Phenom Hoops traveled to Mooresville, North Carolina to cover the opening day of public high school open gym/workouts. For Head Coach Grant Hodges, the future looks extremely bright. Last season, Lake Norman finished with a 19-8 record and went an impressive 11-1 in the brutally tough Greater Metro 4 Conference. While Lake Norman loses All-Conference senior Cole Callaway (Newberry), they return the 'lion’s share' of their top performers, especially last year's 'super sophomore' duo of 6'5 Tre McKinnon (14.3 PPG) and 6'9 Trent Steinour (10.5 PPG). Throw in the talented backcourt duo of 5'11 sophomore Nick Arnold (9.2 PPG), and 5'11 junior Josh Yates (8.3 PPG). Both Arnold and Yates are interchangeable at either guard position and will bring more experience this season. In addition, 6'5 senior Grant Dryden (5.0 PPG) will be the lone senior that brings valuable leadership.
6'5 Junior Tre McKinnon
McKinnon has 'toned up' and possesses a more muscular frame. McKinnon is blessed with tremendous athleticism and his explosiveness in the open court is impressive. Sporting an improved midrange jumper, McKinnon has the ability to step beyond the 3-point line and has developed a consistent jumper.
6'9 Junior Trent Steinour
Steinour sports offers from Wake Forest, Clemson, and others. The lengthy, yet agile forward runs the floor and is often rewarded with slam dunks in transition. Steinour has passer-friendly hands and nice footwork in the post, but more importantly can step out beyond the 3-point line and knock down 3-pointers like a shooting guard.
5'11 Sophomore Nick Arnold
Arnold has definitely gotten stronger. He has a much stronger frame and has a certain toughness at the point guard position. While only a sophomore, Coach Hodges will rely on the young point guard to be the 'team quarterback.'
5'11 Junior Josh Yates
Yates is interchangeable at the shooting or lead guard position. Yates and Arnold will be one of the better backcourt duos in the region. They complement each other rather nicely. That being said, Yates has the ability to provide more consistency in the backcourt with his experience. Yates can play with 'flash,' but will be looked upon to produce a calming influence in the backcourt.
6'4 Senior Grant Dryden
Dryden may just be one of the team's most improved players. Dryden played his role magnificently last season, but will be relied upon to provide a consistent scoring threat from the 3-point line. Dryden, just may be the team's unsung hero and will win a lot of games with his shooting ability and playing under control and within the team structure.
6'5 Senior Santana Lynch
The senior transfer enjoyed a tremendous open gym and in our opinion was highly productive. Known for his ability to shoot at a high percentage from the 3-point line, Lynch was more aggressive attacking the rim, especially going to his left. Lynch brings valuable senior leadership and looks really comfortable with his new teammates.
6'3 Sophomore Taurean McKinnon
The younger brother of Tre McKinnon. Taurean is a tough defensive-minded player. He plays with a lot of intensity and brings energy to the court. He will be a very valuable 'blue-collar' type player who does a lot of things to the table.
While Lake Norman brings the majority of their starters back from a 19-8 record, they are still a rather young team. While they will be in the conversation as one of the top teams in the NCHSAA 4A, they will have to grow up even faster with the likes of Myers Park, North Mecklenburg, and Chambers. The talent is there, but experience will be the key. For that reason, Coach Grant Hodges has challenged his team with a very competitive non-conference schedule. Early season contests against the likes of Cannon, Caldwell Academy, Gaston Christian, and Carmel Christian (all NCISAA power teams this season), Coach Hodges is sending this team a very important lesson. He's prepared to push and challenge his young team the steps it takes to become a championship contender.
Lake Norman will score a lot of points this season. They have plenty of offensive firepower and all five starters have a legitimate chance to average in double-digit scoring. Lake Norman will have plenty of balance and if the team can take the personality and toughness of Nick Arnold, they will make a deep playoff run. Lake Norman has a reputation as a finesse team and if they can develop that toughness as a group, watch out!