The NAC is loaded with talent this season, coming back around after a down year in the 2022-23 campaign. Four teams have a decent shot at the conference title, with Millbrook, Heritage, Knightdale, and Wakefield all holding real optimism going into the year. This a veteran conference, with 14 of the 20 all-conference selections being seniors. With just one underclassman being named all-conference, look for the next couple of years to be a race between the six teams to see who can develop their young talent the best.

Preseason Poll

Preseason All-Conference Teams

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Colt Langdon | Millbrook | 6'8' | Jr.

Langdon was the obvious choice for POY after winning the award last season and having yet another productive offseason. He's already eclipsed the 1,000-point mark and is in line to be one of the most decorated public school players in recent memory. He's shown improvements in his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact, adding more explosiveness and toughness to his already polished scoring arsenal. He recently passed the 20-offer milestone and will have schools from around the country visiting Millbrook this season.

HM: Levi Beckwith | Heritage | 6'6' | Jr.

Defensive Player of the Year: Khaim Taylor | Knightdale | 6'1' | Sr.

Taylor made the NAC All-Defensive Team last season as a junior, mostly thanks to his absurd 1.6s and 1.5b per game. He's incredibly active on defense, whether he's guarding the ball, rotating on the weak side, or getting back in transition. He always knows where the ball is and is exceptional at anticipating plays. He's strong with great length and an intensity that puts a lot of pressure on opposing matchups. Look for him to spearhead a dangerous and aggressive Knightdale defense.

HM: Kyrie Heredia | Millbrook | 6'5' | Sr.

Newcomer of the Year: Alex Olander | Millbrook | 6'4' | Sr.

Olander comes over from Ravenscroft and will immediately impact winning at Millbrook. The primary reason for the move was football-related, as Olander is getting recruited by D1 schools as a DE and OLB. Regardless, his ability to defend, rebound, and score inside will do wonders for a Wildcat team in desperate need of a mobile forward to pair with Colt Langdon. He plays with a high motor and will make a lot of the small winning plays needed to be a successful team.

HM: Josh Conti | Millbrook | 6'6' | Fr.

Freshman of the Year: Josh Conti | Millbrook | 6'6' | Fr.

Conti is an intriguing prospect in an intriguing situation. He has real size and strength, already looking the part of an upperclassman despite his age. He has solid mobility, good touch around the rim, and an understanding of how to fit into his role. He'll slot into the Millbrook rotation early and should play key minutes for them, filling the backup big-man role well.

HM: Palmer Chase | Wake Forest | 6'4' | Fr.

Coach of the Year: Gibson Pyper | Heritage | 1st Season

Coach Pyper brings a lot of intrigue to the Heritage program. He inherits a roster full of interesting pieces, despite the team going 4-20 last season. He'll run a conceptual offense that has the potential to be one of the most prolific in the triangle. Look for his team to play fast, shoot a lot of threes, and be very fun to watch, both this season and for the foreseeable future.

HM: Antonio Watson | Knightdale | 1st Season

1) Millbrook

2022-23: 21-8 (9-1), 1st in NAC, 3rd Round of Playoffs (L to Jordan 80-85)

Key Losses

Jayan Walker – 17p, 7r, 1a, 2s, 37 3pm – Transferred to Combine Academy
Gabe Cerda – 13p, 5r, 6a, 3s – Graduated – Playing at Lenoir-Rhyne
Nikolas Brown – 1p, 1r – Transferred to Crossroads Christian

Key Returners

Colt Langdon – Jr – 21p, 5r, 1a, 1s, 1b, 68 3pm, 1,020 Career Points
Brandon Callahan – Sr – 10p, 2r, 1a, 1s
Kyrie Heredia – Sr – 7p, 6r, 1s, 1b
Blake Bartney – Sr – 6p, 2r, 1a, 1s
Jacob Lawton – Sr – 5p, 2r, 3a, 2s

Key Newcomers

Alex Olander – Sr – Transfer from Ravenscroft
Josh Conti – Fr
Joshua Bowen – Jr – JV
Marcel Gray – So – JV
Alonzo Hester – Jr – JV
Mitchell Watson – Jr – JV
Blake Walker – So – Freshman Team

Deep Dive

Millbrook is looking to replace two members of last season's big three, Jayan Walker and Gabe Cerda. It's lined up for senior Jacob Lawton to take up the lead guard duties. He played both on and off the ball last season, being a nice complement to Cerda in the backcourt. This year, Millbrook will rely on him to run the show with his quickness, toughness, and playmaking. He's going to be one of the scrappier defenders in the conference and how well he does handling the pressure that other teams will attempt to throw at him will go a long way in determining this team's ceiling. The scoring role left vacant by Jayan Walker's transfer will most likely be filled by senior Brandon Callahan. He's a lethal shooter who can get to his spots efficiently, score at all three levels, and handle the ball when necessary. Due to academic trouble last season and COVID-19 the year before, Callahan has not played a full season of high school basketball since his freshman year. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the heightened role against a tough early-season schedule.

