Over the last calendar year, normalcy has started to return to the grassroots landscape. The reinstated Live Periods have given these young prospects some semblance of hope in making it to the next level. However, coaches are still aggressively leaning into the transfer portal and opting to recruit guys who have already played (using the term loosely) in college. From the contrasting viewpoint, why wouldn’t a coach lay more groundwork with a team like the New Light Disciples? They’ve achieved consistent success and put countless players into an ideal position at the next level, and this group seems no different. Like all the previous squads before them, the Disciples are a rugged, talent-laden group with a roster full of college prospects from the greater 336 area. They are led by the coaching staff of Cardes Brown, Justin Watlington, and James Bumpass. Let’s highlight their pieces…

Often times, size is a luxury for independent programs. However, the New Light Disciples have never struggled with accumulating size along the interior. This specific team has the enticing trio of 6’7 Kahlif Barnes, 6’6 Tre McNeil, and 6’6 Julius Harrison. Starting with Barnes, who really serves as their only “true” big man on the team. The personal likening to his game is well-documented at this point. He’s strong, mobile, explosive, and definitely among the best rebounders in North Carolina. Barnes is a low-maintenance player who genuinely thrives in his role as a tough, blue-collar guy with a high motor. He’s a strong finisher who welcomes contact at the rim. While his physical nature allows him to regularly overpower opponents, he also displays phenomenal positioning and possesses an impressive nose for the ball. Barnes is very light on his feet, which allows him to utilize quick second and third jumps to secure multiple rebounds within a given possession. He’s a useful defender who does the dirty work, anchors the paint defensively, and runs the floor hard in transition. Barnes is the type of unselfish, team-oriented guy that coaches should want to follow into battle. 

As for McNeil, his description doesn’t necessarily fall under the “big man” category. He clearly possesses a lot of interior ability, but has enough perimeter tools to adapt as needed. Between his activity around the basket and overall mobility outside of the paint, McNeil fits perfectly as a power forward for this group. He displays nice touch and athleticism as a finisher, but can also knock down midrange jumpers and the occasional three-pointer at a respectable rate. McNeil doesn’t overcomplicate things with the ball in his hands, and understands how to make a decisive move and attack. He also offers a scrappy presence on the defensive side of the ball. Though he continues to make steady strides within his development, McNeil still has plenty of upside remaining. 

Arguably the most appealing prospect on the roster, Harrison and his smart, versatile two-way game should have scholarship-level coaches salivating. He consistently does a strong amount of everything on the court. Harrison can initiate the offense and create as a point-forward or operate as the primary scoring option and apply pressure in a variety of different ways. His size, athleticism, and all-around skillset make him an extremely difficult matchup and adaptable enough to alter his approach based on team need. Harrison has shown flashes of being a knockdown shooter, but still serves as an efficient option from all levels. He attacks the basket and finishes at a high volume, yet does a great job of identifying the extra pass whenever available. Harrison also makes his presence felt on the glass and actively toggles between multiple positions defensively. Between his number of strengths and lack of weaknesses, coaches should be very enticed. 

Almost every Disciples squad has someone like 6’4 Nick Elliott, who can really score the ball while constantly posing a lethal spot-up threat. His size, range, and consistency from beyond the arc makes him a perfect complement to the rest of this roster. Elliott can attack closeouts and make the necessary pass, but typically looks to apply pressure as a shooter. He utilizes his length to intercept passing lanes and push transition play. 

Rounding out the team, the guard grouping of 6’1 Nigel Vincent, 6’3 Josiah Watkins, and 5’9 ’25 Chris Mitchell should all be viewed as useful pieces at the next level. In looking at Vincent, he offers a pretty well-rounded presence on both ends of the floor. He’s tough, heady, and does a great job of getting downhill as a penetrator. Vincent finishes well, knocks down jumpers at a solid percentage, and can assume creation duties as needed. He’s an active on-ball defender with useful quickness and rebounding ability for his size.

Meanwhile, Watkins has already proven to be a polished three-level scorer with a long, wiry frame. He’s quick, unselfish, and fairly balanced as an offensive focal point—able to comfortably set up others while applying scoring pressure in a wide variety of ways. Watkins utilizes his length well to involve himself as a defender and rebounder, specifically through harassing opposing ball-handlers and jumping into passing lanes. He’s great in the open floor and makes quality decisions with the ball in his hands. Watkins can play within a role or expand his production as needed.

Finally, Mitchell represents the only non-senior on the roster. It’s easy to see his high level of comfort despite being a freshman, specifically through the smart, unselfish manner he carries himself with this group. Mitchell is slightly undersized but extremely quick and poised with the ball in his hands. He displays sharp vision, tight ball-handling ability, and excellent penetration instincts. Mitchell is already a definite contributor for this group, and should only continue to progress over the summer months.