Each year, we reach the brief transitioning point between the travel ball and high school seasons. This small window typically falls around mid-August, allowing ample time to update rankings, go to open gyms, and mentally reset before things get revamped. Now that we've finalized our rankings for North Carolina's Classes of 2024, 2025, and 2026, it feels like no better time to go through and provide some personal thoughts on each player. Before diving in, it’s always advantageous to reaffirm that rankings are subjective. There's no 'correct' answer. No college coach is extending or rescinding an offer based on a ranking list. That being said, let's take a closer look at the Top 50 for North Carolina's Class of 2026 (posting in intervals of five players)'
1) 6'7 Cole Cloer (Orange)
Given everything he's shown in the last calendar year, it shouldn't surprise folks that Cole Cloer claims the top spot on our rankings. At 6-foot-7, he's a skilled, athletic, versatile wing/forward prospect with the ability to produce in a variety of different roles. He dominated as the clear leader for Orange High School and seamlessly transitioned into a primary role for Team CP3. There was some fluctuation with his numbers during the EYBL season, but Cloer has consistently shown the ability to produce in every possible setting. He generates quality looks off the bounce and understands how to pose a legitimate off-ball threat as a cutter or spot-up shooter. His athleticism, specifically his verticality, has taken a definite step over the last twelve months and now leads to regular above-the-rim pressure. Cloer is already very impressive but still has definite upside remaining, so it should be exciting to track his continued development.
2) 6'2 Yohance Connor (1 of 1 Academy)
Few players have boosted their stock more rapidly than Yohance Connor since he joined 1 of 1 Academy. While the toughness, explosiveness, and natural leadership qualities were already evident during his days at Winston-Salem Prep, it's clear that he's taken another step towards stardom. Although he's become very well-rounded, Connor's identity still starts with his nonstop motor, incredible defensive prowess, and unique nose for the ball. Even amidst a team full of veteran pieces, the two-way guard was arguably the most important player on the roster. In a time where so many players choose when to amp it up, there is no light switch for Connor. If there were, it would be permanently placed in the 'on' position. He's a phenomenal rebounder, especially for his size, who can be trusted to go seize extra possessions against bigger opponents. Connor applies constant pressure at the rim and displays quality instincts as a playmaker, but his shot-making ability is a massive part of his ascension. Expect him to keep trending upward.
3) 6'9 Rivers Knight (Combine Academy)
Trajectory is a massive part of evaluating and properly analyzing prospects, and Rivers Knight's arc is arguably as appealing as anyone in this class. First, we should immediately account for the fact that big men naturally develop slower than others. Then, it's worth noting that Knight is in his true class (per age) and has only been playing basketball for a relatively short period of time. After progressing rapidly over the last few years, he's starting to visibly blossom into a noteworthy name. Knight has a legitimate case as the top shooting big man to come through North Carolina in recent memory. That being said, he's also a useful post-up scorer with solid vision, rebounding instincts, and defensive prowess. Although Knight suffered an injury somewhat early in the travel ball season, he should back to full health by the start of the high school season. After becoming the newest member of Combine Academy, folks should be excited to monitor his development going forward.
4) 6'7 Kendre Harrison (Reidsville)
In terms of two-sport athletes, Kendre Harrison is the highest-ranked player in Phenom Hoops' database across all classes through 2015. He's a physical specimen with the combination of size, strength, and raw power to overwhelm opponents in a variety of different ways. Harrison was a focal point throughout Reidsville's path to the state championship and seamlessly transitioned into a major role with Team Loaded Virginia during the travel ball season. Despite being a freshman, his production speaks for itself. It's worth noting that his consistent dominance often coincides with various events for high-level football prospects. Harrison is an excellent athlete with the length, mobility, and toughness to effectively control the paint on both ends of the floor. He finishes through contact and above the rim, but can also knock down the occasional jumper if needed. Harrison carves out space extremely well and displays a quality rebounding presence on both ends of the floor. Whether he chooses to play football or basketball, it'll be fun to follow his journey over these next three years.
5) 6'7 Elhadji Diallo (Combine Academy)
Though it should come as no surprise, Elhadji Diallo gives Combine Academy another prospect in the top grouping. He's a strong, fluid forward/post prospect with a low-maintenance identity on both ends of the floor. Diallo is a quality finisher around the basket, but also consistently finds opportunities through rebounding and capitalizing on second-chance situations. He plays hard at all times, works to make hustle plays, and is willing to do whatever necessary to impact the game. Diallo is a great all-around athlete with length, explosiveness, and an understanding of how to utilize his body to overwhelm opponents. He's already quite impactful, yet is truly just beginning to harness his long-term abilities. He also moves well without the ball and runs the floor properly in transition. Between Diallo and his teammate mentioned above, the Goats arguably have the best young frontcourt duo in North Carolina.
