After a down year, the GNRC is reloaded and full of talent. They have as good of a top-three as any conference in the East. With just three seniors making an all-conference team, the GNRC will be a gauntlet for the foreseeable future.

Preseason Poll

Preseason All-Conference Teams

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Andrew Grimes | Clayton | 6’8” | Jr.

Grimes is the clear favorite for Player of the Year going into the season as the junior averaged 17p, 7r, 2a, 2b last year en route to a 9-5 conference record and a playoff appearance. He’s projected to break the 1,000-point mark for his career this season and is leading one of the most underrated teams in the state. He should be as productive and dominant as anyone in the triangle this year.

HM: Cam’ren Reyes | Garner | 6’1” | Jr.

Defensive Player of the Year: Christian Ananaba | Southeast Raleigh | 6’4” | Jr.

In a conference full of great defenders, Ananaba stood out thanks to his elite versatility. He’s going to spearhead the swarming Bulldog defense, able to guard virtually every position and impact virtually every possession. His presence on that end of the floor will be as valuable and impactful as most anyone in the triangle this season.

HM: Grant Overman | Willow Spring | 6’8” | Jr.

Newcomer of the Year: Qua’shaun Williams | Clayton | 5’9” | Jr.

Williams comes to Clayton after two seasons at Triton HS in Erwin. He’s very skilled with the ball in his hands, able to shoot, dribble, and pass at a high level. He’ll play an integral role in the Comet backcourt and is a big reason why they’re the preseason number one in the GNRC.

HM: Ekene Ogboko | South Garner | 6’6” | So.

Freshman of the Year: Tayshawn Adams | Southeast Raleigh | 5’10” | Fr.

Adams is a dynamic freshman guard with elite athleticism and a ton of confidence. He can score and create well beyond his years, able to generate paint touches, and make outside shots consistently. He’s in line for a big role in the Bulldog backcourt, regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench and will be vital to their success this season.

HM: Allen Davis II | Garner | 5’11” | Fr.
HM: Chris Hughes | Corinth Holders | 6’3” | Fr.

Coach of the Year: Everson Simmons | Clayton | 3rd Season

Coach Simmons has a ton of talent at his disposal, with one of the most balanced rosters in the triangle. Look for him to play a variety of lineups this season and do an excellent job of leveraging his roster’s strength in unique ways.

HM: Charles Graves | Southeast Raleigh | 3rd Season

1) Clayton

Wake Hoops

Clayton 2023-24 Team Preview

2022-23: 14-12 (9-5), 4th in GNRC, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to Lumberton (59-62)) Key Losses Matthew Eaton – 8p, 3r, 2a, 1s – Graduated – Playing at Lake Raleigh Prep Bryan Harris – 5p, 4r, 2a, 1s – Graduated Sharod Sorrell – 4p, 3r, 2a, 1s – Graduated – Playing at Lake Raleigh Prep…

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10 days ago · Cooper Hart

2) Garner

2022-23: 25-4 (13-1), 1st in GNRC, 2nd Round of Playoffs (L to Panther Creek 72-80)

Key Losses

Tanner Mikulecky – Graduated – GNRC 1st Team All-Conference
Chris Crudup – Transferred to Southern Wake – GNRC 1st Team All-Conference

Key Returners

Cam’ren Reyes – Jr – GNRC 3rd Team All-Conference
Ghab Scott – Jr – GNRC 3rd Team All-Conference
Keaton Bloms – Jr – GNRC All-Conference Honorable Mention
Darius Whitner – So – GNRC Freshman of the Year
Tayshaun Whitner – Sr – GNRC 6th Man of the Year
Kingston Beale – So
Cairo Hines – Jr

Key Newcomers

Geren Holmes – So – JV
Allen Davis II – Fr

Deep Dive

The Trojans were dominant again last season, losing just four games en route to a GNRC regular season and tournament championship and a second-round playoff appearance. They return three starters, the GNRC Freshman of the Year, the GNRC 6th Man of the Year, and a handful of other valuable depth pieces from a year ago. They’ve lost more than three conference games just once in the MaxPreps era (the COVID-shortened 2021 season), a feat not matched by any other public school in the triangle. They consistently challenge themselves with tough non-conference opponents which results in them playing their best basketball in the thick of conference play.

