After a lot of stressors throughout the last twelve to fourteen months, the grassroots basketball landscape has finally returned to normalcy. The shoe-circuits and high school LIVE periods were restored for the betterment of these young prospects who are simply fighting for an equal opportunity to advance to the collegiate ranks. Although this presents Division I programs with the chance to start attending events, most non-D1s have already been allowed to travel over the last year or so. So, with the NCHSAA and NCISAA LIVE periods quickly approaching, we figured it would be beneficial to take a closer look at the expected talent on display. This article will look at the Knights of Ardrey Kell…

Schedule:

6/18: AK v. Bishop McGuinness

6/18: AK v. RJ Reynolds

6/19: AK v. Westover

6/19: AK v. Pine Forest

6/20: AK v. Millbrook

6/20: AK v. JL Chambers

Key Returners:

6’3 ’22 Evan Smith

6’7 ’22 Toni Akinyelu

6’0 ’23 Brandon Nelson

6’5 ’23 Brock Rose

Key Departures:

6’8 ’22 Elijah Gray

6’1 ’21 Knoah Carver

6’8 ’21 Peyton Gerald

Outlook:

Any team that loses players with the abilities of Gray, Carver, and Gerald is going to suffer. However, the Knights should still have more than enough pieces to stay afloat and competitive within the Charlotte area. Of the three, Gerald is the only one actually departing for the college ranks. Gray is headed to Hargrave Military while Carver opted for a post-grad season at Brewster Academy. Both guys should only continue to see upticks in their respective recruitments upon performing in the national spotlight.

Regardless, Ardrey Kell has numerous guys ready and willing to step up. While a lack of shooting is typically a problem for most teams, this squad should be capable of setting the nets ablaze on a nightly basis. Although already quite capable shooters, Rose and Nelson have both taken a clear step forward during the current summer season. Rose almost looks like a completely different player, and has the necessary physique to battle in all facets of the game. He’s been extremely productive with Team Synergy, showcasing a nice balance between perimeter shooting, attacking closeouts, and making the extra pass when available. Meanwhile, Nelson should elevate from a useful starting guard to an absolutely vital piece for the Knights. He’s another quality three-point shooter, both off the catch and bounce, with the ability to operate as a secondary creator as needed. He moves well without the ball and regularly capitalizes off the catch. 

Since college coaches seemed largely unimpressed with Smith’s incredibly balanced production and ability to produce whilst being an amazing teammate, it looks like they’ll get the massive scoring totals they wanted. Fortunately, Navy has already wisely extended an offer to the reliable two-way floor general. Between his IQ, sharp vision, rebounding ability, polished scoring arsenal, and elite defensive prowess, Smith is capable of truly dominating all facets of the game. As the clear leader and tone-setter of this group, folks should expect his production to soar.

Rounding out their core grouping, Akinyelu has shown pretty nice improvements over the last few months with Ace Elite. He’s a big, sturdy interior presence with a strong frame and physical two-way mentality. Akinyelu plays hard, pursues rebounds at a consistent rate, and alters shots decently well around the basket. Between the foursome and the potential emergence of Delani Hammonds, it should allow this team to remain relevant.