During last summer’s crazy travel ball season in which there were no sneaker circuits, one of the most popular teams in the country was Tea Marie Hoops, started by former Division 1 assistant coach, Thomas Carr. Tea Marie Hoops quickly took over the grassroots scene with high level players wearing colorful t-shirts reminiscent of the classic Five Star Basketball Camp shirt. Yes, they were talented. Yes, they trend setters. But more importantly, what stood out the most is that these teams, with relatively limited practice time and a new collection of players each weekend, all played really good basketball with one another.
Carr’s coaching philosophy is all about giving the players ultimate confidence in their game and holding them accountable not just as basketball players, but as people as well. Carr said, “It’s all about the individual. If I can get the individual to be as strong, confident, competitive, and skilled as possible, then our team will be the strongest, most competitive, most skilled, toughest team to step on the floor no matter who we play… Before you can coach them, before you can teach them, you have to have a rapport with them. You have to love them. They have to know you care about them. They have to know you have their back… My coaching philosophy in general is just to make kids as good as they can possibly be to help the team and it’s like that on and off the floor.”
Following last summer’s success, Ty White, founder of Team Loaded, asked Coach Carr to be the director of Team Loaded NC. Carr has quickly put together a roster full of talent that will garner plenty of attention from college coaches at all levels.
On March 27-28, we got a chance to see Team Loaded NC at the Phenom Opening in Virginia Beach. Let’s take a closer look at their roster.
MJ Rice 6’7 2022 (Oak Hill)
The Durham native and 10th ranked player nationally in ESPN’s 2022 rankings, is coming off a junior year averaging 19.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 52% from the field and 33% from three. Rice is such a sought-after recruit because of his combination of strength and finesse. He is a mismatch for several defenders. He is able to use his strength and athleticism to break opponents down off the bounce and attack the basket, where he finishes above the rim and through contact. He also has the ability to knock down the perimeter shot, making him that much harder to contain. Defensively, Rice is capable of guarding multiple positions. Rice holds offers from Kansas, NC State, Providence, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Boston College and NC Central.
LJ Thomas 6’3 2022 (Bull City Prep)
LJ Thomas moved to Charlotte from Atlanta to attend Bull City Prep. The point guard has quickly solidified himself as on of the top players in the state. Thomas averaged 18.5 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from the field this past season at Bull City Prep. He helped lead his team to the semifinals of the Phenom Hoop State Championship. Thomas is a strong, scoring point guard who has the ability to take and make tough shots. He utilizes his strong frame to create space, draw fouls, and finish through contact. Thomas can score from all three levels. His recruitment is starting to really pick up. Just this past month, he earned an offer from Xavier to go along with DePaul, Virginia Tech, Wichita State, Houston, Southern Cal, Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Marist.
Freddie Dilione 6’5 2022 (Word of God)
One word to describe Freddie Dilione is smooth. After transferring to Word of God, he averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. The 6’5 combo guard has good size and athleticism. He has the ability to make plays off the bounce for himself and for others. He can elevate and finish over defender at the rim. In addition, he has the ability to get hot from the perimeter and really make shots. When watching him, he never seems to be in a hurry. He plays at his own pace and can has the ability to really fill it up from all levels. Dilione is another player whose recruitment is starting to really pick up. After earning his first offer from Eastern Kentucky in October, he has added Xavier, Penn State, FIU, Houston, and NC A&T to his offer sheet.
Avion Pinner 6’8 2022 (Riverside-Martin)
Next, we look at a player who has incredible upside and simply produces on both sides of the basketball. Avion Pinner is coming off of a stellar junior year averaging a double-double of 20.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. Pinner is one of the most versatile players in his class. When watching him play, the first thing that sticks out is his defensive abilities and versatility. He is able to guard multiple positions. He uses his length and athleticism to block shots around the basket and force tough shots for taller opponents in the post. He has the speed and quickness to stay in front of guards along the perimeter. Offensively, he is able to start the break with a nice handle for his size. He grabs the defensive rebound and pushes it. He excels in transition where he can get out and attack the basket. In the half court, he can create off the bounce and finish above the rim. In addition, when left open from the perimeter, he can make opponents pay. Currently, Pinner has offers from ECU and FIU, but expect his recruitment to also pick up a lot over the next few months.
