High school basketball is back! After 51 public school games over the first week and some change, we’ve finally reached our first ‘Explained’ article of the season. It’s only right that I explain the philosophy behind the rankings. I weigh strength of schedule (SOS), results, and the eye test as the three main components, with the value of each fluctuating as the season progresses. I’ll explain how much importance each component holds each week as we get further and further along. For this week (and much of the early season), SOS and the eye test matter much more than a team’s results. Basically asking, “How good do you look against good teams?” Likewise, I am of the belief that sample size is the most important data point when assessing teams, prospects, etc., and therefore won’t punish or reward a team for one outlier result. Have a horrific shooting night and lose (this has been extremely apparent with public schools so far), and you won’t drop too far. Have 3, 4, or 5+ horrific shooting nights and lose, you will drop pretty far. There’s also an element of not overreacting one way or the other to results right now as most teams have only played 1-3 games. Teams that saw large jumps in either direction were judged more on the eye test than the actual results. As mentioned above, sample size is crucial to ranking and evaluating teams, which is why preseason expectations/rankings will still hold weight for the first 1-3 weeks of the season and when they stop holding weight, I will make that known.

Like last year, you can view the current rankings tweet at the link below, and at the link beneath that, you can view current and past rankings straight from the website, which is a new feature added for this season.

View the rankings tweet here.

View the current and past rankings here.

Game of the Week

Something that was implemented for the first time in last week’s private school article was Game of the Week. I’m going to highlight a single game each week between two Wake Hoops teams that the general public ought to keep an eye on, as well as one from the previous week that taught us the most, was the most exciting, etc. (criteria will change from week to week as this gets started).

The Game of the Week in week one was the matchup between GRACE Christian and Southeast Raleigh. Last week we wrote about how the two have contrasting styles of play while matching up well athletically and talent-wise. GRACE Christian’s slower and more technical play style worked as well as they could’ve hoped, carving up the SE Raleigh defense while slowing them down and forcing them into tough shots. Michael Phillips was especially impressive as a shooter, knocking down shots out of a variety of actions and looking comfortable beyond his years. Backup guard Malachi Tate has been the unsung hero for the Eagles early on, providing great minutes at both guard spots and making a handful of winning plays in this game.

For week two, the Game of the Week is Panther Creek vs Jordan (Friday 12/1). The Catamounts have much more size than the Falcons and how both teams handle that will be intriguing to watch. The guard matchup between Chris Uwayo and DJ Ross will be a must-see and will be informative for both as prospects. Also, how Panther Creek goes about guarding wings Zion Wells and Julian Lowe will be something to watch for, especially those who are fans of how/why coaches make the choices that they do.

Tier One

  1. Cardinal Gibbons (1-0)

The Crusaders checked every box in their season opener. Cash McSweeney looked like a top 5 player in the triangle, Ronny Turner does everything you could want from your point guard, and their role players came through time and again. Looking this good without two starters in Aiden Smalls and Chet Yardley is a very good sign. Now, a slight downside to their football team being so good is that there’s a real chance they don’t see Smalls or Yardley until after the state championship slated for next weekend. In that case, Gibbons would play their toughest non-conference matchup (at New Hanover) shorthanded. This top ranking is predicated on Smalls and Yardley being able to hit the ground running as they’ll have multiple high-level matchups right away. Regardless of when they get their football guys back, this team is cohesive, experienced, and talented. In order to keep the top spot this week, they’ll need to turn in emphatic wins over Hillside and Wake Forest, as Green Level, Millbrook, Panther Creek, and Chapel Hill are right on their heels.

Week 2: vs. Hillside, @ Wake Forest

  1. Green Level (2-0)

The Gators were about as dominant as you could’ve asked for in week one, turning in a 2-0 record with a point differential of +58. A big question mark for them coming into the season was with their depth and through two games that doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. They have at least five guys who can all make an impact off the bench, most notably sophomore Trevor Manhertz who is shooting 4/7 from three so far. Their foursome of Isaac Ericksen, Izzy Eatman, Trey Manhertz, and Tye Cain have all played their roles exceptionally well so far, with Eatman standing out as an early candidate to repeat as SWAC Breakout Player of the Year. As a unit, they’re noticeably connected on both ends of the court, stifling teams defensively while mixing in multiple different schemes. Offensively, they’ve been executing at a high level, capitalizing on opponent turnovers, and making shots at a lethal clip. It’s going to be difficult to keep this team under 60, which can’t be said about Green Level teams of recent memory. Going forward, they’ll need slip-ups from other top teams while they continue their dominant start in order to firmly establish themselves as the top team in the area. They have a good chance to take an undefeated record into their 12/15 matchup with Panther Creek in a game that will have huge ranking and playoff implications.

