West Charlotte High is going to be in some preseason national basketball rankings discussions now.
Four-star prospect and Alabama commit Juwan Gary is leaving Gray Collegiate School in Columbia, S.C., and will play his senior season at West Charlotte. The Lions will now have two top 100 recruits, similar to the N.C. 3A state championship team at Concord Cox Mill last season with UNC freshman Leaky Black and Wendell Moore, a top 30 national recruit in the class of 2019.
Rivals ranks West Charlotte’s Patrick Williams, a 6-foot-8 small forward, No. 62 nationally in the class of 2019. Gary, a 6-6 forward, is ranked No. 71.
Ed Cooke, who coaches Gary in the summer for the Nike-based Team United travel team, confirmed that Gary is moving to Charlotte. He said the move was primarily about getting Gary in position to go to college.
“The main focus is we’re trying to get his grades together so he can do what he needs to do,” Cooke said. “(Juwan is) one of the best athletes I’ve seen. He’s got a lot of skill work to do on offensive end, but he is a do-it-all type of guy.”
Cooke said Gary’s arrival instantly makes West Charlotte a N.C. 4A state championship contender.
“How good could West Charlotte be?” Cooke said. “They could be scary. They’ve got one of the best players in the nation already with Patrick Williams ... Juwan adds extra fire to that mix. It changes the dynamic of North Carolina basketball. Big time.”
Gary’s former high school coach said losing his star player is a big loss.
“He has been a pleasure to coach,” Gray Collegiate coach Dion Bethea told the Columbia State about Gary’s departure. “He has been great for Gray and we have been great for him as well. We wish him well.”
West Charlotte was 17-11 last season and is expected to return at least eight players from that team, including guard Cartier Jernigan, who averaged 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. Williams averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Lions last season.
Gary helped Gray Collegiate to its first Class 2A championship last season. The forward averaged 20.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals and was named the Class 2A Player of the Year. He had 28 points and 14 rebounds in the championship game of the Chick-Fil-A Classic last season, which Gray lost to N.C. state power Providence Day.
For Team United this summer, Gary averaged 17.3 points and 5.3 rebounds on the EYBL. At Peach Jam last month, he averaged 25.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.