By: Wake Hoops

The CCC has a handful of fun storylines to follow. Between Michael Phillips’ breakout, Trinity Academy’s youth movement, and St. David’s rebuild, there’s a lot of excitement brewing throughout the conference. Contrary to the TISAC, there’s just four underclassmen selected to an all-conference team. This is also one of the deepest conferences for guards in the triangle, with 13 of the 20 all-conference spots being taken up by the position.

Preseason Poll

Preseason All-Conference Teams

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Michael Phillips II | GRACE Christian | 6’5” | So.

Everything seems to be lining up for Phillips who, just last season, scored 26 points across eight varsity games. After a well documented rise this summer, he’s in as good of a situation as you could ask for. He’s the primary scoring option on a team that complements his smooth shot making with rugged defenders and playmakers. He’s improved tremendously as a defender, finding his confidence, and buying into the toughness embodied by the Eagle’s program. His elite scoring prowess and two-way versatility give him the nod for this award.

HM: Kamran Prince | Trinity Academy | 6’2” | Jr.

Defensive Player of the Year: Quasim Oden | GRACE Christian | 6’1” | Sr.

Oden is one of the best on-ball defenders in the triangle and is a fitting recipient for this award. Outside of his production (1.9 stocks/game last season, over doubled from the year before), his physicality, aggressiveness, and quick feet makes for a matchup problem at the point-of-attack. He pressures opponents without giving up drives, protects the rim well for a guard, and wins 50/50 balls with regularity.

HM: Steven McLeod | GRACE Christian | 6’1” | Sr.

Newcomer of the Year: Kamran Prince | Trinity Academy | 6’2” | Jr.

Prince is in a prime position to be one of the best newcomers in the state, leading a Trinity team that has a lot of potential. He’s been one of the top players in ENC for the past couple of years and will get the chance now to showcase his talent on a much bigger and brighter stage. Known as a scorer, look for him to also produce as a playmaker with more weapons and versatility around him.

HM: Preston Copeland | St. David’s | 6’8” | Jr.

Freshman of the Year: Wesley Hillsdale | Trinity Academy | 6’4” | Fr.

Hillsdale has a great combination of production and potential, projecting to be one of the more productive underclassmen in the triangle this season. His positional size and versatility (able to play the 2-4 effectively) along with his shooting touch and high feel for the game, give him an obvious path to production this year. Trinity will use him in a variety of different ways on both ends and he’ll only get better as the season goes along.

HM: DJ West | Trinity Academy | 6’1” | Fr.

Coach of the Year: DeShannon Morris | GRACE Christian | 9th Season

Coach Morris has built a great culture throughout his tenure at GRACE, focusing on selfless, tough, team-first players. He has a roster full of just that this season, able to go 8-9 guys deep with experienced, talented, winners at his disposal. Look for them to throw the kitchen sink at teams defensively, leveraging their plethora of talented on-ball defenders. Offensively, they’ll have a fun blend of three-level scoring and it’ll be interesting to watch how the coaching staff goes about getting the most out of that side of the floor.

HM: Bryan Burrell | Trinity Academy | 8th Season

1) GRACE Christian

2022-23: 21-14 (7-1), 2nd in CCC, 2nd Round of Playoffs (L to High Point Christian 49-57)

Key Losses

Julien King – 18p, 5r, 2a, 2s – Graduated – Playing at Navy
Myles Pettis – 7p, 2r, 2a, 1s – Graduated – Playing at Winston-Salem State
Davis Lyon – 6p, 5r, 1a, 1s – Graduated

Key Returners

Quasim Oden – Sr – 16p, 4r, 2a, 1s
Steven McLeod – Sr – 8p, 6r, 2a, 2s
Noah Kyritsis – Sr – 4p, 2r, 1a, 1s
Michael Phillips II – So – 3p, 2r, 1a
Grant Lyon – Sr – 3p, 1r
Malachi Tate – Jr – 2p, 2r
Dylan Couse – Sr – 2p, 2r

Key Newcomers

Isaiah Knight – Jr – JV
Toure Napier-Rowell – Jr – Transfer from Research Triangle

Deep Dive

The Eagles return over 50% of their production in every major stat category including 60% of their steals and 69% of their blocks. They bring back a handful of key pieces and will benefit greatly from the development of sophomore wing Michael Phillips. Phillips is the best breakout pick of anyone in the triangle thanks to his positional size, elite shot-making, and overall toughness (see Player of the Year above). He split time between varsity and JV last season, acting as a highly versatile defender while flashing the shot-making ability that’s made him such a meteoric riser. Look for him to score both within the flow of offense and in isolation situations and show off his versatility on both ends.