Week 2: vs. Willow Spring

  1. Millbrook (0-1)

As always, Millbrook is playing the toughest schedule of any team in the triangle. They run across more state title contenders than teams that will miss the playoffs. This makes evaluating them as a unit slightly different than everyone else as you have to view their film, results, and stats through the lens of the high level of competition they face. They played two completely different halves against Richmond on Saturday, with the first half being a shell of the Millbrook we know and the second half being a promising sign of what is to (possibly) come. Given their split performance, it’s only right they drop slightly. However, they have two games this week that, if both turn up as wins (and some other teams stumble), can put them right back on top. Colt Langdon looked the part in their first game, especially in the second half as he got hot and led their comeback push. His size, shooting touch, and consistency have him pushing for the top spot in our 2025 rankings and make him one of (if not the) best prospects in the triangle. Jacob Lawton and Kyrie Heredia both performed well in the opener, but this team will need more than just them to step up around Langdon in order to be successful. Highlight both the Garner and Cannon games on your calendar this week as they’ll tell us a lot about who this Millbrook team is.

Week 2: @ Garner, vs. Cannon

  1. Panther Creek (1-0)

Panther Creek made a jump from 6th to 4th and joined the top tier of teams after just one game. They scored 108 points against Enloe which is a MaxPreps-era record (and maybe a school record). What’s even more impressive than what they scored is how they did it. While obviously they shot the ball at a ridiculous level (66/47/71 splits), the looks they were getting were extremely high-value shots and it was obvious that a clear emphasis had been placed on getting to the rim and dominating inside. They played at a breakneck pace, with Uwayo (who finished with 32p, 3r, 5a, 4s with a TS% of 82.5%) and Ward doing an excellent job of pushing the ball in transition while Ware and Ehlinger ran the floor early and often. They dominated the boards, using their size to clean up the few misses they had. Hunter and Puckett were both great at filling in the gaps on both ends, with the two combining for 19p, 14r, 4a, & 3 stocks. While I don’t expect them to be this prolific consistently, it’s worth noting that no offense looked as cohesive, efficient, or dominant as the Catamounts in week one. For them to earn the top spot they just need to continue what they’re doing as their schedule provides them with numerous opportunities to play good competition.

Week 2: vs. Leesville Road, @ Jordan

Tier 2

  1. Chapel Hill (1-1)

Chapel Hill is really, really good. They were greatly undersized against an elite Davidson Day team and were a couple unlucky shots away from winning. David Mirikwe was incredible, getting to the rim whenever he wanted, making jumpers when given space, and living at the FT line. He’s at the point where his recruitment simply doesn’t match the caliber of prospect that he is. Around him, Andrew Herring was awesome defensively, Ben Cohen-Vogel hit timely shots, and Juice McIlwaine showed promising flashes off the bench. Franklin Johnson, who was sick over the weekend, is a huge x-factor for this group and once he gets back to 100%, his two-way production will be vital to their success. However, their big man, Alex Smollen, determines their ceiling as a group as his ability to guard the rim, rebound, and finish around the basket are vital to a deep playoff run. Davidson Day was a good test for him and it’s practically impossible for the Tigers to face that many high-level big men again this season. They’re entering a stretch of their schedule where they have time to fine tune some things and work their wrinkles out before Christmas. To move into the top tier, they’ll need to start showing their muscle and beating teams in the way that the top group has/can.

