High school basketball practices begin Monday in North Carolina. Here are 10 burning questions about the upcoming season.
1. Who are the state championship favorites on the boys’ side?
In 4A, reigning champion Southwest Guilford lost three of its best players – one graduated and two transferred to High Point Wesleyan – so the field has opened up. Keep an eye on North Mecklenburg, which has half a dozen kids who will play college ball, and Butler, which has reloaded after a N.C. 4A regional final appearance in 2017.
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State champion Cox Mill returned national recruit Wendell Moore and added another national recruit in Leaky Black, so the Chargers have to be the favorites in 3A. The 2A class is harder to pick, but Lincoln Charter returns most of the key players from a 1A state champion.
2. And the girls?
Mallard Creek lost to Northwest Guilford in a thrilling semifinal before Northwest won its first state title. Both teams return most of their key players in the 4A chase. In 3A, Hickory Ridge didn’t lose until the state final game, and added Georgetown recruit Courtney Meadows. A good team, with plenty of depth, got better. The two smaller classes are harder to call.
3. How about the private schools?
It’s the usual suspects: Arden Christ School, Cannon School, Greensboro Day, High Point Wesleyan and Providence Day in 3A boys. Providence Day’s eight-year run of state championships in girls play might be in jeopardy. The Chargers aren’t as deep as in recent years and a young, hungry High Point Wesleyan team nearly beat them last year.
In smaller classes, Gaston Day’s boys (2A), Greenfield School (1A), Northwood Temple (1A) and Fayetteville Trinity Christian (1A) are all strong, loaded with college recruits. The private school field again appears deeper and stronger than the public, top to bottom, on the boys’ side.
4. One player you probably don’t know about but should?
West Charlotte’s Patrick Williams is a 6-foot-6 junior point guard and a top 100 recruit in the class of 2019. Williams is being recruited at the highest level. By March, he’ll be a much more familiar name.
5. What are the year’s can’t-miss games?
There are so many, it’s hard to pick a few. How about can’t-miss events full of great teams? Try the Phenom Hoops National Showcase Nov. 10-11 at Greensboro Day School; the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, Nov. 24-25 at Berry High School; and the Hoodies House holiday tournament, Dec. 27-29 at Providence Day.
6. How does the area’s talent compare to past years?
It’s deeper than it’s ever been. It used to be fairly rare for area boys and girls to be recruited by top 25 level college teams. Now it’s commonplace. For example, the boys’ recruiting class of 2018 is one of the best in state history, 2019 is solid and 2020 is looking very strong, too.
7. When will the Observer’s preseason coverage begin?
The girls’ Sweet 16 countdown begins Monday with coverage throughout the week. Boys’ coverage begins Sunday.
8. What are the key dates this year?
Practice Monday, first games Nov. 10 and state finals are Feb. 24 for private schools, March 10 for public schools.
9. Your pick for N.C. girls’ player of the year?
Mallard Creek’s Ahlana Smith is a 5-star recruit ranked among the nation’s top 40 players. She’s a UCLA recruit and has game-breaking ability.
10. How about the boys?
Perhaps no N.C. player had a more impressive summer than Coby White, a 5-star UNC recruit from Greenfield School. N.C. recruiting analyst Rick Lewis says he’s one of the best scorers in state history, and he’s a legit McDonald’s All-American candidate.