Between coaching changes and player movement, there is constant flux and change throughout the high school basketball landscape—especially in North Carolina. With so many programs operating as revolving doors for players, it’s almost become a rarity to see kids remain patient, properly develop, and seize their opportunity when it’s time. However, the disciplined, somewhat old-fashion method is the only way Coach Hodges and Lake Norman High School operate. Despite being located near Charlotte, Lake Norman has never been known for their pipeline of basketball talent. That being said, the duo of 6’2 ’23 Alex Gruber and 6’2 ’24 Bobby Hardison look more than likely to gain leadership of the Wildcats going forward…
Both guys have been staples at our events over the years, most notably with the recently expanded Carolina Riptide. Gruber surfaced over two years ago at our Tennessee 150 Camp as an eighth-grader. He secured the Mr. Hustle award and was clearly a prospect worth noting for the future. While most high schools would’ve immediately thrown him into the fire due to sheer ability, Lake Norman opted to let him progress at his own pace. Gruber earned some varsity time, but really dominated as the focal point for their JV squad. In a situation where most players would’ve sought out a new situation, he made clear strides within his game and subsequently prepared himself to be very impactful as a sophomore. Gruber’s smart, heady, well-rounded identity allows him to effectively mesh and find opportunities with any collection of teammates. He plays hard, defends well, scores with efficiency, and can run a team or make plays without the ball. Following his productive sophomore campaign, Gruber looks increasingly likely to emerge as a captain and start gaining attention from college coaches.
Meanwhile, Hardison is currently taking a similar path as his backcourt mate. Like Gruber, he primarily played JV as a freshman but showcased a ton of ability. Now, given everything over the recent months, it would be nearly impossible for the Wildcats to do anything other than make him a primary option. Hardison is a high-level shooter, but also displays IQ, craftiness, and a fairly complete game—especially in terms of offensive polish. He’s a reliable creator, both for himself and others, and offers terrific balance between scoring and playmaking. Hardison is a sharp passer and efficient all-around scorer with solid energy and defensive instincts. He’s great in transition, especially with the ball in his hands, and does a phenomenal job of accessing and making the correct read. Though already talented, expect Hardison to generate even more buzz going forward.
Since both players have shined throughout the travel ball season, each earning repetitions by playing up with the Riptide’s oldest group (though Hardison typically plays with his age group), it’s pretty easy to envision them as major pieces over the foreseeable future. Although Lake Norman doesn’t necessarily have a complete roster, they should win a healthy number of games behind the Gruber/Hardison pairing throughout the coming seasons.