Week 2: vs./@ Williams

  1. Southern (1-0)

Southern picked up an ugly win over SE Raleigh this weekend, with neither side able to find consistency. As it became more and more apparent that shots simply weren’t going to fall, the Spartans leaned into their defensive schemes, specifically their full-court pressure, and began forcing turnovers and turning them into easy baskets. This ability to beat a really good team without making shots is encouraging as you can’t expect them to go much longer without heating up. As far as personnel goes, the addition of Javier Ortiz made a noticeable difference on the defensive end while sophomore Jakarie Glaspie was great in his limited minutes off the bench. Jackson Keith and Camren Daniels do so much to impact the game, with Keith dominating the glass and Daniels able to playmake for others whenever he needs to. Both of them will need to find consistency quickly in order for Southern to take a jump into the top tier. Moving forward, they have winnable (and losable) games against Riverside, Voyager, and Greensboro Day, all of which will come down to how they respond on the offensive end after this weekend.

Week 2: @ Riverside, vs. Voyager, vs. Greensboro Day

  1. Jordan (0-2)

Last season, Jordan went 5-7 (including a 1-4 start) before the New Year and went 16-3 (including an undefeated conference run and 3 playoff wins) after it. The reasoning for this is the absolute gauntlet of a schedule that Coach Ross puts his team up against early. This year is no exception, with Jordan starting 0-2 with both losses coming to good teams. They’re scheduled to play Heritage, Orange, Panther Creek, and TBS in the next two weeks, followed shortly by two games in the John Wall Holiday Invitational. This extreme non-conference schedule is for the sole purpose of preparing them for February, something that has worked consistently over the past few years. Now, don’t get me wrong, they still need to win games in order to move up, which is why they stay stagnant at 7th. With three games against ranked opponents this week (17th, 15th, & 4th respectively), the Falcons have a great chance to pick up quality wins. DJ Ross and Zion Wells have been a great backcourt pairing so far with Julian Lowe operating admirably as the third option. With multiple red-hot teams right behind them in the rankings, they’ll need their depth to step up in terms of production and consistency in order for them to hold their top-10 status.

Week 2: @ Heritage, vs. Orange, vs. Panther Creek

Tier Three

  1. Wakefield (2-0)

It’s very tempting to put Wakefield even higher than eight because they’ve looked so good in their first two games. But, as I mentioned above, I’m doing my best to refrain from overreacting even when it’s a team that showed absolutely no signs of a fluke. Syncere Burnette is a bonafide star, putting up a 26/10/9 game against Clayton. He’s already putting together a great case for an All-WakeHoops bid. Around him, they’re so incredibly balanced that it’s hard to single out any one or two guys. Pretlow, Boone-Chambers, Harris, Howard, Tezyk, Hardy, Taylor, and Goodknecht all made serious contributions in week one. While they lack size, their constant energy and aggression on the defensive end of the floor actually puts teams with superior size at a disadvantage. If a big puts the ball on the floor it’s getting stripped and their lack of mobility/shooting plays right into the Wolverines’ plans. They pressure guards and look for any chance to jump a passing lane. All five defenders seem to move on a string, unlike anything you’re accustomed to seeing at such an early stage of the season. On the offensive end, they make up for their lack of size with a deep stable of shooters. Pretty much everyone on the roster is dangerous if left open and it puts a lot of strain on defenses. Burnette in particular is great at using his teammates’ shooting gravity to his advantage and getting to the rim without worrying about a consistent help-side rotation. Looking forward, they play Sanderson at home this week and a win there would surely see them jump even further up the rankings.

Week 2: vs. Sanderson

  1. Southeast Raleigh (2-2)

The Bulldogs had an up and down opening week and we learned a lot about them as a team. In their first two games, both wins, they dominated defensively, pressuring the ball constantly, forcing turnovers, and capitalizing in transition. They played with great pace, moved the ball well, and made shots consistently. However, in their losses, they played two teams that slowed the game down and forced SE Raleigh to be methodical with their offense. This caused more turnovers, less open shots, and a much less efficient offense all around. Defensively, they were still able to play well, proving themselves as arguably the top team in the area on that side of the ball. They’ll need to find offensive consistency in the half-court in order to beat teams who slow the tempo, with the bright side being that it’s very hard to slow them down. Like predicted in the preseason, they’re incredibly balanced and have had a handful of pieces make huge contributions. Senior Josh Alford has been electric to start the year, handling the point guard responsibilities admirably and shooting at a high clip. Juniors Ethan Reid and Christian Ananaba have been great as well with Reid scoring however he wants in 0-2 dribbles and Ananaba making a case for Defensive Player of the Year. Looking forward, they have a big rivalry game against a pesky Enloe team in a game that should tell us a lot about both sides.

