Northside Christian Academy had its best basketball year ever a season ago, winning a school- record 29 games and narrowly missing out on the 3A state title.
Along the way they won the prestigious Bojangles' Shootout and defeated perennial basketball powers such as Queen's Grant, Mooresville, Mallard Creek and Victory Christian, and handed First Assembly two of their three total losses.
Head coach Byron Dinkins, a local legend of UNC Charlotte and of NBA fame, returns to the bench this year as does top assistant Joe Badgett, the former head coach of Queen's Grant.
On the court, two of Badgett's former players at Queen's Grant now stat at Northside and are looking to improve on last year. They want to finish their high school career as state champions before starting their college career as teammates.
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Dionte Adams, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound power forward, will be the defense stopper and rebounding machine he has been throughout his career. Last year Adams averaged 13.5 points per game and grabbed 12.7 rebounds a contest. He was named on recruiting guru Bob Gibbons' list of 2012 standout players.
Joining him is Central Cabarrus transfer LC Cooks, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound combo guard who fills up the stat sheet most every time out. Last year Cooks averaged 27 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Vikings. Now, he will be running the show for Dinkins and his talented team.
"Any time you can get someone like LC to come in and run the show for you it only helps," said Dinkins, who enters his second season as head coach. "But it is a team effort and we made it to the championship game as a team last year without him. Anytime you can blend in what he does well, it is a huge help and he will be able to relax a little and won't be asked to score quite as much for us."
One thing Cooks can do well is score - and he can do it inside and out. Last year he notched his career-high 41 points against A.L. Brown and enters his senior year having already scored 1,000 points.
"I am ready to do whatever they ask of me and I am looking forward to it," Cooks said. "I will not be asked to score quite as much and I will be more of the facilitator, but I can focus on all the little things. I still can score when we need it, but we have so many guys on this team who can put the ball in the basket (that) my role will be assists, good leadership and playing great defense."
Adams can score too, and was named the Bojangles' Shootout all-tournament team last year. ESPN ranks Adams as the 19th-best player in the state, and he is still getting better on offense while always providing defense, a high motor and rebounding. Unlike shooting jumpers, his intangibles don't go into slumps and will be a force to reckon with all year.
"My role has always been running the floor, rebounding and playing great defense. I try to get every rebound out there and can take a defender down and score when I need to. If I play great defense and rebound well, we'll be fine," Adams said.
Dinkins said so far the offense gets hot and cold, but defense is the constant. He is trying to get a consistent effort every day on defense and knows the rest will fall into place.
Cooks and Adams played for coach Badgett as freshman in high school and now will be freshman teammates again as both have committed to Hampton.
"We talked about playing together in college, but they were one of the first schools to offer me and my family and I thought it was the best fit for me. The coaches were always up front and honest with me, so I look forward to it," Cooks said.
Now that the stressful recruiting process is over, they can focus on improving on Northside's best season ever and winning the 3A title.
"We can leave all of that behind us and focus on playing," Adams said. "There are no more distractions, now we can get down to business."