They’ll turn to their talented junior class to fill a majority of the hole left in Mikulecky and Crudup’s departure. Cam’ren Reyes, Ghab Scott, and Keaton Bloms will all play pivotal roles this season. Reyes and Scott will make up the primary options in their backcourt, with both being high-level scorers, passers, and defenders. Reyes is known more as an off-guard, able to create his own shots with efficiency, and will be looked at whenever the offense stalls to get them out of a rut. Over the summer he showed that he can run the one, controlling the tempo and creating for others whenever necessary. Scott is more of a traditional point guard, using his blazing change of pace to generate paint touches and pester the ball defensively. He’ll be tasked with taking a leap offensively, specifically as a shooter, in order to carry over the prolific scoring punch the Trojans had last season. Bloms is the versatile, high-feel big man that every coach wants. He has a point guard mind in a 6’7” frame which he uses to control the tempo and make smart passing reads at the top of the key, out of the high post, or at the back of press breaks. He’ll be uber-important to their defensive plans as they have no traditional bigs behind him on the roster.

Garner’s sophomore class might end up being even better than their junior class, with Kingston Beale, Darius Whitner, and Geren Holmes all being enticing prospects. Beale is a dynamic and athletic wing who is difficult to stop when getting downhill. He’s grown as a shooter and ball handler, priming him to step into a much larger offensive role than last season. Whitner is a traditional two-way point guard who guards the point-of-attack well and reliably orchestrates the offense. There’s no glaring weakness in his skillset which should make for a consistent and productive sophomore season. Holmes is the rawest of the three and will be used as a versatile defender and transition scoring threat. Look for him to make numerous winning plays each game and be very impactful within his minutes.

While there is a noticeable lack of seniors on the roster, Tayshaun Whitner and Lucas Dowles will both provide meaningful minutes. Whitner is a small, aggressive, and quick scoring guard who blossomed this summer as a shot-maker. He can get to his spots with ease and will be relied upon for instant offense and rugged on-ball defense. Dowles is a good spot-up shooter who will need to rebound and defend inside to give this team much-needed depth behind Bloms.

Freshman Allen Davis is another athletic guard who will be in the mix for rotational minutes this season. Despite being behind a plethora of talented, older guards, his dynamic skillset and high potential make it likely that he’ll crack the rotation in a meaningful way sooner rather than later.

Despite being edged out by Clayton for the preseason number-one spot, Garner is still right in the mix to repeat as conference champions. They have the talent, athleticism, and depth to make a real playoff push. The biggest question mark they need to solve will be their frontcourt depth, with only one player over 6’4” expected to earn minutes. If they can manage that lack of size and leverage their talented guard play by way of pressure defense and transition scoring, there’s no reason the Trojans can’t win the conference along with multiple playoff games.

3) Southeast Raleigh

2022-23: 16-13 (10-4), 2nd in GNRC, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to Holly Springs 49-78)

Key Losses

Immanuel McClain – 12p, 3r, 2a, 1s – Graduated – Playing at Johnston CC
Jeremiah Grantham – 5p, 3r, 1a, 1s – Graduated
Preston Scott – 4p, 2r – Graduated
Brandon Temple – 3p, 1r, 1a – Graduated
Jordan Johnson – 3p, 1r – Graduated

Key Returners

Josh Alford – Sr – 7p, 4r, 3a
Ethan Reid – Jr – 7p, 3r, 1a, 30 3pm
Jonathan Robinson – Jr – 6p, 4r, 1a, 1b
Xavier Stroud – So – 3p, 1r, 1a
Christian Ananaba – Jr – 3p, 1r
Nasir Gibbs – Jr – 3p, 1r

Key Newcomers

Zyione Callaway – Jr – Transfer from Broughton
Tayshawn Adams – Fr
Corvin Stokes – So – JV
Keysaun Elazer – So – JV

Deep Dive

Coach Graves has done a remarkable job in turning this program around after jumping from seven wins in year one to 16 in year two. It’s expected that, in year three, the Bulldogs make another notable jump and cement themselves as one of the best teams in Raleigh. They have an incredibly deep junior class, multiple intriguing underclassmen, and only one senior, which bodes well for both this season and the years to come. The pieces on this year’s roster fit their system almost to a tee, so expect them to play fast, aggressive, and pressurized basketball this year.

