6’6 Cole Cloer (Orange)
Between the team’s success and his individual production, it’s easy to see why Cole Cloer is already one of the top players in North Carolina’s Class of 2026. At 6-foot-6, he already has the IQ, size, and skillset to legitimately dominate a game. Cloer is a smooth all-around player who comfortably dictates the offensive action with the ball in his hands, both as a scorer and playmaker. He creates really well for himself and others, and doesn’t require the ball to impact the game. Cloer rebounds his position well, displays sharp defensive instincts, pushes the break in transition, and simply knows how to lead. It’s not a coincidence that Orange is off to its best start in seven seasons.
5’10 Cam Newman (Gaston Christian)
There are a few players who possess a unique level of maturity at an early age, and Cam Newman is arguably the best representation of this notion. Being battle-tested and playing up multiple age groups over the years has clearly paid dividends, as Newman is already as smart, reliable, and productive as any floor general in the state. He’s an excellent playmaker and polished scorer who displays phenomenal offensive balance. Newman is a great defender with the combination of quickness and anticipation to cause a ton of problems for opposing ball-handlers. It’s easy to forget his age at times because his poise is so far beyond his years.
6’4 Bradley Floyd (Kings Mountain)
Similar to the others above, it’s easy to see the obvious appeal of someone like Bradley Floyd—who has already asserted himself as a focal point for Kings Mountain. Right now, he’s putting up lofty scoring totals and maintaining solid team success for this relatively young squad. Floyd possesses a great blend of length, skill, and athleticism, especially for his age. Despite seeing more and more defensive attention, his efficiency has steadily improved throughout the course of the season. His production and array of appealing attributes are already very tantalizing, but Floyd is only going to continue progressing over the foreseeable future.
6’7 Kendre Harrison (Reidsville)
Although we recently discussed his pure dominance, it never hurts to show appropriate attention to deserving players—and Kendre Harrison is definitely deserving. His scoring and rebounding averages are both legitimately insane for a freshman. In 14 games, Harrison has posted 14 double-doubles while never scoring less than 13 points or securing less than 12 rebounds. He’s already a high-level athlete with size, feel, and the ability to dominate opponents in a variety of different ways. Harrison finishes with either hand, above the rim, and through contact, but can also make passes out of the post and push the break if necessary. He’s quite possibly the most dominant two-sport athlete in the state, regardless of class.
6’3 Ashton Pierce (North Meck)
Between his tools, current ability, and obvious long-term upside, all types of folks should be intrigued by Ashton Pierce. At 6-foot-3, Pierce is a quality three-level scorer with vision, toughness, and useful instincts on both ends of the floor. He’s able to create for himself and others as needed, but understands how to operate within the confines of a team structure. Pierce possesses IQ, spot-up ability, and a crafty handle—which he utilizes effectively to get wherever he wants on the floor. Although he’s already an incredibly talented prospect, it’s clear that he’s only going to trend upward over the coming years.
5’9 Dionte Neal (Reidsville)
Similar to his running mate featured in part one, Dionte Neal has been virtually unstoppable throughout his freshman season. In terms of sheer production, it’s difficult to look past either freshman at Reidsville. Neal’s unbelievable scoring prowess combined with his sharp playmaking instincts gives him arguably the most impressive per-game averages in the state. Furthermore, he’s scoring the ball with incredible efficiency, causing problems with his defensive presence, and shining as a natural leader—all at 5-foot-9. Some guys are simply wired differently, and Neal certainly fits that notion. He’s an incredible teammate whom others gravitate towards and want to play alongside. Neal is truly as electric as anyone in the state.
6’9 Rivers Knight (Jordan)
There’s an array of enticing big men in the freshman class, and Rivers Knight is certainly within that grouping. His feel, coordination, and general work ethic are extremely rare for a player of his size and age. Knight is the only freshman on the Jordan roster, yet already conducts himself as a high-level player. He’s their leading shot-blocker while ranking second in rebounds and fourth in scoring. Knight has notched multiple double-doubles this season, but should gradually become a guy who does that on a nightly basis. He possesses touch, footwork, and positioning around the basket, but can also space the floor at a very respectable rate. Expect him to only get better going forward.