6) 6'4 Markus Kerr (Chambers)
Between his age and overall ability, there's already so much to like about Markus Kerr. He's the youngest player ranked within the top ten, but folks wouldn't know that by simply watching him perform. Kerr is a skilled, crafty, athletic guard prospect with excellent size and feel on both ends of the floor. Given his polish and creation skills, Kerr can comfortably control the offense as an initiator or all-around scorer. He mixes it up at a healthy rate from all levels and understands how to find opportunities with or without the ball in his hands. Kerr excels in transition, where he frequently finishes through contact or above the rim. He provides a steady defensive presence and forces turnovers on a consistent basis. Kerr also rebounds well for his position and is capable of pushing the break with relative ease. If he continues on his current trajectory, Kerr has the chance to be special.
7) 6'3 Ashton Pierce (North Mecklenburg)
It feels like another noteworthy prospect emerges from the Vikings' program every few years, and Ashton Pierce is certainly next up. He's been a high-level player for quite a while, but this high school season could legitimately be his breakout campaign. Pierce already showcased a high comfort level as a freshman and consistently produced within the team structure. He's an impressive creator and shot-maker with the tools to cause problems for opponents in various different ways. Pierce is a reliable spot-up threat who possesses deep range, quality mechanics, and the ability to heat up quickly. He attacks closeouts well and finishes effectively around the basket, but also has the vision to set up others whenever possible. Pierce contains his assignment well defensively and pursues rebounds on a consistent basis. After a highly memorable summer, expect him to be a focal point during his upcoming sophomore season.
8) 6'7 Josiah King Sanders (Word of God)
Given the value of versatility in the current game, someone like Josiah Sanders' appeal should be pretty obvious. He recently announced his decision to transfer to Word of God, providing the Holy Rams with an entirely new dynamic. Sanders is quite skilled, especially for his size, and seems very comfortable operating as a creator with the ball in his hands. He displays IQ, vision, and the ability to consistently break down opponents off the bounce. Sanders scores the ball from all levels, but is arguably at his best when getting downhill and attacking the basket. He can toggle between multiple positions defensively, rebound well for his size, and reliably push the break in transition. Sanders is a walking mismatch and understands how to utilize his strengths to overwhelm opponents on both ends of the floor. He will certainly be an enticing prospect to follow over the coming years.
9) 5'9 Dionte Neal (Reidsville)
Despite being the only sub six-foot prospect in the top ten, Dionte Neal certainly earned his place within this ranking. Sure, he's undersized, but easily stands out as one of the most dynamic players in North Carolina's Class of 2026. He's a smart, crafty, unselfish point guard with incredible quickness and open-floor speed. Neal is an excellent passer who sees the entire floor and consistently makes the correct decision with the ball in his hands. He scores the ball at a healthy rate from all levels, but still looks to make the right play whenever possible. Neal is a natural leader who simply outworks and outproduces his assignment in seemingly every situation. He displays sharp instincts at the point of attack and regularly overwhelms opponents with his scrappy defensive presence. Neal is capable of doing whatever his team needs to win, which has been a common theme in his high school journey thus far.
10) 6'1 Rassell Young (Mallard Creek)
It feels like the general masses already know about the nine guys ranked above, but more folks should start talking about Rassell Young. He's a smart, polished, all-around floor general with an excellent combination of size, vision, and scoring prowess. Young creates for himself and others, plays with great pace, and scores the ball with efficiency and frequency from all levels. When watching him play, his confidence is almost palpable. He controls the action with such impressive poise and consistently makes his surrounding teammates better. Young is capable of generating a quality look and scoring every trip down the floor, but looks to create opportunities for others whenever possible. He's also a reliable defender and rebounder for his size/position. There are a lot of notable point guards in North Carolina's Class of 2026, but don't be surprised if Young continues to trend upward over the coming years.
11) 6'9 Tyson Thompson (St. Paul's)
Each big man ranked thus far has a ton of appeal, but Tyson Thompson might be the most intriguing in terms of long-term potential. His combination of strength, length, mobility, and general athleticism already gives him a physical advantage against the majority of opponents. Thompson anchors the paint defensively as a rim-protector, reliably controls the glass, and runs the floor properly in transition. Offensively, he's progressing at a visible rate. Thompson's touch has only gotten better over the last calendar year, but he's also capable of playing above the rim or spacing the floor whenever necessary. There's already so much to like with his foundation as a prospect, but it's clear that he's only going to continue improving. Expect coaches to start extending offers to Thompson sooner than later.
