By: Wake Hoops
As we move into the top 20, we look at five players who have each improved their stock recruiting-wise significantly over the past six months.
You can see the updated rankings at the links below.
(16) 6'4' Brandon Ihle (Middle Creek)
Ihle has been one of the most consistent players around since his freshman year at Middle Creek. He has career averages of 14p/4r/2a/1s and should hit the 1,000-point mark before conference play ramps up this winter. He's a confident shot-maker with a high IQ and smooth shooting mechanics. He's underrated as a passer and is more than capable of creating for others when he needs to. He's long and quick enough to beat opponents going downhill and has the strength and body control to finish at a high rate. He rebounds and defends at a solid level and can guard multiple positions. He has a naturally high IQ and feel which is best displayed in how he moves without the ball. He has a knack for creating small openings with his body and footwork, able to get his shot up quickly off the move and find cutting lanes with regularity.
(17) 6'5' Kyrie Heredia (Millbrook)
Heredia is an athletic and wiry prospect who has a ton of potential. He's got enough size to switch between forward spots and is athletic enough to handle size disadvantages down low when necessary. He's quick enough to put pressure on guards in the open court and can create a lot of problems all over the court defensively. He was a valuable piece to the Millbrook defense last year and should be relied even more heavily this year with multiple key pieces departing. Offensively, Heredia has greatly improved over the summer and shown a new level of comfort when playing with the ball in his hands. He was already a savvy cutter, consistent lob threat, and dangerous scorer in transition, and now he seems to have turned the corner as a volume shooter and overall shot-maker. He shot well from three on low volume last year and his consistency as a shooter on higher attempts and more difficult shots will go a long way in boosting his recruitment. Heredia will wear a lot of hats this year for a Millbrook team that is attempting to win their sixth straight NAC regular season title.
(18) 6'1' Blake Bartney (Millbrook)
Bartney had about as productive a summer as you could have, running with Up Next Hoops and establishing himself as one of the better point guards in the triangle. He showed that he's more than capable of running the show while blossoming into a consistent volume scorer as well. He has a great frame and is able to out-physical most guard matchups that he comes across. That physicality combined with an improved handle allows him to get into the paint and finish with relative ease. He's a confident shooter with smooth mechanics and is effective off the catch and off the dribble. He can impact the game from both guard spots and can flip focus between facilitating and scoring as needed. Bartney needs to take a jump for Millbrook to continue their insane run of success and all signs point to him doing just that.
(19) 6'4' Xavier Peaks (Jordan)
Peaks is maybe the best pure athlete in the entire 919, playing with elite leaping ability, strength, and quickness. He's lethal in the open court and transition, able to use his athleticism to out-leverage defenders that aren't set and will his way to the rim. He's an elite finisher at the rim, using long strides and incredible burst to get there. He's shown flashes of being an impactful shooter and if he can consistently knock shots down from outside, he'll help both Jordan's record and his recruitment significantly. Defensively, he's at his best when flying around the court and using his athleticism to its fullest advantage. He has good instincts as a weakside rim protector, can slide his feet with anyone, and jumps passing lanes with regularity. He'll be Jordan's x-factor this year as they look to make another run at a DAC championship.
(20) 6'1' Khaim Taylor (Knightdale)
Taylor has been quietly producing for a while now and his steady consistency has made him into a very enticing prospect. He's a lethal defender with range, versatility, instincts, and toughness. He averaged over 1.5s and 1.5b per game last year, one of the only players in the state to do so. Offensively, he's a swiss-army-knife type of guard, able to handle, score on or off the ball, and fill in any gap necessary. He's a capable shooter with smooth mechanics that could surprise people this year with higher volume. His quick first step allows him to generate paint touches with ease where he usually capitalizes with elite finishes or solid passing reads. Taylor will be the leader of a Knightdale team that looks to make significant noise in both the NAC and 4A East.