Watchlist is a series we are starting where we talk about players from across the county that we find extra intriguing going into the 2022-23 season. Part 1 will be players that are in the lower half of our top 40 or off the list entirely, and part 2 will be guys that are higher up in the rankings.

Check out our rankings for the 2023 class below.

Name – Position – School (Wake Hoops class ranking)

Immanuel McClain – Wing – SE Raleigh (28)

I have Immanuel listed as a wing because he played off the ball a lot last year, but I think that he could excel as an on-ball initiator. He is smart with the ball and has a knack for finding windows for his teammates and himself in the paint. He averaged 10.9 ppg and 3.4 apg last season, both were team highs. While I expect those numbers to improve, he won’t have to manage the load that he did last year as the cast around him should be improved. Immanuel will need to cut down on the 3.1 turnovers/game that he had last year if he wants to break out as a creator. However, the turnovers don’t worry me as more often than not he was trying to do the right thing and it just didn’t work out. Immanuel was not a real shooting threat last year, shooting 28% from deep and 55% from the line. The good news is that inside the arc he scored at a high rate. I expect his shooting numbers to improve a bit and that will make him very hard to guard. With an improved cast and more wins coming this season, I expect Immanuel to push for a first-team all-conference selection in an underrated GNR.

Jani Vanholten – Wing – Athens Drive (35)

Jani is a tall, long, and athletic wing that is a nightmare for opposing teams in transition. He is creative with the ball in the open court, both as a passer and as a finisher. He shot the ball well from the outside at 44%, but only took 25 threes all season. Once I see him shoot well on a larger volume, I will anoint him a knockdown shooter. Jani is a matchup advantage on the defensive end because of his length and active hands. He is good at taking the ball off dribblers and getting out in transition quickly. I also think that he has weak side rim protection potential as well because of his instincts and athleticism. I am high on him as a defender and think that he should be the point-of-attack defender next season. I need to see more from him in terms of half-court creation and creating his own shot against a set defense. Once Jani can prove that he can get his without needing to be set up, then I think he will start his ascent as a two-way star in Wake County.

Hayes Carlin – Guard – Broughton (36)

Hayes is a pleasant guy to watch on film because he rarely makes mistakes. He is a lethal shooter with great mechanics and a lot of confidence. His 31% clip from last year will improve this year with hopefully similar volume (113 attempts). I like Hayes in a pure point guard role because he is constantly looking for the best positions to put his teammates in. Watching his film, I saw numerous times where he specifically sought out McCallum, Grady, or Will when he felt that they had an advantage. I was surprised to see that he only averaged 1.3 assists/game but with his high tendency to pass and obvious IQ that number will surely go up this season. One thing I saw defensively is that Hayes is good at giving on-ball pressure and good at getting into the right spot in help rotations. He is so good at helping on the weak side that he sometimes will lose his man and must scramble to recover. I don’t punish players for making mistakes while having good intentions, so I am fine with his tendency to overhelp. Hayes is a fantastic pure point and hopefully, we will get to see him shoot even more 3s this season for a Broughton team that has high expectations. (Hayes if you are reading this, shoot more.)

Andrew Schneider – Big – Fuquay-Varina (HM)

Andrew projects as the lone starting big man this year for the Bengals. He is a workhouse in the paint with double-double potential if everything goes well for him this year. Andrew makes layups at a high percentage and has flashed the ability to hit a mid-range jumper out of a screen and pop. I would like to see Andrew improve as a passer and decision-maker out of the low post and out of rolls. If Andrew consistently made defenses pay for doubling him in the paint by passing out to shooters, he would become extremely hard to stop. Andrew is also a great defender because of how hard he works. He is relentless in the defensive paint as a defender and rebounder and that causes problems for everyone he guards, regardless of talent level. I am a fan of Andrew’s as he is a player that contributes to winning basketball, and I am excited to see him play in a larger role for a Fuquay-Varina squad that is gunning for a conference title.

Joshua Harris – Forward – Holly Springs (UNR)

Josh is in an interesting spot because he didn’t play all that much as a junior last season. But coming into this year I wouldn’t be surprised if he were the 5th starter on a loaded Golden Hawks squad. Josh is an elite athlete that is super long and rebounds at a high rate. He hustles at all times, and this makes him an annoying defender as well. Seeing Josh in a meaningful role this year, whether he is the 5th, 6th, or 7th man on this team, will be exciting as he will be overlooked in opponent scouting reports. Due to his athleticism, he is a consistent lob and put-back threat that is always looking for the chance to dunk on someone. He isn’t someone that is going to run the offense or give you 20/10 every game but he plays his role, and he does it well. Last season Holly Springs needed play from guys like Ben Gruden and Jake Fields to push them over the edge, players to do the dirty work. I think this season’s version of that will be Josh.