Phenom Hoops traveled to Concord, North Carolina to cover the defending NCHSAA 3A state champion, Central Cabarrus. Charlotte, Elon, and UNCG were in attendance for open gym. Last season, Central Cabarrus ran the table and finished 32-0 to cap off the perfect season. The year before, Central Cabarrus lost in the NCHSAA Western Regional to the eventual NCHSAA 3A state champion, West Charlotte. That season Central Cabarrus finished with a 30-1 record. Coach Jim Baker will have to replace the loss of seniors Jaiden Thompson (19.8 PPG), Gavin Bullock (11.5 PPG), and Elijah Ford (9.0 PPG). That's 40.3 points per game in lost scoring.

While most coaches would be worried, Coach Jim Baker has plenty to be excited about. With the return of Carson and Chase Daniel along with DJ Kent, they form a 3-headed monster attack that will put Central Cabarrus in the conversation as one of the early favorites to win the NCHSAA 3A state championship once again. Now, let's take a closer look at the Central Cabarrus roster.

Top Returners

6'1 '24 Chase Daniel & Carson Daniel

Last season, Chase Daniel averaged 13.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, and 4.3 SPG while his twin brother, Carson, averaged 10.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.7 APG, and 3.6 SPG. The Carson twins, simply put, are winners on and off the court. Not only did Central Cabarrus go undefeated and win the NCHSAA 3A state championship, the Carson twins led their travel ball team (BSA) to a perfect undefeated season while playing all the top shoe circuit teams in the Carolinas. They took on all challenges and what they have accomplished the past year is extraordinary. The Carson twins are what's right about youth basketball today. They are tough, resilient, and are the ultimate competitors while being perfect teammates. The two committed early to Catawba and expect them to make an immediate impact. Their style of play is contagious as they play hard, play together and they have fun doing it. They truly are two of the most enjoyable players in the state to watch.

6'5 '24 DJ Kent

Last season, Kent averaged 12.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 2.3 BPG and was named the Charlotte Observer's Sixth Man Recipient, not to mention he was selected the NCHSAA 3A state championship MVP. Kent steadily improved over the course of the season and now has blossomed into a legit D1 prospect. First of all, Kent has a 6'10 wingspan and an 8'10 standing reach. He has tremendous length, athleticism, and a feathery soft touch and may have one of the best midrange games in the state. In addition, Kent has outstanding range and can easily knock down 3-pointers efficiently. He has beautiful shooting mechanics, excellent follow-through, extension, and arch on the ball with proper backspin and rotation. More importantly, Kent has improved his ball handling and passing skills and remains one of the state's most 'underrecruited prospects' in our opinion. Look for Kent's stock to continue to climb and will be one of the hot unsigned senior players in the Carolinas.  

Top Newcomer

6'9 '24 Joshua Dalton

Dalton transferred from Maryland and already sports offers from Chicago State, Arkansas Pine-Bluff. After this performance at the open gym, look for his offer list to grow sooner rather than later. Dalton has good physical size and runs the floor extremely well, has good hands, and nifty footwork and loves to dunk over defenders. In addition, Dalton has touch and range on his jumper, and don't be surprised to see Dalton on the open end of 'pick and pop' situations where he is going to knock down open 3-point opportunities. The next step for Dalton is to get into 'Central Cabarrus shape,' simply because they run and press the entire game.  That being said, Dalton is an unbelievable early season gift to coach Jim Baker and will give him a multi-talent 'Big' that sports a tremendous skill set.

Best of the Rest

6'3 '25 Cadyn Smith

Smith will provide another outside shooting threat for the passer-friendly Vikings. With the dribble penetration of the Daniel twins, Smith will get ample opportunities to be in a 'catch and shoot' situation. His ability to knock down open shots will create driving lanes where the Daniel twins thrive. He's a perfect complement to this senior-laden team and don't be surprised to see his name listed in the box score with double-digit scoring. We were equally impressed with his basketball IQ and outstanding fundamentals.

5'1 '25 Jake Baker

Baker is coming off a season-ending injury as season and will be expected to also fill in at the shooting guard position. He has excellent range and touch and like Smith, will be in the perfect situation to capitalize off dribble drive and kickouts. Baker also can shoot it efficiently from the perimeter and will be another outside shooting threat.

6'3 '24 Noah Edmiston

Edmiston is another player who is fundamentally sound and has the ability to light it up from the perimeter. We were also impressed with his hustle, high energy and overall work ethic. He's the type of player who will make many key plays for his name without scoring a lot of points on the scorebook.

Outlook

While Central Cabarrus lost three key offensive threats from last season, look for Central Cabarrus to repeat at the NCHSAA 3A champions. They have the Daniel twins and the services of 6'5 DJ Kent, who continues to make monumental steps toward being a D1 player. With the Daniel twins, Kent and the addition of 6'8 Joshua Dalton, Central Cabarrus becomes once again one of the top programs in the state regardless of classification. They will be battle test early and often and will be our favorite to repeat as NCHSAA 3A State Champions.