On Monday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to Lake Norman High School for an open gym tour dual feature, capitalizing on the opportunity to evaluate both (boys and girls) varsity squads. Most of the boys’ team consisted of familiar faces, including numerous guys we’ve seen throughout the summer. In just one season, Coach Hodges has already done a great job of establishing his culture within the program and building a competitive on-court product This article will take a closer look at some of the guys who stood out during their open gym…

5’10 ’21 Clay “Smoke” Hodges

At this point, it would be shocking if there were folks who didn’t know Hodges and all that he brings to a team. He’s slightly undersized but defends at least three or four inches bigger than his actual frame would imply. Hodges has the ability to overwhelm opponents with his grit and ridiculous toughness, particularly on defense. He’s able to simply pester his assignment beyond frustration, which often leads to a lot of easy opportunities in transition. Offensively, Hodges is a capable floor general with IQ, unselfishness, and quality passing instincts. He can attack the basket or knock down perimeter jumpers at a solid clip. Wherever he ends up, Hodges will certainly add a unique wrinkle to his team at the next level. 

6’6 ’21 Seth Aeschliman

Quite possibly the most intelligent prospect on the roster, Aeschliman is also probably the biggest x-factor for the Wildcats’ success this season. Between his size, skill, and offensive versatility, he has the ability to operate within various different roles while scoring in a variety of ways. Aeschliman has a strong, mobile frame and solid athleticism, which pairs nicely with his perimeter shooting and useful post arsenal. He plays very hard and runs the floor consistently in transition. Aeschliman should have a very productive season and subsequently attract various college coaches in the process. 

6’3 ’21 Christian Taylor 

Whether with Lake Norman or the Carolina Riptide, Taylor is always going to find a way to be a valuable asset on the court. He makes up for a lack of size and skill with unbelievable toughness and a nonstop motor. Typically speaking, Taylor takes an absolute beating around the basket but seems to pop up and come out unscathed every single time. He’s an aggressive two-way rebounder, especially for his size, and embraces his identity on both ends of the floor. Taylor is also a capable finisher, solid athlete, and rugged all-around player.

6’1 ’21 Cam Kepley 

With so many different guards on the team, Kepley provides a nice combination of them all. He’s smart, skilled, and well-rounded, which allows him to consistently produce within a fairly low-maintenance. Kepley can reliably set up the offense, attack closeouts, knock down perimeter jumpers, and make the proper read as a passer. He’s also a solid defender and rebounder. Kepley’s fundamental, straightforward approach should allow him to play a valuable role throughout the upcoming season.  

6’4 ’22 Davis Wagner

As the only non-senior expected to be in the starting lineup, Wagner offers a complementary approach to his frontcourt mates in Aeschlinman and Taylor. He’s a big, sturdy forward/post prospect with inside-out scoring prowess and the ability secure rebounds at a solid rate. Wagner plays hard, makes the unselfish play, and offers a reliable presence on either side of the ball.

5’11 ’22 Mekhi Goree 

After consistently working to establish himself, Goree should see a massive uptick in playing opportunities during the upcoming season. He’s a smart, steady guard prospect that really stood out with his vocal leadership during practice. In all honesty, his team seemed to win every competitive drill, and he would be the first person communicating and clapping it up to encourage his teammates. Goree is quick, unselfish, defends well, and attacks the basket quite well, able to finish or make the correct pass.

6’0 ’23 Alex Gruber

Like Goree, Gruber should expect to see a drastic change in his role from last season. He’s a young, extremely well-rounded guard prospect can do a strong amount of everything on the court. Gruber is a capable shooter but genuinely thrives when creating off the bounce, attacking the basket, and finishing or setting up others. He displays an impressive feel, especially for his age, and understands how to make a constant impact with or without the ball in his hands. With so many seniors set to graduate, this season should prepare Gruber to be a leader. 

6’6 ’23 Harry Wilson

Though the previous seven will consume a strong majority of the rotation minutes, Wilson is going to be a player worth noting for the future. He’s long, skilled, and has already made clear strides since transferring to Lake Norman. Wilson is a useful perimeter shooter with a blossoming skillset; he should only get better with strength and repetitions.