On Tuesday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to the heart of High Point, as the Cougars of High Point Christian prepared to start their season against the Asheville School. Structurally, both squads look quite different from last season, yet still possess an abundance of next-level talent The stage was set for an exciting, competitive contest, and each squad delivered.

Things kicked off in a hurry, as Asheville School quickly mounted a double-digit lead over the first few minutes. The Cougars responded and managed to make it a one-possession contest by the end of the opening quarter. The second period led to sluggish play from both teams, but the Blues maintained their lead at 27-20 entering halftime. Following the break, High Point Christian appeared to be a completely different team. After just mustering up five points in the entire second quarter, they put forth a 21-point outburst in the third period to tie things up. Although Asheville School led for most of the final period, the Cougars hit their stride at the perfect time and were simply better in the closing minutes of action—leading to their 65-59 victory to open the season. 

High Point Christian:

6’7 ’22 Ethan Smith

Albeit an up-and-down showing for everyone involved, Smith still arguably shined as the top performer for either team. He was an obvious focal point from the opening tip, spacing the floor, making smart passes, and showing the ability to make plays for himself and others within two or three purposeful dribbles. Smith was active in the Cougars offense from start to finish, and justifiably so, as he consistently found ways to be a reliable scoring option from all levels. He’s a steady two-way rebounder and positions himself effectively on defense. Smith should only continue to accumulate college opportunities throughout the season. Final stats: 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. 

6’6 ’22 Thomas McIntosh

After somewhat of a quiet first half, McIntosh was a major x-factor in determining the overall result of this game. Following the break, he showcased his usual offensive versatility and caused matchup problems for the opposition. McIntosh is a useful finisher, floor-spacer, and penetrator against opposing forwards. He displayed vision, toughness, and an understanding of how to take advantage of what the defense is giving him. Add in his converted free-throws down the stretch, and McIntosh brought a lot of value to the table. Like his teammate above, expect programs to continue their pursuit. Final stats: 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. 

Other Noteworthy Contributors:

5’10 ’23 Isaiah Sanders- 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

6’4 ’23 Taft Johnson- 5 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block

6’2 ’23 Darius Kane- 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals

Asheville School:

6’9 ’22 Leon Nahar (Stony Brook signee)

It’s pretty easy to see the intrigue and overall upside with someone like Nahar, who is already clearly talented but not even close to his long-term ceiling. At a long, lanky 6-foot-9, he’s quite skilled and able to apply smooth scoring pressure from all levels. There were stretches where he would go without touching the ball for minutes at a time, yet would still find ways to score within the flow of the action. Nahar knows where to be and how to capitalize in a variety of ways, but could also be more aggressive and look to control the offense more often. He’s a nice finisher with great length, which he utilizes very well to rebound, alter shots, and space the floor from distance. Nahar possesses a beautiful jumper and, with continued physical development, should be a quality piece for Stony Brook. Final stats: 11 points and 6 rebounds.

6’3 ’23 Derin Saran

Although he wasn’t needed to score as much as others, Saran is clearly an integral part of this Asheville School squad. He’s a smart, tough, heady point guard prospect with incredible vision and the ability to create for others on a nonstop basis. Saran is a capable finisher and shooter, but primarily uses the threat of his scoring to open up opportunities for his teammates. He’s excellent at penetrating and making intelligent reads, able to find the best available shot with unwavering consistency. Saran will be a major part of this group for the next two seasons. Final stats: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, and 1 block. 

Other Noteworthy Contributors:

6’7 ’22 Berk Martin- 15 points, 11 rebounds

6’4 ’23 Michael Mora- 10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals

6’2 ’23 Kaden Holdbrook- 15 points (5 threes), 2 rebounds