Noah Ross 6’7 2022 (Trinity Academy)
Noah Ross has quickly made a name for himself with his size and shooting ability. This past season at Trinity Academy of Raleigh, he averaged 16 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 53% from the field and 41% from three. But Ross is not just a shooter. He also has the ability to get to the basket by using his shooting ability to put it on the bounce. He has a solid handle, takes care of the ball, and is able to create off the bounce by getting all the way to the basket or knocking down the midrange jumper. He elevates well, especially on his midrange pull-up. Combine that with his size and length, he is capable of knocking down shots over defenders. When attacking the basket, he finishes above the rim and doesn’t shy away from contact. On the defensive end, Ross does a great job of rebounding and also protecting the rim by rotating for weakside blocks. On the recruiting trail, Ross holds offers from Bucknell, Ohio, Charlotte, Rice, Elon, FIU, Hofstra, and EKU.
Kenny Noland 6’3 2022 (Hotchkiss)
Kenny Noland is coming off an outstanding senior season at Apex Friendship in which he averaged 23.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 47% from behind the arc. Recently, he announced that he’d be attending The Hotchkiss School for a prep year. Noland is a high academic student-athlete who is a tremendous leader on and off the court. He has a high basketball IQ and does everything well on the court. He can handle it, pass it, and shoot it. He is a good decision maker and takes care of the basketball, as shown by his 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Noland has the ability to play either guard position. He is very unselfish and can make plays for others, but has also shown the ability to take over games and fill it up from a scoring perspective. Considering all the good things that Noland does on the offensive side of the ball, his defense is what’s most impressive. He is really quick, has a strong frame, and does an excellent job of staying in front of opponents. He doesn’t gamble. He slides his feet and keeps his chest in front. Noland currently holds offers from Lafayette, UNC Asheville, Army, Navy, and EKU, but one would expect with another year his recruitment will pick up even more.
Jaquantae Harris 6’1 2022 (Northwood Temple)
After coming off an injury that kept him out all last summer, Jaquantae Harris helped lead Northwood Temple to a 27-8 record and a NCISAA 2A State Championship appearance while averaging 13.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists while shooting 68% from the field. Harris is a tough, strong point guard who excels getting downhill. He is dynamic and explosive, especially when creating off the bounce and getting to the basket. When attacking the basket, he can finish above the rim and through contact. The left-handed guard does an outstanding job of changing pace. When he gets into the paint, he has continued to show the ability to make the right play for his team. He gets into the paint, and if he doesn’t have a scoring opportunity for himself, he will drop it off to the post player for the dunk or he will kick it out to the open shooter. Harris also holds several offers including Tulsa, ECU, Iona, Wichita State, FIU, Hofstra, and LSU.
Cinque Lemon 6’7 2022 (Cape Fear Christian)
Cinque Lemon had a breakout junior season averaging 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 55% from the field and 38% from behind the arc. In addition, he helped his team to a 24-8 record and earned NCISAA Sandhills Conference Player of the Year honors. Following up on this outstanding season, Lemon picked up his first Division 1 offer from Eastern Kentucky after his first tournament with Team Loaded at the Phenom Opening in Virginia Beach. Lemon is a versatile player who can impact the game on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions and rebounds very well. He is a player who can finish with a double-double any game (I’ve personally watched him do this firsthand multiple times). He is super active. He plays with a high motor. On the offensive end, he attacks the basket strong. He can finish through contact or play under control and finish around the defense. Since earning his first offer from Eastern Kentucky, it is only a matter of time before more offers start to roll in for Cinque Lemon.
Gabe Proctor 6’2 2022 (Apex Friendship)
After playing junior varsity basketball at Apex Friendship as a sophomore, Gabe Proctor quickly made a name for himself last summer with Tea Marie Hoops and followed that play up with a stellar junior season at Apex Friendship. In his first varsity season, he averaged 18 points per game while shooting 52% from three, 60% from the field, and 93.5% from the foul line. Proctor is a big-time shooter! You can’t leave him open. He has deep range and a quick release. What makes him such a great shooter? Confidence. He doesn’t shy away from the big moment. Last summer against some of the best teams and players in his class, Proctor didn’t back down. He had 19 points versus Team Curry, 21 points against Garner Road, and 15 points against CP3. Also, he knocked down the game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime against Team Charlotte. In addition to his shooting ability, his energy level is contagious. He brings a plethora of energy to the game and his team. That energy carries over to helping his team win games.
Patrick Sams 6’4 2022 (Apex Friendship)
When building a team, it is important to have role players who buy in and can help impact the game when their number is called. Patrick Sams will provide that for Team Loaded this spring and summer. This past season for Apex Friendship, he seemed to always come up with a winning play at crucial moments of games, whether it was a jumper, rebound, charge, steal, or simply keeping the ball alive for his teammate. Sams will help contribute to winning in any way possible for a team. When open, he can knock down the perimeter shot. He makes the extra pass to the open teammate. He knows how to play without the ball and finds open lanes to cut for baskets. Sams will help this Team Loaded team win several ball games this season.