Cannon's Alec Wintering has been around basketball since he was a little boy.
The Arizona transfer has been a ballboy for the Arizona State men's basketball team and was invited to do the same by Larry Brown for his former Charlotte Bobcats team during NBA Summer League play in Las Vegas two years ago. Wintering has even worked out with basketball great Isiah Thomas.
It's no surprise the sophomore started to get college attention in eighth grade.
That's why Cannon coach Glen Taylor was excited when Wintering enrolled at the school.
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Wintering landed in North Carolina following his older brother, 33-year-old Daniel, who moved to the area last year.
"Basketball is better here," said Wintering. "There's better competition."
He said he fit right in with his Cannon teammates when he met them in the summer.
"Me and the guys are friends," he said, explaining that Taylor also made it easy for him to pick up the Cougar system.
Taylor was impressed with the point guard from Day One. After losing a talented senior class headlined by all-state guard/forward Jarrell Eddie, who's now at Virginia Tech, as well as senior guard Keith Belfield to Davidson Day, Taylor started regrouping the team around Wintering as his teammates got comfortable with each other playing in a fall league.
But Wintering suffered a stress fracture to his back before the season, forcing the Cougars to rethink their plans.
"A lot of what we planned to do was predicated upon Alec's abilities and two of our big guys' abilities - Matthew Godley and Hans-Christian Lauer," said Taylor.
Cannon struggled with Wintering sitting out early in the season. Not having much talent at point guard, Cannon averaged nearly 23 turnovers and won only one game without Wintering.
"His emergence in the lineup after missing the first eight games immediately made us competitive," said Taylor. "Alec has meant everything to us."
Since Wintering's return in mid-December, the Cougars were 6-6 heading into last Friday's game at Charlotte Country Day. He's led the team with 21.3 points per game, while also contributing six assists and nearly four steals a game.
"He's our No. 1 scoring option, but he's also our primary ball handler and one of our most vocal players and team leaders," said Taylor. "He's given us instant credibility."
Wintering said his well-rounded skill set may come from how much basketball he's played.
"My older brother put a ball in my hands since I was 2," the 15-year-old said.
Taylor said it's obvious that he's been playing the game nearly his entire life when he hits the hardwood.
"He has that innate sense of calmness, he sees things that the untrained basketball eye doesn't see," he said. "He's fearless."
The 5-foot-9 Wintering is a fast point guard with the ball, but what may be most impressive is his body control.
"For a smaller guard, he can put his body in situations that you say, 'How did get that shot off or much less how did he finish it?',"said Taylor.
Wintering has a lot of freedom on the court, being entrusted with running the Cougar transition offense. But without much depth, Cannon isn't able to play an up-and-down game for an entire game.
"If we don't score in transition, we have to run a very disciplined offensive set," said Taylor. "It's been patchwork at times to keep us in games."
The Cougars have also gotten help from Lauer, who averages 10 points and a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game, as well as Will Nork. Godley, who was averaging 11.9 points per game, has been sidelined since Wintering's return after tearing his ACL.
With the team on his shoulders and being forced to play nearly 32 minutes a game, Wintering has responded well. But he admits he has a long ways to go to achieve his main goal - to play college basketball.
"I need to be getting stronger," he said. "I need to become even more of a leader to get the other guys going. Pretty much every aspect of my game I can get better at."
Wintering's receiving attention from schools like Arizona State, Richmond and Davidson among many others.
"I try not to pay much attention to it," said Wintering about his recruiting. "I don't want to get a big head or anything."