophomore, Morgan averaged 14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg and is getting Division I recruiting attention.
James Tillman, Kings Mountain, 6-4, Sr., F: Tillman averaged 18.2 ppg, 12.5 rpg last season and is getting some Division II and Division I college attention.
Andrew Wheat, Northwest Cabarrus, 6-2, Year NA, G: Wheat averaged 21 points per game last season.
Girls Players to Watch
Morgan Carlson, Cuthbertson, 6-0, Sr., C: Averaged 12 ppg, 10 rpg and 4 blocks for an 18-11 team. Cuthbertson moves up to 3A this season. Carlson will team with 5-6 guard Taylor Helms (12 ppg, 3 apg) to try to make the transition smooth.
Yazmin Hannah, Hickory, 5-8, Jr., G: Averaged 21 ppg, 6 rpg and 4 spg for perennial state power.
Stephanie Watts, Weddington, 5-11, Jr., G: North Carolina recruit and preseason All-American averaged 21.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 5.5 spg and 3.4 apg last season.
Danasia Witherspoon, Hickory, 5-8, Jr., G/F: One of the region’s top players, Witherspoon averaged 21 ppg, 8 rpg and 5 spg last season.
• South Point had a tough season last year going 5-17, but 5-8 senior guard Deonte Gaston had a monster year, averaging 17 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
• Central Cabarrus retrns three starters, including Anthony Mullis, who led the team in rebounds. Newcomer Kyran McClure could be a big contributer. The 6-foot sophomore point guard was all-conference as a freshman in Ohio last season.
• Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee, whose team was 18-10 last season, returns three starters and add 6-0 junior Gianni Smith, who scored 40 points in a junior varsity game last season.
• Longtime AAU coach and former state champion Concord High coach Andy Poplin is now at Hickory, where he returns one starter from a 22-7 team: 6-3 wing Devonte Fuller. Poplin will be building from scratch but says he likes some of the new pieces like 6-1 guard Josh Linebarger....Ashbrook, coming off a 21-9 season, returns one starter (5-9 senior G Trey Dellinger) but adds 6-9 center Isaiah Whaley, who sat out last season after transferring.
• Kings Mountain is going to be big with 6-4 James Tillman, 6-6 Jacob Skidmore and 6-7 Josh Helton. Josh Sherer, who led the Big South Conference in assists last season (4.1) is going to enjoy this. ... Looking for a surprise team? Try Crest, where new coach Justin Zaleski has three starters back from a 15-11 team, including 19.4 ppg scorer Jerick Haynes and five really promising newcomers, led by junior G Tristan Rhodes.
• Weddington’s girls lost two games to 3A teams last season (Robinson in regular-season and North Iredell in the second round of the playoffs). Weddington lost its other five games to 4A powers Ardrey Kell and Porter Ridge. This season, the Warriors return their three top scorers. Watch out.
• An already strong Concord team (16-10 last season) is picking two strong rotation players in West Charlotte transfer Alisha Vinson, a 6-2 junior center; and 5-10 sophomore forward Amira Nasirildeen from Northwest Cabarrus. The Spiders are led by 5-5 junior all-conference guard Danica Ford (10 ppg, 3 apg).
• There will be a new state champ this season. Harding, which has won the past two 3A titles, is moving up to 4A.
Note: Chart is based on information returned to the Observer by area coaches.