The senior leadership on this team is a big reason why they’re picked to win the conference. The two that stand out are the backcourt duo of Quasim Oden and Steven McLeod. Oden is a rugged downhill guard (see Defensive Player of the Year above) who dominates the point-of-attack defensively. His ability to apply constant rim pressure is going to cause all sorts of problems for opposing defenses. McLeod, just like Oden, is a high-level finisher with real explosiveness when getting downhill. He’s improved as a shooter since last season and will be a nice compliment to Oden because of it. The duo’s on-ball defensive ability is going to be incredibly difficult for opponents who don’t have strong and experienced guard play.

Around their big three, senior Noah Kyritsis and juniors Malachi Tate and Isaiah Knight round out the guard depth. Kyritsis has stepped into a leadership role and provides a low-maintenance approach that will gel smoothly with the rest of their starting lineup. He’s a knockdown shooter who knows how to get open without the ball. Tate and Knight are both sturdy, athletic two-way guards who defend the ball at a high level. Tate is more of an on-ball creation threat while Knight is a more versatile defender.

The biggest (and maybe only) question mark for this program is how the frontcourt will play and senior Dylan Couse will shoulder a majority of that weight. He’s shown major improvements in the last 6-8 months, improving his touch, strength, and fluidity in noticeable ways. At 6’7-8”, he has the size to potentially control the glass and protect the rim at a consistently high level and this team’s ceiling is predicated on his ability to do that.

The Eagles have all the makings of a state championship contender, thanks to their top-end talent, synergy, and toughness. They’re going to be a very difficult team to match up with from both a talent and energy perspective. They may not be the odds-on favorite to make a deep run but there’s little reason to believe they won’t be one of the most dangerous teams in the state come February.

2) Trinity Academy

2022-23: 22-6 (7-1), 1st in CCC, 2nd Round of Playoffs (L to Gaston Day 55-72)

Key Losses

Clash Peters – Transferred to Word of God
Kevon Vanderhorst – Graduated – Playing at Brunswick CC
Trevor Barrett – Graduated – Playing at Coastal Carolina
Cole Becker – Graduated – Playing at Flight 22 Prep

Key Returners

Parker Bye – Jr
Vince Bertolini-Felice – Jr
Owen Tucker – So

Key Newcomers

Kamran Prince – Jr – Transfer from CB Aycock
Evan Dean – Jr – Transfer from NC GBB
Cameron Bynum – So – Transfer from Wakefield
Wesley Hillsdale – Fr
DJ West – Fr

Deep Dive

The Tigers are coming off a four-year stretch in which they’ve lost just one conference game and have a combined record of 83-17. This included a run of three state quarterfinals appearances and a state championship appearance. Every key piece from those four years is gone and Trinity is focusing on a new crop of young talent to continue their winning tradition.

You cannot talk about this roster without paying extra attention to their deep group of newcomers, the headliner being CB Aycock transfer, Kamran Prince. Prince scores the ball at all three levels and is a violent athlete when he gets downhill. He’ll be the focal point of this offense so look to him to determine this team’s floor. Outside of his presumed high level of production, Prince will help provide the veteran leadership that this team desperately needs. Alongside him, transfers Evan Dean (junior from NC GBB) and Cameron Bynum (sophomore from Wakefield) will both provide valuable production and play important roles. Dean is a knockdown shooter with good positional size. He has the potential to be valuable as a flexible piece on both sides of the ball. Bynum is one of the more intriguing 2026 prospects in the triangle. He’s a crafty off-guard who gets to his spots with relative ease. He has real wiggle when driving, is a plus shooter off the catch and the bounce, and has flashed the ability to make difficult passing reads. Look for him to be one of the more “surprising” breakout players in the state this season.

