Continuing our Watchlist series with the players that we are keeping a close eye on, that are in our top 25. These guys are all established pieces of their teams, and should all contribute heavily this season, but these few stood out to us as ones to keep an extra eye on.

Sam Martin – Apex (3)

I have touched a lot on what Sam brings to the table as a player so I will link those tweets here. The reason that Sam is on this list is because of his situation. Last season Sam was Apex’s best player, but he had multiple other guys around him to take the defense’s attention away from him. This season, while I like his supporting cast more, Sam will be the primary focus for every team they play, and on both ends of the floor. Sam has all of the talent to have a monster season but seeing him perform as the undisputed number 1 on his team is what puts him on this list.

Jake Hart – Fuquay-Varina (6)

Just like Sam Martin, I have talked a lot about Jake’s game in this thread. Jake is also on this list because of the situation he’s in at Fuquay-Varina this year. Jake was the most productive player on a solid Bengal team last year, which resulted in being awarded GNR Conference Defensive POY and 1st Team All-Conference. Last year, Jake was the primary creator and didn’t carry much of the scoring load. Jake will have one of the highest usage rates in the state this year as the offense will flow through him as both a creator and scorer. If Jake can efficiently bump up his scoring while maintaining the rest of his production, FV could have a scary team.

Grady Whitt – Leesville Road (10)

Leesville Road leaned on Grady a lot last year to lead them to a playoff berth. Grady delivered with an impressive stat line and elite guard play. Grady isn’t as dominant as his brother, as no one is or will be, but you can see the resemblance when he plays. Grady is a great athlete that uses his speed and bounces to get into the paint and towards the rim quickly and effectively. He is also a good shooter and has a good hands-on defense that leads to a lot of off-dribble steals. Watching him play reminds me a lot of seeing Carter play when he was at Leesville. I don’t think people realize how good Grady is, he is going to be the main option again this year and I expect him to put up some ridiculous stat lines along the way.

Tanner Mikulecky – Garner (11)

Tanner is arguably the most lethal shooter in the county and will once again have the ultimate green light this season. Tanner is going to be leading a young and fun Garner team that is out for blood. He is on my watchlist because I am interested to see how he performs with (what I believe to be) a better supporting cast around him. I think that with less of the defensive focus on him and more weapons around him, it will allow Tanner to do what he does best, score. There is a path for Tanner to average north of 20 points per game this year and I am going to be watching closely to see what he can do.

David Tator – Panther Creek (14)

David is a solid and steady presence in the guard role for a loaded Panther Creek program. With uncertainty around Amari Odom and Tyler Thompson’s availability this season due to their football abilities, David could project to be the second leading returning scorer on this team. I saw David play this weekend at the 919 One Day Bump and he impressed me. He has a strong build and can finish and rebound inside because of it. He also shot 52% from 3 last year on 64 attempts, a clip that is unheard of. I don’t expect him to shoot that good again this year, but anything even close to that would make him one of the most dangerous outside threats in the county. I am still not exactly sure who will take primary PG duties for the Catamounts this year, but David is in a prime position to do it. I don’t think that David is talked about enough and he is going to be a vital piece in a revamped rotation for Coach Robinson.

Gabe Cerda – Millbrook (21)

Gabe returns for his senior season as the second leading returning scorer on a Millbrook team that was a few points away from a final four. Gabe will be the second option on a team returning just 35% of their field goal attempts. That’s over 1000 shots that need to be replaced from last year. Gabe will be turned to fill a larger role than last year, and I expect him to take a big step up in overall production. He is a shifty, smart guard that can fill it up and I expect him to do just that this season.

Houston Wills – Holly Springs (24)

Houston is one of the most decorated players in Holly Springs basketball history, which is saying a lot considering the sheer amount of talent that has passed through there. Houston is a fantastic scorer and savvy defender that has had big roles in each of his three seasons for the Golden Hawks. This year he will be surrounded by three D1 recruits Collin Kuhl, Micah Jones, and Ryan Crotty. Houston won’t be focused on defenses as much as he is used to because of his talented teammates. This will allow Houston to take advantage of the defense’s lack of attention and be the cog that makes this juggernaut go. I think Houston will be the X-factor for a state championship run and teams are going to realize quickly just how talented he is.