As basketball season kicked off this week for most south Charlotte and Union County teams, it's clear many will have a say in conference and state titles. When the Observer released its annual pre-season Sweet 16 rankings, several teams from that area were included.
Charlotte Christian is the No. 5 team in the pre-season rankings and is the favorite to win the private-schools title.
The Knights are deep, led by junior Clemson signee Sean Rooks, a steady guard.
Union County teams also are in the pre-season rankings, with Weddington and Sun Valley picked to battle for the Southern Carolinas Conference title.
The Warriors feature a good mix of senior leadership, with all-conference guard Bennett Rutherford leading a group that has been together for six seasons, including an experienced and talented backcourt.
Super-talented Shaun Stewart, a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged more than 22 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, leads Sun Valley. Guard Jalen Witherspoon averaged more than 18 points and with Stewart forms one of the best backcourts in the state.
Providence Day lost leading scorer Connor Sullivan but still boasts a talented team. Sophomore Jordan Watkins is one of the best underclassmen in the state. Junior Bryon Fields is a steady point guard who averaged more 13 points last year.
While the Chargers boys may surprise this year, the girls' team will not sneak up on anyone.
Providence Day has won the last two state titles and is led by Tiffany Mitchell, a South Carolina signee arguably the area's best player. Sophomore center Jatari White headlines nine contributors from last year's 28-win state champions.
The Chargers' biggest competition comes from conference rival Charlotte Christian. GiGi Bailey averaged more than 20 points as a sophomore and will be surrounded with a better supporting cast, including two-time all conference performer Marayah Mazck and transfers Katherine Harris (First Assembly), Chelsey Thomas (Weddington) and Morgan Franklin (South Charlotte).
Ardrey Kell is led by Wake Forest signee Christelle Shembo and senior guards Oceania Anderson and Katelyn White. The Knights should be the team to beat in the Southwest 4A.
Butler is always dangerous; Jaymee Fisher-Davis and Chantal Worthy lead an experienced, talented group. Porter Ridge will be a contender in the SCC with junior sisters Jasmine and Jada Huntley.
It will be interesting to see how these local teams seasons play out, but many will contend for conference and state titles.