Their freshmen duo of Wesley Hillsdale and DJ West will both be tasked with important roles in year one, something that is rare for this program. Hillsdale is a wing/forward hybrid who shoots it at a high clip and has a knack for finding openings without the ball. He’ll be able to help defend on the interior while causing matchup problems on the offensive end. As he continues to grow and mature, look for him to become one of the more versatile players around. West is a guard/wing with intriguing physical tools and high upside. He has a high feel for the game, is a solid shooter, finisher, and driver, and is going to get considerably bigger over the next few years. There are a handful of talented freshmen duos in the triangle and Trinity may very well have the best of them.

Junior guard Parker Bye is the lone key returner for this team and is someone who will be tasked with handling a leadership-heavy role. He’s one of the best pure shooters around and is growing more and more comfortable playing with the ball in his hands. He has a strong frame that allows him to handle pressure on the offensive end and apply it on the defensive end. Look for him to be a calming presence in the backcourt, provide efficient shot making, and do a lot of the little things that impact winning.

While they don’t have their usual size or experience, the Tigers have quietly built a dangerous team heading into this season. Given the generally high amount of roster turnover we see throughout the high school basketball scene, it’s easy to overlook programs with a winning tradition, something that Trinity Academy has in spades. Coach Burrell has his most unproven team in recent memory, and it will be interesting to see how quickly they’ll be able to get to the level of production that’s become so common for his teams.

3) St. David’s

2022-23: 0-18 (0-8), 5th in CCC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Charlie Moses – 2p, 6r – Graduated
Preston Cheek – 2p, 2r – Graduated

Key Returners

Cooper Berkoff – 11p, 4r, 3a, 2s
Grey McMahon – 4p, 3r, 1s
Hutch Marshall – 2p, 2r

Key Newcomers

Preston Copeland – Jr – Transfer from Raleigh Christian
Kazim Oladipo – Jr – Transfer from Rolesville
AK Proctor – Jr – Transfer from Raleigh Christian

Deep Dive

St. David’s is coming off a season in which they went winless, and the program hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2017-18. However, there’s a lot of room for optimism within the Warrior’s program as they have one of the best incoming transfer classes of any school in the triangle. Junior big man Preston Copeland headlines the class, with juniors Kazim Oladipo and AK Proctor also bringing a lot of intrigue.

Copeland is a promising prospect, already picking up offers from schools across the country. He’s a legit 6’8” with a good frame and athletic tools. He’s at his best when playing with a high motor and leveraging his blend of physicality and touch around the rim. He should be able to cause mismatch problems for every team in the conference given his physical tools and interior dominance. Oladipo is a strong wing with a well-rounded skillset. He plays hard and is always making winning plays. He’ll be looked upon to do a little bit of everything for this team, from defending the best player, rebounding on both ends, and scoring within the flow of offense. Proctor is one of the better shooters you’ll find in the area, able to get hot quickly and staying consistently efficient. He’s shown some flashes of expanding his game, by both creating his own shot and making passing reads, and for this team to reach their peak he’ll need to produce in those areas.

Around that big three, junior guard Cooper Berkoff projects to be the lone returner who makes a significant impact. He’s a quality shooter, handler, and playmaker and should be much more efficient this season with much of the offensive burden lifted. How much he (along with other returners McMahon and Marshall) can elevate his game around talented players and against a difficult schedule will go a long way in determining his long-term projection as a prospect.

After having a catastrophic 2022-23 season, there’s nowhere to go but up for the Warriors. They were already trending towards a small change in fortune with most of their rotation returning. That turnaround process was accelerated thanks to their transfer trio and there’s plenty of reason to believe that St. David’s will break their streak of five straight losing seasons.

