Five Players To Watch
Fletcher Abee, Hickory, 6-2, Jr., G: Led 28-3 Patriots in scoring last season (18 ppg)
Torey James, Hickory, 6-5, Sr., G/F: One of three starters back from coach Andy Poplin’s 24-7 state quarterfinalist. James averaged 13 points, six rebounds.
Vi’chon Means, Concord Robinson, 6-2, Sr., G/F: Robinson annually produces strong wings and Means - along with 5-9 sophomore Isaac Boothe - looks next in line. Means averaged 14 pointslast season; Boothe averaged 12.
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Jaylen O’Neal, Concord, 6-5, Jr., F: Will lead a young, but talented Spiders team hoping to bounce back from a 10-16 season. O’Neal averaged 12 points, seven rebounds last season.
Blake Wilson, Hunter Huss, 6-6, Sr., G/F: Wilson, a long, rangy forward, averaged 17 points last season.
Five Teams To Watch
Ashbrook: Four senior starters return from a team that was 10-17 last season but has the talent and athleticism to stage a huge turnaround.
Charlotte Catholic: Coming off a 16-12 season in a tough 4A Charlotte league, the Cougars return five starters and drop down a class and join the Southern Carolinas 3A. Catholic won a 4A state title a few years ago with the type of senior-heavy roster it will field this season.
Cox Mill: With UNC signee Rechon “Leaky” Black, plus top 50 national recruit Wendell Moore Jr. back for his junior season, along with three other returning starters, the reigning 3A state champion looks like a strong favorite to repeat.
Hunter Huss: Wilson and Sa’veon Falls return for a team that was 19-8 last season. In all, Huss returns seven seniors looking for a deep playoff run.
Piedmont: With Clemson signee Hunter Tyson (25 ppg) leading the way, Piedmont returns three starters hoping to improve on last season’s 16-11 record. Anson County transfer Quame McClendon, a 6-3 sophomore who averaged nine points as a freshman, will help with depth.
▪ Freedom should again be a state power under coach Casey Rogers. The Patriots, 28-3 last season, return four starters, including Abe and Jakari Dula (17 ppg). ...Alexander Central has had four straight winning seasons, with 72 victories in that span. This year, the Cougars try to continue the run despite returning only one starter, Kendell Flowers.
▪ South Iredell, 16-9 last season, returns four starters to try to reach the playoffs for a third straight season. Last year was South’s first winning season in more than a decade. Senior Alex Angle (16 ppg) leads the team.
▪ Monroe coach Johnny Sowell has won 441 career games in 29 seasons, so last year’s 11-9 finish must’ve felt foreign. Don’t expect another. The Redhawks return four starters, including sophomore point guard Salen Streater (13 ppg), and should raise their win total.
▪ Weddington has won the past two Southern Carolinas conference titles, but doesn’t return any starters. Coach Gary Ellington begins his 10th season and he’s averaged more than 18 wins a year. And he has size in 6-8 senior Charles Pinner and 6-5 senior Caleb Dixon.
▪ Hickory has won 59 games the past three seasons, but coach Robert Machado doesn’t return any starters. Senior point guard Darian Bell will lead a young team. ...Watauga’s Bryant Greene (20 ppg) was a high-scoring bright spot on a 6-18 team last season. Greene is a 6-2 senior guard.