(1) 6’6 Paul McNeil (Richmond)
Even for those who don’t closely follow high school basketball, McNeil should already be a well-known name throughout the country. After winning North Carolina’s Gatorade POY award, he became just the second men’s player of the millennium to receive the honor two full seasons removed from his graduation year (joining Jaden Bradley). He posted insane per-game averages of 24.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 1.8 BPG with 49/31/81 shooting splits. While impressive, those statistics don’t even account for his care with the ball (1.1 TPG and 3.32:1 AST:TO ratio) or the copious amount of defensive pressure he receives on a nightly basis. In most cases, trying to contain him with one defender is simply not a viable option. Calling McNeil “special” is far from a hot take since he’s arguably as impressive as any notable North Carolina prospect in recent memory.
(2) 6’10 Jarin Stevenson (Seaforth)
Whether folks have him ranked first or not, there’s no denying the incredible amount of talent that Stevenson possesses. At 6-foot-10, he’s probably the most gifted post prospect to come through the state over the last few years. Last season, he led Seaforth in three of five major statistical categories while posting averages of 20.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 3.5 BPG with 56/30/75 shooting splits. It’s uncommon to see a player at his size who can comfortably create, rebound, block shots, and score from all levels. Add in his feel, fluidity, and ability to post-up, and Stevenson represents the modern post prospect. He also possesses ridiculous, yet seemingly attainable, long-term upside. As Stevenson gets stronger and more assertive, expect him to start dominating every opponent in his pathway.
(3) 6’6 Isaiah Evans (North Mecklenburg)
Things have drastically changed for Evans over the last calendar year. He’s gone from a relative unknown to a nationally recognized prospect as quickly as anyone, and shows no signs of turning back now. For those who haven’t followed his journey, Evans is a definite matchup problem with the length, athleticism, and scoring prowess to cause issues for the opposition. At a wiry, extremely rangy 6-foot-6, very few players can actually contain him defensively. Sure, his shooting mechanics are slightly unorthodox, but Evans knows how to consistently put the ball in the basket. He’s a great athlete with the creation skills, rebounding ability, and defensive instincts to truly dominate a game. His sophomore averages of 19.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 2.8 APG were quite impressive given the abundance of talent within the Vikings’ roster. Evans has flourished as a leader for The Skill Factory, and should only continue to turn heads as his role expands for North Mecklenburg.
(4) 6’6 Drake Powell (Northwood)
While each of the previous entries has their own list of enticing attributes, it’s just so easy to gush about Powell’s unique identity. We’ve probably come to sound like a broken record, but the kid is flat-out special defensively. He’s an incredibly long, 6-foot-6 wing prospect with an excellent blend of IQ, skill, and athleticism. Powell has always possessed elite defensive instincts, so his improvement as a shooter, creator, and overall athlete has definitely taken his game to another level. It’s difficult to say anything other than positives about his unselfish, adaptable, low-maintenance game. Powell is simply an amazing leader, both by example and through production, and truly the type of guy all coaches should want on their team. While his per-game averages of 16.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 2.6 SPG are great, folks should expect his numbers and percentages to improve across the board.
(5) 6’9 Kany Tchanda (Concord Academy)
Although he’s already very talented, one could legitimately argue that Tchanda has more upside than anyone in North Carolina’s Class of 2024. His combination of size, fluidity, and flashes of skill should be enough for folks to be intrigued. Last season, he posted nightly averages of 14.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 1.6 BPG with 53/31/69 shooting splits. While solid numbers, Tchanda is truly only beginning to scratch the surface of his long-term abilities. He displays touch and the ability to regularly finish above the rim offensively, but can also knock down jumpers from midrange or beyond the arc. Tchanda is a quality rebounder and overall athlete who knows how to protect the rim and run the floor properly in transition. Again, his continued progression could lead to him becoming an absolutely unstoppable force. Folks should watch closely.
(6) 6’6 Lewis Walker (Winston-Salem Christian)
There are certain players who are just universally loved and adored by the masses, and arguably no one fits that bill as much as Lewis Walker. He’s might the most popular prospect in the state, but it’s justified. During the high school season, Walker was a reliable, productive go-to option on a nightly basis. While his status as a walking mismatch is applicable throughout the entire calendar year, it’s especially evident against other high school programs. Walker is strong, smart, and skilled with a unique combination of power and finesse around the basket. As stated countless times before, he’s too physical for perimeter opponents and too mobile to be contained by traditional big men. Walker is excellent at identifying mismatches and immediately exploiting them. He knows and embraces his game as well as any player in North Carolina. Furthermore, Walker has shined on the EYBL, leading the team in points and total minutes while ranking as elite player on both ends of the floor. Expect him to be a coveted piece.
(7) 6’5 Rakease Passmore (Combine Academy)
The travel ball season typically offers a lot of intriguing subplots and open discussions, and Rakease Passmore’s name has been mentioned as much as ever. He’s certainly maintained his status as one of the, if not the, best athletes and explosive leapers in the region. However, Passmore has also shown strides within the rest of his game. After a strong and productive freshman campaign, the 6-foot-5 wing went on to average 19.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.3 SPG with 56/42/65 shooting splits. His numbers literally improved across all statistical categories. Now, his play with Garner Road anddecision to transfer to Combine Academy have led to even more excitement. Passmore has effortlessly showcased the ability to impose his will as one-third of the Bulldogs three-headed wing monster. His game should only continue to mature under Coach Mike Wright.
(8) 6’4 Tybo Bailey (Mount Tabor)
One of the most pleasant surprises of last season was Tyler “Tybo” Bailey’s return to the Triad. He came back and immediately began dominating as the focal point for Mount Tabor, providing them with a much-needed scoring punch and go-to option on a nightly basis. Bailey possesses a great blend of size, skill, and athleticism with the necessary feel and creation skills to consistently work with the ball in his hands. He can generate quality looks for himself and others, and can set up others but is clearly more comfortable at creating for himself. Bailey scores the ball at a healthy mix from all levels and doesn’t actually need the ball to find offensive opportunities. He’s great in transition, rebounds well for his position, and still definitely has plenty of upside as a defender. Assuming he remains in the area code, Bailey will be among the top players throughout the area.
(9) 6’5 Isaiah Washington (N/A)
Similar to his teammate mentioned above, Isaiah Washington has produced a ton of buzz during the travel ball season with Garner Road. Sure, the athletic 6-foot-5 wing was already noteworthy prior to the spring/summer season, but the production makes him especially difficult to ignore. Washington is a quality shot-creator who can apply pressure in a variety of different ways and from all three levels. Per his advanced numbers on the Adidas Gauntlet, he’s proven to be above-average in basically every offensive context. Washington is capable of finding opportunities within the framework of an offense, but also serves as a reliable bucket-getter as needed. He works well alongside the other two wings, yet still knows how to assert himself and stand out. Given his array of enticing tools, it’ll be interesting to track Washington’s recruitment over these next few years.
(10) 6’0 Jordan Vick (Southern Nash)
It’s easy to see why folks love someone like Jordan Vick and his identity as a tough, crafty, athletic, shot-maker. Last season at Southern Nash, he posted nightly averages of 21.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.1 SPG while standing out as the undisputed leader on a game-to-game basis. While they are not exact copies of each other, Vick has a ton of similarities to Jalen Cone. Since the conclusion of high school ball, The Team Trezz star has found ways to dominate in majority of his showings during the spring. He’s able to consistently create with the ball in his hands, displaying a tight handle and excellent understanding of angles/spacing. Vick makes highly difficult shots look routine, and can heat up quickly as a perimeter shooter. He also forces turnovers at a solid rate and can set up others when necessary.