Week 2: vs. Enloe

  1. Garner (1-1)

The Trojans stumbled out of the game with a loss to Wakefield and an ugly win over Enloe, but there’s still a lot of positives to take away from their slow start. For starters, Keaton Bloms has not been near 100% yet. He played sparingly in their opener and was only able to warm up against Enloe. The presence he brings on the interior and as a leader is invaluable to this group and they’ll look a lot more cohesive with him in the fold. Outside of the injury concerns, this team just isn’t making shots right now. They’re one of the handful of triangle area teams that are in a cold spell to start the year. It’s something that, especially with the shooters they have, you have to expect to end sooner rather than later, making them a much more prolific offense. Despite their shooting woes, they’re still putting up 57.5 PPG right now, which leads me to believe that they’ll be a high-level offense whenever the shooting comes around. Most of their main pieces have shown great flashes in their two games. Cam Reyes and Kingston Beale are both looking the part of 1st Team All-Conference players while Darius Whitner is really coming into his own as an integral part of this program. While the results haven’t been great, there’s enough optimism to keep them in the top 10 for now and they have a huge game against Millbrook to prove themselves this week.

Week 2: vs. Millbrook

  1. Clayton (1-1)

Clayton had an interesting week one, getting dismantled by Wakefield before dominating Eastern Wayne. In the Wakefield game, they struggled to handle the pressure in the backcourt and could never really establish themselves in the frontcourt. In the Eastern Wayne game, they showed exactly who they can be; an athletic, shot making, high pressure team. Between these two extremes, it’s safe to assume they’ll regress towards the higher side as the season moves along and kinks get worked out. They’ve had 35 turnovers in their first two games which is going to be a trend to monitor for them going forward. Cutting down on that number is absolutely vital to their success in conference play, especially with how dominant a lot of the GNRC defenses are looking right now. Justice Mitchell was great in week one, really establishing himself in the paint on both ends and doing a great job of finishing plays. Andrew Grimes got going a bit against Eastern Wayne and it should be expected that he start dominating sooner rather than later. Xavier Longe is shooting the lights out so far, shooting 5/11 from three. Ant Walters and Jeremiah Henson, two of the best shooters in the area, are a combined 5/27 from three right now. Do not expect that to continue (this goes back to many teams having outlier shooting games right now) and look for this offense to get HOT whenever they find their groove. Looking forward, the Comets have the week off before playing a pretty demanding schedule leading up to the new year.

Week 2: None

Tier 4

  1. Knightdale (3-0)

The Knights are better than advertised this season. Coach Watson has them playing as a unit on both sides of the ball, leading to a very strong 3-0 start with the potential to start 7-0 with good but winnable games this week. The best thing about this team is that pretty much anyone can get hot at a moment’s notice. Jason Dickerson did it against Green Hope, scoring 20+ in the second half and propelling them to a good win. Isaiah Green has been the main guy to start but Jadon Williams, Ibu Adewumi, Brandon Adams, and Khaim Taylor can all take over if needed. They’ve been great defensively with Adams doing a great job of guarding the rim and their backcourt putting great pressure on the ball. They’ve played very physical and with great energy as a team early on, which is a great sign considering how hard it is to fix a team with a poor motor. For them to move up even more, they’ll need to continue stacking quality wins and prove that week one wasn’t a fluke.

Week 2: vs. South Garner, vs. Cleveland, @ Franklinton, vs. Leesville Road

  1. Sanderson (2-0)

Sanderson, just like last season, has one of the most prolific half-court offenses in the state. They’re already executing at a super high level as well as making shots and making good decisions consistently. Nate Fife has lived up to expectations so far, dominating as a scorer against Heritage and playing more of a facilitator role against Middle Creek. Pat Dalton has been red hot as a shooter, Gordie Balas is doing so many little things well defensively, and their depth stepped up well in their two wins. They beat two really good teams that were both ranked ahead of them. In both games, their opponents struggled from the field and with turnovers. Finding out if that was due to Sanderson’s defense or due to luck is important in determining this team’s true level. Regardless, they had as good of an opening week as they could want and move into week two with a lot of momentum. They have a big-time matchup against Wakefield on Saturday in the CAP-6/NAC-6 Challenge, one that will have huge ranking implications.