Their junior class is the biggest reason for the preseason hype, with Ethan Reid, Jon Robinson, Christian Ananaba, Nasir Gibbs, and Zyione Callaway all expected to make an impact in complementary ways. Reid is maybe the most intriguing in regard to producing this season as he had a fantastic summer with Garner Road Select, shining as a physical scoring threat who can shoot at a high clip. Look for him to pace their offense this season and be the guy they turn to when they’re struggling. Robinson and Ananaba (see Defensive Player of the Year) both have a ton of upside on both ends of the court. They can play almost any position defensively and do a great job of filling in the gaps offensively. Look for both to take a step up as off-ball scoring threats and rebounders. Gibbs and Callaway both play a similar style as they can score within the flow of offense and are gifted at making winning plays on the defensive end. They play with a motor that is rare to find, especially on the same team. Look for them to be key catalysts in SER’s defensive plans.

After Immanuel McClain’s graduation, the leadership responsibilities are projected to fall mostly on senior Josh Alford’s shoulders. He’s a reliable guard who can play 1-3 on both ends effectively. He gets to his spots well and without wasting dribbles. His ability to anchor this team and bring a calming presence to their chaotic playstyle will be so important to their success.

Around their wealth of experience, there are numerous underclassmen that, if they acclimate to the speed and physicality well, can do a great job of raising this team’s ceiling. Sophomores Xavier Stroud, Corvin Stokes, and Keysaun Elazer, as well as freshman Tayshawn Adams all have a chance to carve out a meaningful role in the rotation. Stroud and Stokes are both smaller guards who are lightning-quick and have some real craft in their games. Behind the talented upperclassmen, the two should see fewer minutes, but both will be intriguing in their limited time. Elezaer is a high-level football player whose raw athleticism can move the needle on the basketball court. At 6’5”, he has incredible size and length to go along with his athletic pop, making him an enticing long-term prospect. Expect him, also in limited minutes, to dominate the boards and be a nuisance defensively. Adams is the most intriguing of the bunch (see Freshman of the Year above) and has the best chance at high-volume usage given his freak athleticism and ball skills. He can run either guard spot, has elite finishing tools, is a capable shooter, and seems to be completely bought in defensively. Look for him to bring a tenacity and dynamism that this group will feed off of this season.

The expectations for the Bulldogs program haven’t been this high in quite some time, with this projected to be the best season they’ve had in the MaxPreps era. They have the system, the talent, and the athletes to compete with almost anyone around and look for them to do just that. They’ll be squarely in the mix to win the conference and are a dark horse team to make a playoff run.

4) South Garner

2022-23: 8-19 (6-8), 5th in GNRC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Maleke Green – 14p, 3r, 3a, 3s – Graduated – Playing at NC GBB
Cole Murray – 9p, 4r, 3a, 1s – Graduated
Josh Bailey – 7p, 4r – Graduated
Chuma Onwusah – 4p, 3r – Graduated
Joel Mungani – 3p, 4r – Graduated
Marchard Garvin – 4p, 2r – Graduated
Zimere Winston – 3p, 2r – Graduated – Playing Football at Elon
Enoch Alfred – 2p, 4r – Graduated

Key Returners

Jayden Littles – Jr – 8p, 5r
Ziere Hines – Sr – 3p, 3r

Key Newcomers

Najai Hines – Jr – JV
Braylen McRae – So – JV
Li’Kim Leach – Jr – JV
Kia Muschette – Jr – JV
Samien Jones Jr – Jr – JV
Ekene Ogboko – So – Transfer from Riverside

Deep Dive

The Titans came on incredibly strong to end the year, starting the year 0-10 before finishing 8-9. Their slow start, 8-19 overall record, and deep graduating class have caused a lot of people to overlook them heading into this season, but we believe there’s a lot to like with this new-look program. They bring in a new head coach, Kendrick Hall, who took Northside-Jax to two playoff appearances in four years (would’ve been three if not for the shrunk playoff bracket for the 2021 season) and won a conference tournament championship in 2020. Also, the Titans had the best JV team in the triangle last season, finishing 22-0, winning 21 of those by 11+, and having an average margin of victory north of 26 ppg. They face a respectable non-conference schedule, headlined by Knightdale (2), Middle Creek, Broughton, and Enloe. They also play both Garner and Clayton before the new year.