6’4 Jaire Richburg (Winston-Salem Christian)
In terms of tools and ability, it’s easy to see why Jaire Richburg already stands out as one of the top freshmen in the state. He’s long, strong, and already possesses an incredible frame to go with his fairly well-rounded skillset. Richburg naturally affects all facets of the game and has shown the ability to adapt to various different roles for his Winston-Salem Christian squad. He’s a quality rebounder, defender, and playmaker with the ability to score in various different ways. Richburg doesn’t require the ball in his hands to make an impact, given how well he relocates and moves as a cutter. Don’t be surprised to see him steadily rise over the coming years.
6’2 Yohance Connor (1 of 1 Academy)
There are so many players who receive the label of a “gamer” but Yohance Connor is arguably the best freshman to fit that description. Although he’s smart, tough, and well-rounded, Connor is the type of player who simply knows how to produce as a result of merely competing. He plays with a unique level of ferocity and tenacity, which naturally overwhelms opponents, but still maintains his poise and composure. Connor can handle the ball and get to the basket seemingly whenever he wants, but also possesses nice vision and a quality midrange pull-up. He’s also an amazing rebounder and shot-blocker, especially for his size. Any team with Connor should feel comfortable about their chances of winning.
6’4 Markus Kerr (West Charlotte)
Although his numbers might not be as gaudy as some of the others listed, Markus Kerr has a ton of appeal. For starters, he’s quite possibly the youngest player in the entire class—yet already contributes at a noteworthy level for a prestigious varsity program. Kerr is a sharp downhill penetrator with toughness and the ability to outwork opponents for extra opportunities. He finishes well around the basket, but also looks to set up others and make the right play whenever necessary. Kerr is excellent in transition and displays the ability to find success with or without the ball in his hands. He’s also the second-leading rebounder for this group.
6’8 Justin Caldwell (Trinity Christian)
Although big men are known to develop at a slower pace, it’s quite easy to see the foundational appeal of someone like Justin Caldwell. He’s already big, strong, mobile, and physically overwhelming on both ends of the floor. Caldwell is a low-maintenance guy who utilizes his sturdy frame to absorb contact well around the basket, both as a finisher and rebounder, and displays solid timing when altering shots defensively. He possesses useful touch, a quick second/third jump, and excellent rebounding instincts on either side of the ball. Caldwell has notched four double-double performances this season, and should eventually become a nightly threat to reach these numbers. There’s plenty of upside remaining for someone like Caldwell, making him someone to monitor closely over these next few years.
6’3 Adam Grier (High Point Christian)
After finding tons of success with a senior-laden roster, High Point Christian was expected to go through somewhat of a rebuilding process. However, the addition of Adam Grier has been a massive reason why the Cougars are still among the more competitive squads in the state. Between his IQ, size, mentality, and sheer instincts, it’s easy to see what already makes Grier such an intriguing prospect. He handles the ball with poise, creates well for himself and others, and displays clear toughness on both ends of the floor. Grier gets downhill with ease and makes intelligent decisions with the ball in his hands, but can also knock down jumpers at a reliable rate. He’s also a quality defender with great anticipation for forcing turnovers. Expect him to continue emerging as a noteworthy prospect.
6’3 Tarris Bouie (Chambers)
Despite being on a team clearly in win-now mode (due to all their veteran pieces), Tarris Bouie has consistently provided quality minutes for this group. He’s long, wiry, and already among the top three-point shooters in the freshman class. Bouie moves well without the ball, makes smart passes, and capitalizes on spot-up opportunities within the flow of the action. That being said, he can also attack closeouts, initiate the offense, and create his own shot if necessary. Due to his general on-court gravity, Bouie is already able to impact the game without requiring a ton of touches. He’s only going to get better and better as his body continues to physically develop, so expect to hear his name a lot going forward.
