Could North Carolina’s Class of 2021 Be Better Than We Realize?
The basketball landscape in North Carolina continues to grow with each passing year, but the Class of 2021 could be stronger than any other group from recent memory. On one hand, it might not have the clearly defined star-power that was showcased in 2016 with Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Harry Giles III, and Dennis Smith Jr., but it’ll certainly have more depth. Each North Carolina class usually has at least one or two star prospects, but this bunch could honestly have five or more if everything falls correctly. The Class of 2017 lacked surefire locks for the NBA, but over forty kids went on to play Division I basketball, including guys like Lavar Batts, Blake Harris, Brandon Huffman, and JP Moorman. Meanwhile, last year’s senior class featured two of the top guards across the country in Devon Dotson and Coby White, but Jaylen Hoard could realistically emerge as the best long-term prospect from the Hoopstate in 2018. Both young for their grade, Wendell Moore and Patrick Williams have received plenty of scholarship offers, but it’ll be interesting to see their respective careers unfold beyond the collegiate game. This article will preview a few notable prospects from the Class of 2021 in North Carolina; there will be various installments of this article, featuring five new players each time.
(#4) 6’1 Bobby Pettiford (South Granville/Team CP3)
The highest ranked player in this preview is the already among the most dynamic guards in the state, Bobby Pettiford. Most players tend to have one or two specific skills that separate them from other prospects, but Pettiford has the full package. Offensively, he has no holes in his skillset and displays an incredible sharp IQ, both as a scorer and creator for others. We expect most people to start getting on the bandwagon over the next year, but our aggressive ranking should speak volumes about his current talent level. He’s a quality athlete that understands how to consistently overwhelm opponents on defense. Pettiford is a leader and the type of player every coach should want running their team.
(#11) 6’8 Josh Taylor (Greensboro Day School/Team CP3)
As one of the newest prospects transferring to GDS from Georgia, Josh Taylor should be ready for lofty expectations right away. The Day School does a tremendous job figuring out their talent and learning how to utilize their pieces in the most effective manner, which will be significant for his continued development. Taylor is long, intriguing, and full of upside, yet already produces at a pretty strong level on offense. Few players are able to mirror his blend of current production and long-term potential, especially considering how rapidly he’s emerged over the last year. Taylor is quite skilled and shows no fear of opponents. Our current ranking might be conservative, but only time will tell if he’s ready to dominate North Carolina.
(#12) 6’5 Ja’Dun Michael (Burlington School/Team Felton)
The Burlington School has been among the most successful private programs in North Carolina over this last three to four year stretch, but now it’s time for Ja’Dun Michael to take over as the unquestioned leader. This summer, he played on Team Felton’s 17U, but was still finding his comfort level within their concept. That being said, Michael’s offensive versatility remains his best attribute and he seems ready to be a reliable leading scorer for TBS. He creates quite well for himself and has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, whether facing the basket or by backing down opponents into the paint. There is so much to like with Michael, who has done an excellent job of continually raising his game to the next level. He plays an intelligent, fundamental brand of basketball on both ends of the floor. There should be nothing preventing Michael from becoming a combo-forward at the highest collegiate level.
(#14) 6’2 Jaquantae Harris (Hoke County/TIBF)
There were plenty of quality guard prospects to choose from in this class, but Jaquantae Harris could be the biggest surprise of them all. The lefty from Fayetteville has already established himself as a terrific two-way presence, yet still has the ability to continue improving. Offensively, Harris makes great decisions with the ball and frequently involves everyone in the action, though he’s quite capable of scoring on his own. He knows how to use his length and strength to overwhelm opponents on both ends of the floor, forcing turnovers and then immediately exchanging them for points. Harris is still somewhat under the radar, but that definitely won’t last very long, as he’s a prime candidate to breakout this upcoming season.
(#34) 5’10 (Providence Day/Team United)
There is a ton of evidence pointing to the overall strength of North Carolina’s Class of 2021, but there aren’t many guards better than Cyncier Harrison, despite his current ranking. He’s from the true point guard mold, however, he is also an incredibly efficient shooter from midrange and three-point territory. Harrison is probably the smartest player on this list and it’s pretty clear in the way he runs a team. He plays up on Team United’s 16U squad and was arguably their most polished prospect throughout the summer. As said before, it’s only fitting that Harrison is set to be the predecessor to Devon Dotson at PDS, considering their similarities as smaller, high IQ guards with true toughness. There is plenty of time for Harrison to make his mark as one of the top guards in North Carolina and this season will be an exciting stage for him to perform on.