High school basketball practice begins Wednesday for N.C. High School Athletic Association teams. Many private schools began earlier this week. The Observer previews begin Sunday, Nov. 9. Here are five burning questions about the upcoming season.
1. Who is the boys heavyweight?
You might think after graduating six seniors, including Observer player of the year Keyshawn Woods, that Northside Christian might fall off. The Knights, who were 28-1 last season, won their third straight state championship and sent all six seniors to college. But Northside again looks like a major power, led by national top 100 recruit Rayjon Tucker, who has committed to Florida Gulf Coast. The Knights also feature junior sharpshooter Ray Kowalski and sophomore point guard Ty-Shon Alexander, who was a MaxPreps freshman All-American. Ardrey Kell all-conference guard Devin Cooper has transferred. He’s committed to Radford. Defensive specialist Lysander Bracey also returns to bring experience.
2. How about the girls?
After getting to the 2012 and 2013 playoffs unbeaten, but not advancing to the state title game, Myers Park got there in 2014 and won it. The Mustangs (30-1 last season) lost Division I guard Saadia Timpton, now at Davidson, but return two top 70 national recruits: point guard Aliyah Mazyck (Southern California) and forward D.D. Rogers (N.C. State). Two-time All-Meck forward Desiree Newman transferred from Charlotte United. The Mustangs are loaded again.
• Myers Park will play in a tournament with four state champs Dec. 5-6 at Blackmon (Tenn.) High. The Mustangs are joined by Elizabethtown (Kent.), Conway (Ark.) and Blackmon. Myers Park plays Conway Dec. 5 and Blackmon Dec. 6. Blackmon, ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps, returns four starters. The Myers Park-Blackmon game may be nationally televised.
3. Is there a team with a big chip on its shoulders?
Ardrey Kell’s girls got to the state semifinals last season, only to lose to rival Myers Park – again. In the past four seasons, Ardrey Kell is 96-22. The Knights are 2-11 against Myers Park and have lost the past 10 meetings. The Knights have a new coach, Jeff Buseick, and a talented roster that includes Princeton commit Jordan Muhammad, daughter of former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. They play at Myers Park Nov. 21, and the teams could meet again in the regionals, blocking each other’s path to a state title. Again.
4. What are the can’t miss games?
Besides Myers Park-Ardrey Kell girls? High Point Wesleyan has one of the nation’s best overall players in 6-9 forward Harry Giles. Wesleyan plays at Providence Day Nov. 18. ESPN ranks Giles No. 3 nationally among juniors. ... The Charlotte Hoops Challenge Nov. 28-29 will bring top regional and local boys and girls teams to Myers Park; and the Hoodie’s House High School Hoops Classic returns to Ardrey Kell Charlotte Dec. 27-30. It was sold out last year and annually brings national talent to town.
5. Give us some key dates to remember
Nov. 17: first day of games; Feb. 17: NCISAA playoffs begin; Feb. 20: NCISAA finals at Asheville School; Feb. 24: NCHSAA playoffs begin; March 3-7: NCHSAA regionals; March 14: NCHSAA state championships at Smith Center, Carmichael Auditorium, Chapel Hill.