12) 5'10 Cameron Newman (Gaston Christian)
Running a team at a high level requires an array of poise, intelligence, and leadership qualities'three traits that Cameron Newman certainly possesses. He simply provides a calm presence and high level of security with the ball in his hands. Newman is an excellent playmaker with a tight handle, quick first step, and the understanding of how to consistently make the correct read. He scores the ball at an efficient rate from all levels, but is also capable of taking over a game when needed. Newman is a reliable defender at the point of attack and consistently forces turnovers through his anticipation in the passing lanes. He's great in transition, both with and without the ball, and controls the tempo extremely well as a primary creator. It's difficult to envision a scenario where Newman isn't coveted by a slew of programs going forward.
13) 6'4 Bradley Floyd (Kings Mountain)
After enjoying a highly productive freshman year, Bradley Floyd's steady flashes of dominance seamlessly transitioned into the travel ball season. He's a long, skilled, athletic wing prospect with great size and creation skills. Floyd can already comfortably create his own shot, set up others, and apply scoring pressure from all levels. He displays craftiness when finishing around the basket, but also understands how to locate open teammates and make the appropriate pass. Floyd utilizes his length very well to disrupt opponents defensively, regularly suffocating his assignment and forcing turnovers. His well-rounded identity allows him to naturally impact all facets of the game, but he still has still considerable upside remaining. Floyd is someone who should have a massive sophomore season.
14) 6'1 Kobe Edwards (Greenfield)
Among all the guards ranked thus far, Kobe Edwards has the most enticing crossroads between current ability and long-term upside. He's already quite dynamic with the combination of IQ, skill, and athleticism to make a constant impact on both ends of the floor. Edwards offers great balance as a floor general, displaying unselfishness, scoring prowess, and the ability to consistently generate clean looks for others. He possesses a crafty handle and a quick first step, which allows him to reliably break down opposing guards, touch the paint, and make quality reads as a playmaker. That being said, Edwards is also capable of applying consistent pressure as a scorer from all levels or in transition. On the other end, he stands out as a quality defender at the point of attack and highlights great instincts for intercepting passing lanes. Expect Edwards to warrant a lot of attention as he continues to physically develop.
15) 5'11 Isaac Ellis (Moravian Prep)
After playing high-level basketball for numerous years, folks should already be well aware of Isaac Ellis and everything he brings to a team. Even as he's worked to develop the rest of his identity, Ellis still remains one of the very best shooters throughout all classes in North Carolina. He's a capable playmaker and willing passer who can create for himself and others with the ball in his hands. However, Ellis also understands how to pose a lethal off-ball threat as a perimeter shooter. He moves well without the ball, finds open seams within the defense, and only requires a glimmer of daylight to get off clean looks. Ellis will attack closeouts and set up others or finish/convert floaters around the basket. He provides a scrappy defensive presence and understands how to get to his spots in transition. Ellis should only continue to develop over the foreseeable future.
16) 6'8 Justin Caldwell (Trinity Christian)
After quietly bursting onto the scene over the last calendar year, Justin Caldwell has become a well-known name across the grassroots landscape. He's a big, strong, physically overwhelming big man with a bulky frame and low-maintenance identity on both ends of the floor. Caldwell does an excellent job of controlling the glass, anchoring the paint defensively, and positioning himself to finish around the basket. He's still developing offensive polish, but doesn't require a lot of touches in order to make an impact. Caldwell utilizes his body to effectively play through contact and outwork opponents inside the paint. He also runs the floor well in transition. Caldwell should only continue to get better and better, so it'll be exciting to watch his progression over the coming years.
17) 5'10 LJ Rush (1 of 1 Academy)
In a group loaded with talented guards, LJ Rush is arguably as dynamic as any floor general in North Carolina's Class of 2026. He's a smart, skilled point guard prospect with terrific all-around athleticism and overall understanding of how to run a team. Rush possesses a crafty handle, sharp vision, and the ability to consistently generate clean looks for himself and others off the bounce. Whether attacking downhill, hitting pull-ups, or asserting his presence from beyond the arc, Rush can apply pressure in a variety of different ways. That being said, he looks to set up others and make the right play whenever possible. Rush is a pesky defender with great anticipation for forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. His pace and change of direction also stand out on the court. Given everything he's shown, it's difficult to envision a scenario where Rush isn't highly coveted by a slew of programs.