From that JV team, they bring up Najai Hines, Braylen McRae, Li’kim Leach, Kia Muschette, and Samien Jones. Hines is the main attraction with this group, dominating JV basketball last year and putting up a double-double in the conference tournament once he was pulled up. He’s a towering 6’9” big man with a strong frame and good fluidity. His touch around the rim, instincts on the glass, and generally high motor makes him both an enticing prospect and a safe bet to be a dominant varsity player. McRae and Leach will make up the backcourt with McRae acting as a volume-scoring threat who can shoot at a high clip, finish around the rim, and create space seemingly at will. Leach is more of a true point guard, making simple and correct reads with consistency while scoring the ball within the flow of offense. Muschette and Jones are both flexible and versatile guards/wings who do a great job of filling in the gaps on either end. They can guard multiple positions, score without needing the ball, and make the extra pass when needed. Look for this blend of depth, talent, and chemistry to give them an edge on the varsity level.

Outside of their JV risers, they have three important pieces that will fill in the rotation, junior Jayden Littles, senior Ziere Hines, and sophomore Ekene Ogboko. Littles is their lone returning starter, acting as a versatile defender and transition scoring threat who’s at his best when getting downhill. He’ll be looked upon to take a noticeable step up in efficiency this year. Hines is an athletic and versatile defender and will fit in quite well with the type of system they’ll run. Ogboko is a high-major football recruit, ranked as a consensus top-30 recruit in the country for the 2026 class. While it’s not 100% certain that he’ll play, his size and mobility on the interior can really push the ceiling of this group even further. His brother, Nnamdi Ogboko is committed to play football at Georgia, making him even less likely to play basketball this year, but would leave a similar impact should he choose to play this winter.

This will be the first team in South Garner’s short history with legitimate playoff aspirations as they’re the clear fourth team in a conference that consistently puts four teams in the playoffs. They’ll need to win tough games with consistency in order to earn a bid, but it’s well within sights for the Titans this season.

5) Willow Spring

2022-23: 8-17 (3-11), 7th in GNRC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Viktor Alao – 13p, 5r, 3a, 2s – Transferred to Moravian Prep

Key Returners

Xavion Terrell – So – 8p, 4r
Grant Overman – Jr – 6p, 6r, 2b
Andrew Mendzef – Sr – 6p, 2r
Jay Wooden – Sr – 5p, 2r, 1a, 1s
Alan Webster – Sr – 5p, 4r, 1s
Brandon Solomon – Sr – 5p, 4r
Graham Moose – Jr – 5p, 1r, 1a, 1s
Jy’mont Kizer – Jr – 3p, 1r

Key Newcomers

Jalen King – Jr – JV
Ryder Randolph – So – JV

Deep Dive

After just two seasons as a program Willow Spring made a coaching change, promoting JV coach Brandon Poteat to the head job. Poteat turned the JV program into a respectable team rather quickly, jumping from a 2-16 record in year to 12-11 last season, both without seniors in the program. Now, he’s inheriting a roster that has lost their top scorer and will have their first class of seniors in school history. Given that most all of their rotation pieces have 2-3 years of varsity experience, they have a unique amount of experience up and down the roster.

Their seniors are highlighted by Brandon Solomon, Alan Webster, Andrew Mendzef, and Jay Wooden. Solomon and Webster are both high-level athletes who can guard multiple positions and score in transition. Solomon specifically is someone to look at as a potential volume scoring threat for this group. Mendzef and Wooden are both solid off-ball scorers with Mendzef being a knockdown spot-up shooter and Wooden being a gifted downhill finisher.

Their junior class is less deep, with Grant Overman, Graham Moose, Jalen King, and Jy’mont Kizer leading the group. Overman has been on a quiet and steady development track since his freshman season, growing into a great rim protector and play finisher. He has good vertical pop and great instincts as a shot blocker and rebounder. Look for him to quietly be the most productive and consistent player on the roster. Moose, King, and Kizer all provide valuable backcourt depth. Moose is a solid handler and shooter who can provide some microwave scoring. King is a strong defender who brings great energy and versatility to that end. Kizer is a gritty downhill creator, able to generate paint touches consistently.