You cannot talk about Millbrook without talking about Colt Langdon. The 6'8' junior has had a terrific summer and has shown noticeable improvements in multiple areas of his game (see Player of the Year above). His scoring output will be relied upon even more this season as he'll have to be one of the most prolific and efficient scorers in the state to see the Wildcats get to where they want to go. With growth made to his athleticism and finishing ability (and even more added to his deep shot creation bag), look for him to take another step forward as a scorer. Outside of his scoring, his defensive effort and ability to rebound have always been underrated parts of his game and should come closer to the forefront this season as he'll be asked to do more in those areas of the game.

Around their star, there will be numerous seniors that play a major factor in their success. Other than the aforementioned Lawton and Callahan, guys like Kyrie Heredia, Alex Olander, Blake Bartney, and Jaden Whitaker are all going to be important pieces. Heredia is an intriguing prospect who can play virtually anywhere they need him to. He's fluid and skilled enough to play on the wing while also being strong and athletic enough to play in the post. His versatility is of huge value to what this program wants to do. Olander (see Newcomer of the Year above) should fit right into what Millbrook does, able to play the role of high motor forward in a fast and aggressive system. He finishes around the rim, sets good screens, and knows his role. Bartney is a point guard who had a huge summer before breaking his foot this fall. The injury is reportedly going to keep him out until around the first few games of the year. He's going to be incredibly important once he's returned given his athletic pop, shooting ability, and reliability at either guard spot. Whitaker will be a solid rotation piece, able to knock down shots and defend his position.

They'll be looking to mostly unproven players to round out their rotation. Freshman Josh Conti (see Freshman of the Year above), JV stars Josh Bowen, Alonzo Hester, Mitchell Watson, and Marcel Gray, along with sophomore Blake Walker, will all be in the mix for the last 1-2 spots of the rotation.

The expectations for this season are what they always are for Millbrook, a conference title and a deep playoff run. They have the talent, depth, and experience to make it happen. The NAC is tougher this year which will make it both harder to win the conference and easier to make a deep playoff run. Teams that go on deep runs are constantly tested throughout the season in both non-con and conference games. Millbrook will play arguably the toughest non-con this season and with a conference that's this top-heavy, they'll be more than battle-tested come playoff time.

2) Heritage

2022-23: 4-20 (3-7), 6th in NAC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Nick Gilmore – Graduated
Cole Quinlan – Graduated

Key Returners

Jared Bush – Sr
Levi Beckwith – Jr
Jon Mwanda – Jr
KJ Cox – Sr
Tylan Dean – Sr
Cameron Jones – So
Emmett Broda – Sr

Key Newcomers

Ryder Strand – So – JV

Deep Dive

Coach Gibson Pyper is back in the Heritage program, this time as the Head Coach, and there's a clear culture shift in progress right now (see Coach of the Year above). There's going to be a real difference in their energy and connectivity this season, something that their fast, unselfish offensive system should feed off of.

You can't talk about this team without talking about preseason 1st Team All-Conference selection, Levi Beckwith. The junior forward has a great combination of size, IQ, and skill. He shoots the ball at a high level, defends and rebounds with a great motor, and can even initiate offense when needed. It will be interesting to see how Coach Pyper leverages his unique ability to pass, shoot, and screen within the offense. Defensively, Beckwith should provide a solid level of rim protection, switchability, and rebounding. His frontcourt mate, senior KJ Cox, has all the makings of a breakout season. He's a strong-bodied wing/forward hybrid who does a bit of everything. His main calling card is his outside shooting, something that will be vital within their new offense. But outside of that, he can attack closeouts, rebound, score off cuts and dump offs, and defend multiple positions. He has a solid feel for the game which should pair quite nicely next to Beckwith.

Their backcourt will consist of Jared Bush, Jon Mwanda, and Cameron Jones, all of whom bring something slightly different to the table. Bush will be their primary ball handler, tasked with pushing the break and making quality decisions out of paint touches. He's a solid finisher around the rim, a capable shot-maker, and a very underrated on-ball defender. Look for him to be one of the more reliable point guards in the area this season. Mwanda is a shifty, dynamic, and lanky off-guard who thrives when getting downhill. He has a deep bag of moves and footworks that he can get to when driving and he has no problem getting where he wants to go. He has great body control on his finishes and has shown that he's a quality outside threat as well. Look for him to be one of (if not the) main scoring options for this team. Jones has maybe the most intrigue of any of the guards, winning NAC Freshman of the Year last season and being the lone sophomore named to a preseason all-conference team this year. He's a strong finisher around the rim and is right on the verge of another jump in his athleticism. He's not an elite outside shooter yet but his touch around the rim and his quality pull-up jumper inspires more than enough confidence in future shooting development. Look for him to be the x-factor of this starting lineup.

Behind these five, seniors Tylan Dean and Emmett Broda and sophomore Ryder Strand will provide the rotational depth. Dean is a wiry, athletic wing that runs the floor well and wins a lot of 50/50 balls. He has the skill set to be a key cog in virtually any defensive scheme. Broda is a solid, reliable guard who doesn't turn it over and shoots it at a high clip. Strand has the most upside of the three, being one of the few varsity sophomores in the whole conference. He's gained a couple of inches on his height since last season while continuing to take steps as an athlete and as a scorer. Despite being just 6'3', he's a really good rim protector. His length, anticipation, and verticality really stand out on the defensive end. He's yet another versatile defender and shooter for Coach Pyper to work with.

