High School Sports

Inside 4A boys’ basketball: Players and teams to watch, notes for the upcoming season

Rocky River sophomore Jaden Springer has played with USA Basketball and is a top 20 national recruit.
Rocky River sophomore Jaden Springer has played with USA Basketball and is a top 20 national recruit. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Five Players To Watch

Jamarius Burton, Independence, 6-4, Sr., G: Burton missed all of last season with an ACL injury but is back to 100 percent and is again attracting major Division I interest. He’ll lead a young team that returns no starters.

Gerrale Gates, Butler, 6-6, Sr., F/C: Gates, who weighs 235 pounds, is simply hard to deal with in the lane. The New Orleans recruit led his team to the state semifinals last season and was first-team All-Observer.

Jaden Springer, Rocky River, 6-4, So., G: Springer is a top 20 recruit in his class nationally who has played with USA Basketball. He averaged 22 points per game last season.

Patrick Williams, West Charlotte, 6-7, Sr., G: Williams, a major college recruit, averaged 14 points per game last season.

Jae’Lyn Withers, North Mecklenburg, 6-9, SF, Jr.: Withers grew a little since he averaged 19 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore. He’s becoming a legitimate national recruit.

Five Teams To Watch

Olympic: Second-year Trojans coach Baronton Terry led the Trojans to a 19-8 overall record and an unbeaten run through the SoMeck. Three starters are back, including 6-4 senior forward Jalen Harris (16 ppg).

North Mecklenburg: The Vikings return three starters from their 24-4 conference champions, including Withers, all-conference junior point guard Vaud Worthy and star 6-3 sophomore shooting guard Tristan Maxwell, a major college recruit and the son of former Houston Rockets world champ Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell.

Richmond Senior: The Raiders, 20-7 last season, have averaged 18 wins over the past three years and return four starters. They’re hoping to use their up-tempo style to again contend for a league title.

Rocky River: The Ravens lost all-conference guard Raquan Brown who transferred to Butler, but picked up Mallard Creek transfer Jordan Campbell, a 5-11 senior who averaged 19.5 points per game last season. He and Springer will form a deadly backcourt.

West Charlotte: The Lions return two starters from a 13-11 team – Williams and 6-3 senior Christian Koonce. They’ve added 6-1 junior Cartier Jernigan, a Hickory Grove transfer who averaged 17 points per game last season and is tracking as a college prospect.

Three Fresh Faces

Maurice Brown, Berry: Don’t be surprised by a breakout season from this 6-foot sophomore. He averaged 15 points per game as a freshman.

Beau Maye, Hough: Yep, this is UNC star Luke Maye’s baby bro, and Beau is already 6-8 as a sophomore. He’ll be joined by three senior starters – Myles Washington, Cooper Crawford and Damon Early – on a Hough team looking to better last season’s 12-14 finish.

Brice Williams, Hopewell: Williams, a 6-7 junior guard, has picked up some Division I offers and attention after a strong summer with the Team Loaded summer travel squad. He leads a Titans team that was 12-12 last season and returns four starters.

Notes

▪ New Mallard Creek coach Jason Causby is a former Pfeiffer assistant who has a winning reputation. But he returns one starter from last season’s breakthrough 18-8 team and the Mavericks may be in the toughest conference (I-Meck) in the state.

▪ In Fort Mill, Nation Ford returns four starters from a 14-10 team, including 6-1 junior guard Zeb Graham, who averaged 17 points, four assists and four rebounds. ... At Northwestern, just one starter is back from an 11-10 team: all-region guard Zay Martin (13 ppg). ... And at South Pointe, all-region forward B.J. Davis (13 ppg, 9 rpg) is the only starter back from a 14-9 team.

▪ South Caldwell went 14-12 last season, its first winning season in a decade. But the team doesn’t return any starters as it tries to go back-to-back. ... Providence will try to end its 26-game losing streak on a team with five sophomores and a freshman on varsity. Senior Pat Sullivan and juniors Tate Mulkey and Ben Schloeder are the returning starters.

▪ Ardrey Kell averaged 25 wins per season from 2012-15, but has been 28-26 since that run. Three starters are back this year, led by Navy signee David Kasanganay, a 6-1 senior guard who averaged 14 points per game last season. Two transfers could make an impact: Stephen Sherrill (Hopewell) and Luke Stankavage (Providence Day).

▪ After an uncharacteristic 5-20 record last season, Walt Aikens hopes to get Harding back on track with four returning starters, including 6-2 senior Brian Ross (12 ppg) and 5-10 senior Arvydas Jones (10 ppg). Don’t be surprised to see the Rams in the SoMeck title chase.

▪ West Meck returns three starters – Jalen Moore, Elijah Lockhart and Jordan Williams – and hopes to bounce back from last season’s 7-18 finish and post its first winning season since 2010-11. The Hawks are 9-41 the last two years. But new coach Jeffrey Berry, beginning his 25th season, plans to use a full-court pressing defense to change his team’s fortunes.

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