Finally, their sophomore duo of Xavion Terrell and Ryder Randolph brings a lot of intrigue. Terrell is one of the most athletic and physically gifted players in his class, able to dominate when getting downhill and defend multiple positions. He’ll be relied upon as their main scoring option this year. Randolph should be able to crack the rotation and earn spot minutes this year, given his positional size and high motor. He makes winning plays consistently and is a prospect to monitor going forward.

The Storm have maybe the widest range of outcomes this season, relying on a handful of players to breakout in order to reach their fullest potential. This team should bring a new sense of toughness to the table, which is incredibly important in the GNRC. Given how balanced their roster is, it’s going to be very important for Coach Poteat to find a consistent rotation with the correct guys in order to find consistent success this year.

6) Cleveland

2022-23: 10-14 (5-9), 6th in GNRC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Kaden Morris – 12p, 10r, 1a, 1s, 2b – Transferred to Pro5 Baseball Academy
Noah McLamb – 3p, 3r, 2a – Graduated
Jackson Bradshaw – 3p, 2r – Graduated

Key Returners

Jabari Green – Jr – 13p, 3r, 2a, 1s
Trey Atkinson – So – 10p, 3r, 2a, 2s
Rodney Poston – Jr – 6p, 3r, 2a, 1s
James Harris – Jr – 7p, 2r, 1a
Talan Brown – Sr – 3p, 3r

Key Newcomers

Chris Tsolenyanu – So – JV

Deep Dive

Cleveland is in year two of their rebuild after making a deep playoff run in the 2021-22 season. They take a hit with NC State baseball commit Kaden Morris transferring to Pro5 Baseball Academy for his senior season as the 6’8” big man would’ve been the anchor of a fun and intriguing team. Without their established post presence, the guard-heavy roster will look to unproven young talent to fill out the frontcourt.

The Rams will be led by the guard trio of juniors Jabari Green and Rodney Poston and sophomore Trey Atkinson. Green is a dynamic combo guard who can score at all three levels. He’s their go-to guy and will need to take a step up in his usage and efficiency for Cleveland to exceed expectations. Poston is a solid glue guy, doing a bit of everything and filling in the gaps wherever necessary. Atkinson is a small and quick scoring guard. He can score at multiple levels but will need to take steps in his defense and efficiency in order to take the next step as a prospect.

Sophomore forward Chris Tsolenyanu got marginal minutes last year on varsity and will be looked upon to take a major step up in usage this season. He’s mobile, fluid, and active on both ends, showing some enticing flashes both last season and over the summer with Apex Spurs. He has good touch around the rim and can guard multiple positions. Look for him to be one of the more intriguing underclassmen in the conference this season.

The expectations for this group depend a lot on how their backcourt pieces can develop over the season. They’re still very young, with just 1-2 seniors projected to get serious minutes. Given their dynamic backcourt, this team should be fun to watch and have the potential to make things interesting in the middle of the conference. However, given the volatility of the bottom half of the conference, it’s possible for this group to drop a spot or two from this initial ranking.

7) Corinth Holders

2022-23: 5-20 (1-13), 8th in GNRC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Janiveon Guyton – 19p, 9r, 2a, 2s – Graduated – Playing at Iowa Western CC
Chase Seawell – 10p, 7r, 3a, 1s – Graduated – Playing at Catawba Valley CC
Dayvion Faison – 3p, 2r – Graduated
Zach Rankin – 3p, 1r – Transferred to Greenfield School

Key Returners

Tyler Sandaire – Sr – 11p, 3r, 1a, 1s
Max Carlson – Sr – 8p, 5r, 3a, 1s
Evan Smith – Sr – 6p, 4r
Rocco Mazzeo – Sr – 3p, 1r, 1a
Damarion Boone – Sr – 4p

Key Newcomers

Chris Hughes – Fr

Deep Dive

The Pirates have struggled since moving up to 4A for the 2017-18 season, winning just 4.7 games per year over the past six seasons. After winning five games last season, graduating their two best players, and losing their best young prospect to a transfer, the Pirates are entering a deep rebuild. The catalyst of the turnaround will be first-year coach Dee Frazier who has already inserted new life and optimism into the program. He brings a wealth of experience to the conference after spending a handful of years at the college level. He inherits a roster lined with gritty seniors and an intriguing freshman.

