Two years ago, Hopewell High’s Brice Williams and Cox Mill’s Caleb Stone-Carrawell played on the same 16-and-under basketball team for adidas-sponsored Team Loaded, a summer travel squad.
“And we played really good together,” Stone-Carrawell said.
Back then, they didn’t know that they would both commit to play college basketball for first-year coach Ron Sanchez’s Charlotte 49ers, and perhaps be the cornerstones of what the 49ers hope is the beginning of a major turnaround.
Charlotte won just six games last season and hasn’t had a winning season in five years. Before Thursday’s scheduled game against Florida International, the 49ers were 3-10 and had lost five straight.
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This week, Phenom Hoop Report released it latest rankings for the N.C. Class of 2019. Williams and Stone-Carrawell made big jumps. Williams moved from No. 18 to No. 13; Carrawell jumped more than 20 spots to No. 11.
Phenom Hoops analyst Rick Lewis said the moves were warranted, saying the two 49ers recruits were among the state’s most-improved players this season.
“With Brice Williams you get a multi-dimensional player,” Lewis said. “At 6-7, he plays point-forward. He’s really a great utility player and he plays (well on offense and defense). Carrawell’s just had the biggest jump in his game. He’s always had it. The thing for him was if that light switch would ever come on, and it has. What’s impressive about him is that he can really score.. His game translates well to collegiate level because of how he can score.”
Stone-Carrawell, a 6-6 wing, averages 16.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists for a nationally-ranked Cox Mill team (13-1) that plays at Kannapolis Brown Friday. Stone-Carrawell’s father, Chris, played at Duke from 1996-2000 and was the 2000 ACC Player of the Year. He’s now an assistant with the Blue Devils.
Williams averages 20.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and two assists for Hopewell (7-5), which was scheduled to play Greensboro Page Thursday and at Mooresville Friday. Like his future Charlotte teammate, he also has a well-known father.
Henry Williams is the 49ers’ all-time leading scorer. He played at Charlotte from 1989-92 and scored 2,383 points, including 308 3-pointers. As a senior, he led Charlotte to the Metro Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament. He died in March with kidney disease. He was 47.
“When I talked to my dad,” Brice Williams said, “he was always like, ‘I don’t care where you go, as long as it’s the best situation for you, but I always told him I would beat his records. Now, I just have to live it out.”
Williams and Stone-Carrawell are part of a strong recruiting class for Charlotte that also includes 6-foot point guard Jahmir Young from DeMatha Catholic, a top 10 recruit from Maryland, and 6-10 New Zealand center Anzac Rissetto. The 49ers will also gain the services of Oklahoma transfer Jordan Shepherd, a former all-state high school star at Asheville Christian. Shepherd will have two years of eligibility remaining.
“I really think Charlotte’s going to have a bounce-back year next year,” Lewis said. “They’ll have quality players who can compete at the Conference USA level at each position. What they’ll lack is experience, but I think they’re building a great foundation with the class they have coming in, and Carrawell and Williams are just simply big pieces in that.”
The two recruits took their official visits together and said instead of partying, they said they spent a lot of time in the gym, planning. And the plan is to make a fast turnaround at Charlotte and make the NCAA Tournament.
“I feel like we’re all going to come together,” Williams said, “and we can score the ball and it’s going to be a really diverse team. They needed some under-the-radar talent and they’re going to get it.”
Stone-Carrawell said he and Williams can’t wait to get started.
“I want to start building that fan base up again,” he said. “The arena (Halton) is big, and if we can get that place packed out, that’s a big deal for us.”