We’ve roughly reached the halfway point of the travel ball season, which typically means the bitter end for graduated seniors and the transition period for young freshman. There are a lot of talented, young prospects within the state of North Carolina—especially in the Class of 2025. Our rankings are filled with noteworthy names who vary in production and long-term upside (though many are starting to harness the potential). However, the watchlist also features a ton of names worth noting—plenty of which have already begun their breakout campaign. Given the abundance of candidates, we will look at two separate parts. (Also, the schools in parenthesis are from the freshman season). Let’s look…
6’1 Arael Jones (Corvian Community)
Without overstating the obvious, Jones continues to showcase an incredible amount of ability. We’ve seen his leadership as a focal point for Corvian Community and his steady, reliable status with Team United. Jones is a crafty, balanced guard prospect who can fill it up in a variety of different ways offensively. He’s a smart creator and playmaker with an understanding of how to properly set up others. Jones scores the ball at an efficient rate from all levels, displaying the ability to play without the ball or generate clean looks on his own. He’s a pesky defender with great instincts and the ability to successfully push the break in transition. Jones looks likely to continue trending upward.
6’6 Bryce Slay (United Faith)
There should be little to no explanation required for Slay’s entry. He’s a 6-foot-6 wing prospect with length, skill, and perimeter shooting. At the very minimum, Slay is an offensive weapon and matchup problem against majority of opponents. He handles the ball well and creates his own shot effectively within a few dribbles, but can also set up others as needed. Slay is a polished scorer with solid all-around athleticism and the necessary size to simply play above most wing defenders. He’s efficient from all levels and mixes it up quite regularly, though he’s arguably at his best when applying pressure from beyond the arc. Regardless, the appeal should be apparent. Slay has all the tools to be a prospect worth noting.
6’8 Preston Copeland (Raleigh Christian)
Similar to the previous duo, the long, strong 6-foot-8 Copeland really requires no reasoning to justify his entry on this list. Between his size, mobility, and blossoming two-way identity, he has all the tools to be a terrific post prospect over the foreseeable future. Copeland already does a great job of securing rebounds, altering shots, and finishing as needed offensively. He runs the floor well in transition, understands how to secure position on the block, and utilizes his body well on both ends of the floor. Copeland is still only scratching the surface, so expect to hear his name a lot over the coming months.
6’4 Trajan Thompson (United Faith)
After somewhat of a quiet high school season, Thompson has really burst onto the scene during his time with Team Curry. Along with his backcourt mate, the 6-foot-4 wing has really shined as a focal point for their young squad. Thompson is athletic and shoots the ball at a very high clip from beyond the arc. That being said, he’s also quite well-rounded and naturally affects all facets of the game on the court. Thompson can spot-up or create his own shot off the bounce, but doesn’t need a ton of touches to make an impact. He also plays hard, defends his position, and rebounds well for his size. Thompson should be poised for a breakout high school season.
6’9 Trent Steinour (Lake Norman)
It’s unclear if any of these listed prospects possess “more” upside than one another, but Steinour’s potential certainly has to rival that of any player in the state. As a young, developing big man who can comfortably finish, rebound, block shots, and knock down perimeter jumpers, he truly has the makings of a modern post prospect. Sure, Steinour is quite clearly in the midst of his physical development. However, he already moves so well for his size (especially at his current age) and seems to add some strength with each new viewing. Steinour’s foundational skillset is extremely enticing, as it’s rare to see any 6-foot-9 player who can reliably protect the rim and space the floor. Based on his current trajectory, Steinour should only continue to get better and better.