5’10 LJ Rush (1 of 1 Academy)
There are a ton of talented young pieces on the 1 of 1 Academy roster, and LJ Rush is certainly within that group. He’s a smart, unselfish, very crafty floor general with excellent vision and the ability to consistently create for himself and others. Rush plays with nice pace, utilizes his handle to breakdown opponents, and touches the paint at a high volume—where he’s able to finish or make the subsequent pass to an open teammate. He’s a capable perimeter shooter who can knock down jumpers at a respectable clip, but typically prefers to set up others in favorable positions. Rush defends well at the point of attack and away from the ball (regularly forcing turnovers in both areas), and pushes the break effectively in transition. His stock should only continue to trend upward.
6’3 Darius McGlashen (Winston-Salem Christian)
Although his role is still growing for a high-level program, Darius McGlashen remains a prospect worth noting. He’s smart, skilled, and athletic with the well-rounded skillset to affect all facets of the game. McGlashen is a capable creator, both for himself and others, with the ability to play with or without the ball in his hands. He scores the ball well from all levels, defends his position nicely, and battles for rebounds on either end of the floor. McGlashen possesses a great combination of skillset, physical tools, and long-term upside. He’s only going to get better as he steadily emerges for the Lions over the coming years.
6’3 Dane Cassada (Calvary Day)
In terms of sheer polish and productivity, folks would be hard-pressed to find many freshmen in the state who compare to Dane Cassada. The sturdy, skilled guard is an elite shooter and well-rounded scorer with great feel, vision, and the ability to impact the game with or without the ball in his hands. Cassada is also a reliable creator who can initiate the offense or generate clean looks off the bounce. This season, he’s visibly emerged as a focal point for one of the better private-school programs in the state. Though somewhat unassuming at first glance, Cassada possesses a clear level of poise, toughness, and competitiveness.
6’7 Elhadji Diallo (Combine Academy)
Despite being the youngest player on a loaded roster, it’s easy to see the overall appeal of someone like Elhadji Diallo. He’s a long, fluid athlete with useful instincts and a blossoming identity on both ends of the floor. Diallo already possesses all the necessary physical tools to be a high-level player. That being said, he’s still just beginning to truly scratch the surface of his long-term abilities. Diallo understands how to play hard, make hustle plays, and fill in the gaps whenever possible. It’s only a matter of time, but folks should expect Diallo to burst onto the scene within the next few seasons.
6’1 Chaise Smith (Washington)
There have been a ton of noteworthy players to come through Washington High School, and it seems like Chaise Smith is next in line. Although he’s the lone freshman on the Pam Pack roster, Smith is already their lead playmaker and second-leading scorer. He’s a smart, athletic, well-rounded guard with vision, quickness, and the ability to score from all levels. Furthermore, Smith plays hard, looks to get others involved, and already conducts himself as a leader. The combination of Smith and the rest of this fairly young, talented squad should put them in a position to contend for a title over the coming years.
6’8 Cody Peck (Providence)
If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times: big men develop slower than everyone else. This is not meant as an insult, but rather a reminder that someone like Cody Peck is going to inevitably make a leap within the next few years. He’s long, active, and clearly embraces his identity as an interior piece on both ends of the floor. Peck does possess a ton of physical strength right now, but already displays great timing as a rebounder and rim-protector. He finishes well around the basket, yet also seems comfortable spacing the floor as needed. Although he’s already quite useful, Peck is only going to get bigger, stronger, and more athletic going forward
6’5 Neal Swindell (Caldwell Academy)
The freshman class in North Carolina has a lot of prospects who are trending upward at a rapid rate, and Neal Swindell is a great example of this notion. He’s a strong, well-rounded wing prospect with an excellent blend of size, skill, and athleticism. Swindell is able to affect the game without requiring the ball in his hands, though he’s capable of setting up others or creating off the bounce. He’s a natural glue-guy who understands how to fill in the gaps and utilize his body well to overwhelm opponents on both ends of the floor. Given the structure of this Caldwell roster, folks should expect Swindell to have a breakout campaign sooner than later.