They’ll be led by the senior trio of Max Carlson, Tyler Sandaire, and Evan Smith. Carlson is a strong and physical combo guard who plays with toughness and craft. He’s a great passer and has an obviously high feel for the game. Look for him to be used a lot this year and carry a heavy offensive weight. Sandaire is a small, quick, and crafty scoring guard who will be a solid off-ball scorer next to Carlson and Smith. Smith is a physical, steady guard who can play 1-3 on both ends. Look for him to handle a good amount of the ball handling next to Carlson.

Freshman Chris Hughes is an intriguing prospect and a dark horse to make the triangle all-freshman team. At 6’3”, he has good positional size and can play multiple positions on both ends. Look for Coach Frazier to put him in a variety of spots, maximizing his versatility and well-rounded skillset.

In the first year of the Coach Frazier era, expect the Pirates to go through some growing pains while showing more life than they have in a long time. Their season will be evaluated based on their performance in close games, the development of their young talent, and the level at which the culture is shifted. This will be an interesting program to follow for the foreseeable future and it’ll be interesting to see what Coach Frazier does with it.

8) Fuquay-Varina

2022-23: 13-12 (9-5), 3rd in GNRC, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to Garner (63-77))

Key Losses

Jake Hart – 13p, 8r, 8a, 4s, 1b – Graduated – Playing at University of Lynchburg
Andrew Schneider – 15p, 10r, 2a, 1s – Graduated
Dylan Setzer – 16p, 2r, 2a, 1s, 62 3pm – Graduated
HL Smith – 6p, 5r, 1a, 1b – Graduated – Playing Baseball at UNC
Joseph Bullock – 5p, 2r, 2a – Graduated
Cooper Adams – 3p, 1r – Graduated

Key Returners

Drew Willis – Sr – 3p, 2r
Abdou Diop – So – 2p, 1r, 1a

Key Newcomers

Nate George – Jr – JV
Nate Matthew – Jr – JV

Deep Dive

The Bengals enter into a new era after coming off the best four-year stretch in school history which featured a Sweet 16 (2021) and two first-round (2022 & 2023) appearances. They had seven players graduate and play at the next level during that time, with the most recent one being reigning GNRC POY and DPOY, Jake Hart. With every major piece from those four years now gone, Fuquay-Varina starts a chapter of rebuilding, led by sophomore Abdou Diop and senior Drew Willis.

Diop is one of the most improved players in the triangle and is projected to make a significant leap in his sophomore season. He’s a rangy, athletic wing who will shoulder a lot of the scoring and creation load for the Bengals this year. He can score at multiple levels, flashing his finishing and pull-up game a bit last season and making significant strides as a shooter over the offseason. He’ll arguably make his biggest impact on the defensive end, able to guard multiple positions and playing with a great motor. Look for him to display a multitude of enticing flashes that bode well for future development. Willis is a strong, physical big man who will need to rebound and finish at a high level in order to find success this year. He’s at his best when running the floor and making multiple defensive efforts on every possession.

Around their two main returners, seniors Nicholas Clark, Dylan Finch, and Andres Diaz, and juniors Nathan George and Nathan Matthew should fill out the rest of the rotation. Nathan George and Nicholas Clark are the most intriguing of the bunch, with George acting as a solid, reliable combo guard and Clark as a knockdown shooter.

Coach Barrow likes to run a variety of zone defenses that have been known to trick up even the toughest of opponents (see at Garner in 2022-23 and vs Holly Springs in 2021-22). Look for him and his staff to mix it up a lot this year, attempting to keep teams off balance and steal possessions.

They have a roster built to sneak a few conference wins this year and it wouldn’t surprise us to see them finish as high as sixth. Given the huge talent loss and the new era of basketball, the Bengals will be judged on their performance in close games, the development of young talent, and the level of buy-in throughout the program.