Last year, Northside Christian Academy came within one win of the 3A state boys basketball title.
That team won a school-record 29 games and laid the foundation for this year's team, which is better and deeper than it was a season ago.
Back from last year are star center Dionte Adams and head coach Byron Dinkins, who inherited a 20-win team but has raised the bar and expectation level in a short time.
Joining Adams are three talented transfers who have the Knights' eyes on a state title.
L.C. Cooks averaged 27 points and six assists for Central Cabarrus last year. This season he is leading one of the area's most explosive and well-rounded offenses, averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 7.6 assists.
Justin Gordon, who comes to the Knights from Mallard Creek, has stepped up his scoring from about 10 points per game last year to 12 this season. The 6-6 power forward also has increased his rebounds to 9.4 per game and contributes more than three steals and two assists per game.
Luke Morrison transferred from Davidson Day. At 6-8, he helps with interior defense, can knock down the open shot and averages nine rebounds a game.
Adams' numbers are down a little from last season, but the 6-7 double-double machine still scores more than 10 points and adds 11 rebounds per game.
Davon Bell, a 5-10 sophomore guard, is filling up the stat sheet with 7.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.5 assists per game. Senior guard Justin Ashford averages nearly eight assists and four steals. Senior James Logan, at 8.4 points and three rebounds, has also contributed.
The Knights are deep and, with seven seniors in the regular rotation, are experienced. This is the best team they have ever put on the court and is among the best boys' teams in the state.
Aside from their high-scoring attack, Dinkins has them playing great defense. He said rebounding and defense are his top priorities.
The Knights have won each of their first seven games by at least 12 points.
Last year the Knights had a 17-game winning streak at one point, and they lost just three games on the year. They are well-coached, disciplined, experienced, play great defense and have leaders all over the court.
This is the year of the Knights, Mecklenburg County's best team. They will not be satisfied without a state title, but they have all of the pieces in place to bring their goal to reality.