4) Wake Christian

2022-23: 18-13 (3-5), 4th in CCC, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to Coastal Christian 35-45)

Key Losses

Micah Worsley – Graduated

Key Returners

Berkley Coon – Sr – 12p, 2r, 3a, 1s, 73 3pm
Beckett Coon – So – 9p, 1r, 1a, 59 3pm
Sully Caruso – 3p, 4r
Jake Wulf – 4p, 1r, 1a, 1s

Key Newcomers

Brady Williams – Jr – Transfer from Hilltop Christian

Deep Dive

It’s impossible to talk about this team or program without mentioning the brother duo of senior Berkley Coon and sophomore Beckett Coon. Both are deadeye shooters with unlimited range and confidence. Berkley is better at getting downhill, finishing for himself, and creating for his teammates while Beckett is a talented shot-maker with great shooting mechanics and change of pace. This team will need heavy production from both of them, with Berkley needing to run the point and get his teammates involved and Beckett needing to create his shots as efficiently as possible. Both bring a fiery, competitive edge to the game, something that makes them both exciting to watch and pesky to play against.

One of the more underrated additions to any team this season is Brady Williams, who joined this program after two seasons at Hilltop Christian. He averaged 18p, 5r, 4a, 3s as a freshman and 18p, 5r, 6a, 3s as a sophomore, all while shooting relatively efficient splits from the field. He was the clear-cut best player for this group during the HoopState Fall League, averaging close to 20 ppg and being the engine of this offense. He has some wiggle when getting to the rim and knows how to use his body to create contact and enhance his finishing ability. He should blend nicely with the Coon brothers on the offensive end, providing a three-headed attack of guys who can all create their own shots.

Maybe the most intriguing prospect on this team is their 6’8” senior forward, Sully Caruso. Caruso has improved significantly since last season, making noticeable improvements to his fluidity, touch, and shooting mechanics. He’ll be relied on as a screener, rebounder, rim protector, and play finisher as the inside complement to the trio of guards. How well he handles the added responsibilities will go a long way in determining this team’s ceiling.

This Bulldogs team isn’t big, tall, or athletic, but they’re incredibly skilled, gritty, and fast. Teams that can’t keep them from making shots are going to have a tough time putting them away, which is why it wouldn’t be surprising to see them steal a few wins from teams that look much better on paper. They could finish as high as third in the conference and will be a pesky out for whoever draws them in the early rounds of the playoffs.

5) Cary Christian

2022-23: 12-15 (3-5), 3rd in CCC, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to Forsyth Country Day 47-62)

Key Losses

Zach Cullen – 14p, 6r, 2a, 2s – Transferred to Word of God
George Bechara – 6p, 2r, 1a, 1s – Graduated
Walker Neal – 6p, 2r, 1a, 1s – Graduated
Charlie Cochran – 2p, 3r – Graduated

Key Returners

Andrew Neal – Jr – 17p, 4r, 4a, 2s
Gideon Landry – Jr – 6p, 4r, 1b
David Wisniewski – Sr – 4p, 5r

Deep Dive

In every sense of the term, this is a rebuilding year for the Knights. They’re losing three of their top four scorers from last year and are the only team in the conference taking a significant step back. They return a few important pieces, most notably junior guard Andrew Neal. There’s a serious need for Neal to take another leap forward this season for them to compete with the bulk of the conference. Neal is a dynamic combo guard with real shooting chops and a good feel for the game. He shot 39% from three last season on 148 attempts (5.5/g) with a lot of those coming out of a variety of situations. He’s comfortable off the catch, the move, and the bounce and has already proven that he can do it at a high level across a full season. Some of his best games last year were against very good teams and it’s safe to assume that regardless of the Knights’ record this season, Neal will be one of the most productive players in the triangle.

Behind Neal, junior Gideon Landry and senior David Wisniewski are the top returners. Both of them will be tasked with replacing the rebounding and defense of Zach Cullen, who transferred over the offseason to Word of God. Outside of those two, the Knights will rely heavily on unproven pieces to fill out the rest. of the rotation.

As we said, this is a rebuilding year for Cary Christian. Coach Thompson is going into his 10th season, having finished below 0.500 in just three of his previous nine years with the program. This team will find a way to win games that they’re not favored in, even more so if Andrew Neal can elevate his game as well as his teammates’ games. Look for this team to hang around with good competition and for Neal to be one of the more exciting guys to watch.