18) 6'4 Tarris Bouie (Chambers)
Anyone who follows Phenom Hoops should already be well-informed about Tarris Bouie and everything he showcased throughout the summer season. However, folks shouldn't be surprised if he continues to climb these rankings over the next few years. Bouie is a smart, athletic shot-maker with an incredible amount of upside. At 6-foot-4, he's still developing physically but already possesses size, toughness, and insanely long arms. Bouie is comfortable creating his own shot and applying scoring pressure from all levels, yet also understands how to mix it up at a healthy rate to keep defenses on their toes. Despite his lack of strength, he regularly plays through contact and doesn't shy away from contact. Bouie is a quality passer, instinctual defender, and useful rebounder. He already does so many things well, so it'll be fascinating to see just how much he'll progress over the coming years.
19) 5'10 Q Williams (Forsyth Country Day)
As previously stated, this class is full of quality point guards'which certainly includes Q Williams and everything he brings to a team. He's slightly undersized but smart, crafty, and displays a ton of poise with the ball in his hands. Williams does a great job of controlling the offense, playing with pace, and distributing the ball to the correct spots. He's a confident ball-handler who understands how to break down opponents, force the defense to collapse, and make the proper read. Williams is able to play without the ball and knock down shots within the flow of the offense. He's an active defender at the point of attack and displays nice instincts for forcing turnovers. Given his solidified status as a focal point for the Furies, folks should expect him to have a strong sophomore season at Forsyth Country Day.
20) 6'9 Cody Peck (Carmel Christian)
Rounding out the top 20, Cody Peck is someone who could easily be 10-15 (or even more) spots higher when it's all said and done. His combination of tools, mentality, and overall trajectory is so incredibly appealing that it's difficult to see a scenario where he doesn't become an extremely high-level player. Peck is already quite skilled, athletic, and possesses great instincts on both ends of the floor. He's a phenomenal interior defender with the necessary timing, mobility, and physicality to reliably protect the rim. Peck rebounds at a healthy rate and battles through contact on either side of the ball. He's a quality finisher around the basket, but can also consistently score from the block or space the floor from distance. Peck is an exceptional teammate who understands how to complement others or simply do whatever is needed to win. He truly checks all the boxes to become a special player, so it'll be exciting to watch his path going forward.
21) 6'3 Darius McGlashen (Winston-Salem Christian)
Despite playing most of his travel ball outside the region, Darius McGlashen clearly remains a prospect worth knowing. He's smart, athletic, and well-rounded with the ability to play in a variety of different roles. McGlashen can effectively dictate the action or make an impact without the ball in his hands. He's a quality creator with vision and scoring instincts from all levels. McGlashen also possesses great instincts defensively and understands how to reliably contain his assignment and force turnovers at a healthy rate. Over the last twelve months, McGlashen won Mr. Offense at our first Freshman 40 camp, produced within his role for the Lions, and then performed at a high level throughout the summer. He has all the tools to be a major difference-maker for Winston-Salem Christian over the coming years.
22) 6'5 Antonio McKoy (Harrells Christian)
It doesn't take much to realize that Antonio McKoy is a highly intriguing prospect who possesses a lot of long-term potential. He's a long, explosive wing/forward prospect with flashes of versatility and the ability to play bigger than his listed height would imply as a rebounder and defender. McKoy finishes well around the basket, but can also create his own shot, hit jumpers, attack from the wing, and effectively move without the ball. He's great at forcing turnovers and getting out in the open floor, where he applies excellent downhill pressure towards the rim. In addition to his general toughness, McKoy also displays a quality motor and overall nose for the ball. He's already quite impactful, but should only continue to progress over the coming years.
23) 6'4 Jaire Richburg (East Forsyth)
Not even halfway through this exercise and we've already reached another highly impressive two-sport athlete in Jaire Richburg. He recently made the decision to transfer to East Forsyth from Winston-Salem Christian, which likely means he'll look to pursue opportunities on the gridiron going forward. That being said, Richburg is still a notable basketball talent who should appeal to a bevy of college programs. He's a strong, athletic, physically overwhelming wing prospect who excels getting downhill, playing through contact, and doing the dirty work. Richburg is a versatile defender, great rebounder for his size/position, and smart offensive threat who understands how to play to his strengths on both ends of the floor. Regardless of his long-term pursuit, Richburg should still be a definite focal point for East Forsyth.