Week 2: vs. Cary, vs. Wakefield

  1. Southern Wake (3-2)

Southern Wake were searching for their first signature win as a program after losses to Cary Academy and Trinity Christian. They got it in the form of a resounding win over reigning 1A state champs Wilson Prep. Chris Crudup was simply unstoppable on the biggest stage of the early season. He had 28 points through three quarters in a game where SWA never wavered. When this team is making shots and playing as a unit defensively, they’re really hard to beat. Their two losses have come against two teams who each have a D1 big and figuring out how to handle that size is crucial to them both moving up in these rankings and having long term success. Alex Rechetnikov has been shooting the lights out so far, establishing himself as one of the top shooters around. Kobe Plata and Jalen Sheppard have both had great moments and more consistency out of them would go a long way for this group. Looking forward, SWA plays a relatively weak schedule compared to the 4A teams they’re being compared to here and will need to capitalize on any and every opportunity against high-level competition.

Week 2: vs. Roxboro Community

  1. Orange (2-1)

It’s tough to really grade Orange right now as Cole Cloer is out with an ankle injury, something that will force him to miss roughly two more weeks. Because of this, other pieces have been forced to step into much larger roles. They escaped by the skin of their teeth against Hillside and only managed a 5-point win over Northern before getting dismantled by a very talented Highland team. They need to be more consistent without their star as it will bode well for them whenever he does return. Regardless, their guard trio of Kai Wade, Freddy Sneed, and Xandrell Pennix have been pretty fun to watch, with all of them hitting tough shots and playing with great change of pace. They have a huge schedule this week with games against Riverside, Jordan, and Forsyth Country Day. A 2-1 (or even 3-0) record would look really good against these three teams and would see them return closer to the top 10 in week three.

Week 2: vs. Riverside, @ Jordan, @ Forsyth Country Day

  1. Holly Springs (1-0)

The Hawks absolutely dominated the first half of their game against Fuquay-Varina before seemingly coasting and ending with an 11-point win. Their slight drop in ranking is largely due to that lackluster second half as they scored less than 20 points and struggled to find offensive consistency in the half court. A big part of that inconsistency was them shooting 3/24 from three as a team and being yet another victim of the early season cold spell. Jake Cackovic, a known shooter, finished with 19p and 13r while only making one three. The stable of off-ball shooters that Holly Springs has went makeless, which is something that simply will not last. Outside of the shooting woes, Will James looked even better than advertised, scoring pretty much anytime he wanted to and looking completely in control. Josiah Currie had a solid game with 9p and 5a and is just full of potential as a prospect. They frequented their trap defense that was so prevalent last season, giving the Bengals fits for much of the game. Looking forward, they have a real shot at going 4-0 this week which would see them make a noticeable jump in the rankings.

Week 2: @ Fuquay-Varina, @ Willow Spring, @ Topsail, @ North Brunswick

  1. Heritage (0-2)

Heritage is the posterboy for early season shooting woes, with splits of 36/12/58 in their first two games. Obviously, this is not going to last. They have a roster full of guys who can make shots and they’re overdue for some hot shooting games. The bright side of it all is that they’re consistently getting the looks they want, the shots just aren’t falling. Now, if the shooting woes do continue, their ranking will reflect that, but until it’s proven to be anything more than bad luck, they’ll remain safely in the top 20. As far as personnel goes, Jon Mwanda had an awesome first week, averaging 14p, 4r, 2s and shooting efficiently relative to his teammates. Cam Jones has been great defensively, KJ Cox and Levi Beckwith are both a few made threes away from have a very different start to the year, and they’ve had promising minutes from their bench, specifically from Tylan Dean. Looking forward, they have a very tough slate of games this week with Jordan, Leesville Road, and Enloe on the docket. All three are great chances for their offense to come around and for the Huskies to prove that the preseason hype was real.

Week 2: vs. Jordan, @ Leesville Road, vs. Enloe

  1. Apex Friendship (2-0)

This Patriots team has such a high floor. With how they’re constructed and how they play, it’s difficult to imagine them losing to teams that are less talented or less cohesive than them and it’s very easy to see them sneaking a couple of big wins. They’re just so balanced with guys like AJ Gladieux, Kendall Lanier, Chuks Ezeonu, Jadon Green, Jake Mattachione, David Major, David Lozada, and Tristan Kent all able to make a real impact. This kind of roster is one that is usually a tough out in the playoffs and Apex Friendship is looking the part right now. They dominated both Corinth Holders and Topsail and will need to beat better teams in order to move any higher within tier four. Looking forward, they have a game at Northern this week which should provide some more context with this team as it’ll be their toughest challenge yet.

