By; Wake Co. Hoops
2021-22: 14-13 (9-5), 3rd in GNR, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to New Hanover 40-64)
Damian Booth – 13ppg, 3rpg, 2spg – Graduated – Playing at Pfieffer University
Dylan Smith – 8ppg, 5rpg, 2apg – Graduated
Jake Hart – Senior – 9ppg, 7rpg, 6apg, 3spg, 1bpg
Dylan Setzer – Senior – 10ppg, 2rpg, 61 3pm
Matthew Foster – Junior – 5ppg, 2rpg
Andrew Schneider – Senior – 4ppg, 4rpg
HL Smith – Senior – 3ppg, 2rpg
Starters; Jake Hart, Dylan Setzer, Matthew Foster, Andrew Schneider, HL Smith
Bench: Joseph Bullock, Cooper Adams, Nicholas Clark
The Bengals finished last season with -0.18 Wins Over Average (WOA) which was good for 15th in Wake County, 25th in 4A East, and 56th in 4A overall. They return at least 57% of production from every major stat category.
This team will come and go with one of the highest-usage players in the state, Jake Hart. Jake won the Greater Neuse River Conference DPOY award last year and finished second in POY voting behind Cleveland’s Trey Fields. He should be the front-runner to win both awards going into his senior season. He is truly a do it all point guard that led the Bengals in every stat except for points last season. Jake will need to step up as the main scoring option this season as the losses of Damian Booth and Dylan Smith hurt the Bengals offensive firepower. He showed off some scoring ability during the HoopState Fall League, averaging 15.8 PPG over 4 games and leading the league in TS% at 76.31%. You can read Phenom Hoop Report’s Player Profile on Jake Hart here.
Dylan Setzer is Fuquay-Varina’s leading returning scorer after averaging 10.4 PPG last season. He also hit 61 threes last season, good for 6th in 4A East. Dylan is one of the best movement shooters in the area and is absolutely lethal when left alone. He is also great at moving without the ball and uses off-ball screens well. He will need to improve as a handler to raise his ceiling this season. He showed flashes of development last season by hitting the occasional 1-2 dribble pull-up, but he will need to show more from a paint touch and creation standpoint to really jump into a different tier of player. If he can consistently operate ball screens, get paint touches, and limit turnovers, all while continuing his dominance as a shooter, Dylan will have a chance to be 1st team all-conference and even get recruited along the way.
The other wing for the Bengals is breakout candidate Matt Foster. Matt is an uber-athletic junior that will be a highlight waiting to happen when he gets on a fast break this year. He averaged 5 points and 2 rebounds per game last year on below-average efficiency. He has smooth shot mechanics and uses his athleticism to finish inside in ways that his teammates can’t. After Jake, he is probably the best option to be an offensive initiator. Matt will also be one of the better perimeter defenders in the area due to his length and good instincts.
Up front, the Bengals are led by seniors Andrew Schneider and HL Smith. Both are typical back-to-the-basket bigs that make their money by scoring off of offensive rebounds and long rolls to the rim. Defensively they are both solid rim protectors who rebound at a high level. With both of them being so similar in skill level and role it will be interesting to see how Coach Barrow plays them. If they play together the paint may be clogged but they will have an advantage on the glass and if only one plays at a time, which one is it and when?
Fuquay-Varina’s weaknesses come in the form of depth and youth. Their bench will only run about 6-7 deep with their top 3-4 players logging 28+ minutes per game. This type of load could hurt them later in the season as they push for a conference title and a playoff run. Their lack of youth won’t really hurt them this season but it’s more of a future weakness. They’re one of the only schools to lack a signature freshman or sophomore, which is most likely because of the recent student population split between Fuquay-Varina and Willow Spring.
Fuquay-Varina narrowly lost in the conference championship game last season to Cleveland, who made it all the way to the east semifinals before losing to the eventual east champions in Panther Creek. With Cleveland expected to regress and the rest of the conference looking to improve, there will be a vacancy at the top with 6-7 tough teams looking to fill it. The Bengals will be one of the favorites, along with Garner, to win the conference. If they can do that, they will host at least one home playoff game for the first time in over 30 years.