24) 6'3 Ian Bailey (Asheville Christian)
After watching him extensively throughout the summer season, it's clear that Ian Bailey has generated a lot of buzz from college coaches. He's a smart, skilled, athletic wing prospect with an all-around skillset and the ability to be featured in numerous different roles. Bailey is capable of controlling the offense as a primary creator while getting others involved and applying scoring pressure from all three levels. That being said, he also consistently finds opportunities as an off-ball threat'both as a cutter and spot-up option. Bailey is a useful defender, rebounder, and transition threat. His lack of weaknesses is big part of what separates him from other players, especially at this stage in his development. Expect Bailey to shine as a clear leader for Asheville Christian.
25) 6'1 Chaise Smith (Washington)
Like so many previous guys from the eastern part of North Carolina, Chaise Smith is rapidly becoming a name for college coaches to monitor. Regularly drawing comparisons to Terquavion Smith, there are certainly similarities between the two. Smith is an explosive, quick-twitch scoring guard with a natural instinct as a shot-creator and general offensive threat. He's quick and crafty enough to generate clean shots with relative ease (both for himself and others), and understands how to make the right play with the ball in his hands. That being said, Smith is arguably at his best when tasked with burdening a heavy offensive load and taking what he wants. He scores the ball from all levels and is capable of heating up quickly. Expect him to continue trending as one of the most polished scorers in this group.
26) 6'4 Toot Clay (High Point Christian)
There's an abundance of talent within the Cougars' roster, and that certainly includes everything Toot Clay brings to the table. He's a tough, well-rounded forward prospect who possesses a high motor and excellent nose for the ball. Clay plays bigger than his listed height, both as a defender and rebounder, and consistently outworks opponents for extra opportunities around the basket. He's a capable passer, ball-handler, and overall scorer, but doesn't necessarily look to dominate the ball offensively. Clay wreaks havoc with his versatile defensive presence, forces turnovers at a healthy rate, and scores within the flow of the team structure. He simply thrives at doing the dirty work. Expect Clay to remain a vital piece for High Point Christian over the foreseeable future.
27) 6'6 Aidan Rousseau (Cary Academy)
Given everything he's shown during his time with WCBA, Aidan Rousseau is quietly tracking as one of the more polished post players in North Carolina. He's a smart, skilled forward with soft touch, sharp vision, and the ability to space the floor or dominate from the block. Rousseau possesses incredible footwork, craftiness, and patience out of the post, which allows him to hit turnarounds, hooks over either shoulder, and impressive counters with relative ease. He can also be featured in the midrange area, where he can knock down jumpers or set up cutting teammates. Rousseau is a solid all-around athlete who displays an active motor, unselfish mentality, rebounding instincts, and great offensive versatility for his position. His stock should only continue to trend upward.
28) 6'8 Will Stevens (Davidson Day)
After watching his progression throughout the last calendar year, it should be clear that Will Stevens' trajectory is as appealing as any post prospect in the state. He's a long, wiry post prospect with somewhat of an unassuming demeanor at first glance. However, Stevens already possesses an excellent blend of IQ, skill, toughness, and athleticism. He finishes with consistency around the basket, spaces the floor at a high percentage, and is capable of creating for himself or others when attacking off the bounce. Though quite skilled, Stevens is arguably even more impactful as a rebounder and rim-protector'where he's shown terrific timing around the basket. He moves very well for his size and should only continue to develop over these next few years. Expect his recruitment to take off sooner than later.
29) 6'5 Kohi Strickland (Greensboro Day)
Anyone who follows Greensboro Day School should know that Kohi Strickland is due for a noteworthy season as a leader for the Bengals. He's a smart, athletic, well-rounded wing prospect with the ability to affect all facets of the game. Strickland can defend multiple positions, rebound like a big man, and cause matchup problems along the perimeter. Although he has somewhat unorthodox mechanics, he shoots the ball well from distance. Strickland scores from all three levels and understands how to mix it up at a healthy rate. He plays within the team structure but is capable of expanding his production as needed. Strickland has no glaring weaknesses and should be expected to enjoy a highly productive sophomore season.
30) 5'10 Nick Arnold (Lake Norman)
There will always be value with tough, intelligent floor generals, and that descriptor fits Nick Arnold incredibly well. Only five sub-six-foot guys have been ranked, but the Wildcats' point guard is quite different from the rest of the group. It all starts with his unique defensive prowess, where he's proven himself as one of the best point-of-attack defenders across North Carolina. Arnold is extremely physical and utilizes his anticipation to essentially mirror opposing guards, eliminate any operating space, and force turnovers at a high volume. His general instincts far surpass the vast majority of sophomores. Offensively, Arnold is a terrific playmaker and tight ball-handler who consistently makes the right play with the ball in his hands. He's great when attacking downhill and finishing through contact. There's already a lot to like with Arnold, so it'll be exciting to watch his continued growth.