Week 2: @ Northern

Tier 5

  1. Middle Creek (0-2)

The Mustangs are one of many teams who couldn’t take the lid off the basket in week one, struggling to make shots regardless of how many good looks they got. The bright side of it is that their defense has been very good to start, forcing turnovers and making opponents uncomfortable at a high level. Once the offense turns around, we should expect them to take off as the defense has given a lot to be optimistic about. Personnel wise, hardly anyone has been super consistent to start, with senior Obata Okafor providing the most stability thanks to his interior presence on both ends. Greyson Land and Clive Morrow have proven to be very positive pieces when their shots are falling, and George Daniels has given some strong minutes off the bench. They are in need of two wins this week to avoid being knocked out of the top 20, especially so considering that Willow Spring, a team that just beat them, is sitting at 21st right now. South Garner should be a good test thanks to their athleticism and defensive prowess while Fuquay-Varina always provides for a fun game against their most-hated rival.

Week 2: @ South Garner, vs. Fuquay-Varina

  1. South Garner (1-0)

The Titans are the lone team to enter the rankings after a strong win over a solid Enloe team. They were able to dominate on the defensive end with their size, athleticism, and toughness while having a clear identity on the offensive end, leading to some stellar individual performances. Najai Hines was simply unstoppable, putting up 20p and 21r in the win. I predicted him to produce this season but to see it come that early and that dominant is definitely eye-opening. Loddie Leach, Jayden Littles, Zyier Hines, and Kia Muschette all fit right in around their big man, filling their roles well and carving up the opposing defense. Leach in particular did a great job as the starting point guard in his first varsity game. He controlled the tempo, rebounded well, and limited mistakes. Looking forward, they have two huge games against Knightdale and Middle Creek this week, both of which will be great tests to see how good South Garner actually is right now.

Week 2: @ Knightdale, vs. Middle Creek

Outside Teams to Monitor

Willow Spring (1-1)

The Storm got a huge program win over Middle Creek on opening night, in which Grant Overman broke the school record for blocks in a game with eight. On Saturday, they lost on an unfortunate buzzer-beater in a game they were in control of for the majority of it. That loss kept them just outside the top 20 (at 21) but they have three great chances to break in this week with Apex, Holly Springs, and Green Level on the docket. The biggest question mark with the Storm is one that plagued them last season as well, consistency within the rotation. They have a roster full of balanced players, making it difficult to nail down a surefire starting lineup and rotation. Figuring out roles and consistent minutes will be a top priority for this team in the early part of the year.

Week 2: @ Apex, vs. Holly Springs, @ Green Level

East Chapel Hill (2-0)

East Chapel Hill is the only multi-win team that isn’t ranked after beating SE Guilford and Carrboro in week one. Isaiah Styron and Makai Rhodes have both emerged as leaders for this group and yet both will need to take a further stride if ECH wants to crack the top 20. With matchups against Cedar Ridge and Carrboro on deck for week two, they’ll need to continue to string wins together as their SOS doesn’t do them many favors. Regardless, this has been a quietly good team to start the year and it’s only a matter a time before they sneak up on someone and steal a couple of wins.

Week 2: vs. Cedar Ridge, @ Carrboro

The Rest of the CAP-6

After Cardinal Gibbons and Sanderson, the rest of the CAP-6 is ranked 23-26, all of them within one good week of the top 20. All four teams have shown bright spots and have reasons for optimism. Fife and Dalton have been awesome to start the year for Sanderson. Hayes Oxendine is pushing for CAP-6 POY this year with Leesville Road after putting up 23 points on 13 shots in their OT win over Cary. Jordan Page at Broughton has been by far the best freshman in the triangle so far. Lastly, Enloe has taken noticeable strides already with Pedersen and Moses fitting into their roles as senior leaders while Coleman and Carson have had some great shooting games. At least one of these teams is going to emerge and, regardless of who comes out, it’s going to be an absolute bloodbath in conference play.