The expectations for this team are pretty wide open, given their tough season last year and the volatility of the conference. They're trending in the right direction so far, with most all of their players taking notable jumps in development this offseason and the new culture setting in relatively fast. There's a chance (albeit, slim) chance that they outright win the conference and there's also a chance (slightly less slim) that they finish in the bottom half. We like the odds of them clicking by the time conference play comes around and edging out Knightdale and Wakefield for the second auto-bid. Also, depending on how well they can sustain elite shooting, they'll be a very dangerous team to play come playoff time.

3) Knightdale

2022-23: 10-15 (4-6), 4th in NAC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Cameron Green – 5p, 2r, 2a, 2s – Graduated
Auguste Badiabo – 5p, 2r, 1a, 1s – Graduated
Tylin Davis – 3p, 4r, 1s – Graduated
Adam Johnson – 3p, 4r – Graduated

Key Returners

Khaim Taylor – Sr – 11p, 4r, 2a, 2s, 2b
Khalel Sanders – Sr – 8p, 7r, 1a, 1s, 1b
Jason Dickerson – Sr – 8p, 2r, 1a, 1s
Ilye Paul – Sr – 6p, 4r, 1a, 1s, 1b
Christian Sutton – Sr – 3p, 3r
Jadon Williams – Sr – 3p, 2r, 2a, 1s
Christopher Hart – Sr – 2p, 1r, 1s
Hakime Deme – Sr – 1p, 1r

Key Newcomers

Isaiah Green – Jr – JV
Sam Thomas – Jr – JV
Jamari Williams – Jr – JV
Brandon Adams – Jr – JV
Zarion Williams – Jr – JV

Deep Dive

Knightdale will be one of the more interesting teams to follow this season for a variety of reasons. For starters, Coach Watson enters his first season as the Head Coach after turning Knightdale's JV program into one of the more dominant teams in the area over the last few seasons. He inherits a roster that he helped develop, with the last two JV teams going a combined 34-7. They have one of the most athletic rosters in the triangle and should be able to use it to their advantage on both ends. Look for this team to press a lot, dominate in transition, and capitalize on opponents who cannot handle tough, physical pressure.

This will be one of, if not the, oldest teams in the conference (and the triangle), with a deep group of seniors and a few important juniors. They'll be led by the senior quartet of Khaim Taylor, Khalel Sanders, Jason Dickerson, and Ibu Adewumi. Taylor is a dominant defender (see Defensive Player of the Year above) and a versatile offensive threat. He's at his best when getting to the rim where he's able to finish in a variety of ways. He's a good rebounder for his position, is lethal in transition, and has shown that he can be a capable spot-up threat. He'll be the clear leader of this group. Sanders is a vocal, versatile, and energetic forward who plays with great toughness and a high motor. Look for him to be one of the better defenders in the conference while making a lot of gritty plays that impact winning on both ends. Dickerson is an athletic wing who can defend at a high level and knock down shots. Look for him to be a key cog in their defensive plans as well as a microwave scorer. Adewumi is a wing/forward hybrid who can create for himself as well as anyone on the roster. Look for him to have a breakout season and show improvement in every facet of the game.

Behind their deep senior leaders, multiple key pieces are coming up from their 19-2 JV team, specifically Isaiah Green, Brandon Adams, Jamari Williams, Zarion Williams, and Sam Thomas. The headliner here is Green, who had averages of 19p, 5r, 2a, 4s, 1b and shot 59% from the field and 50% from three on JV last season. He's a talented shot-maker with great quickness, using his length and athleticism to create looks against bigger defenders. He's a talented defender, able to anticipate plays off the ball at a high level. Look for him to be one of the biggest 'surprises' in the triangle this season. Brandon Adams and Zarion Williams will make up the majority of the Knights' frontcourt depth, with both having intriguing upside at the position. They're both talented rebounders and shot blockers while showing flashes of finishing touch around the rim. Jamari Williams and Sam Thomas will provide great depth in the backcourt. Both of them are tough, quick, and hard-nosed point guards who limit turnovers and generate paint touches efficiently.

Rounding out their depth, seniors Christian Sutton, Ilye Paul, Jadon Williams, Hakime Deme, and Christopher Hart will all be valuable options off the bench, with a couple of them having the potential to start. The main two are Sutton and Paul, with Sutton being (yet another) athletic wing who defends multiple positions and Paul being more of a microwave scorer with good positional size.

The expectations for this group mirror those of Heritage and Wakefield. Challenge Millbrook for the conference title, be right in the mix for the second auto-bid and be a very difficult team to put away in the playoffs. This group has the system, experience, and athleticism to make that happen. While exceeding expectations in year one is possible, it's not until 2-3 years in that new coaches truly find their footing and we find out what the program is made of. The good news for Knightdale and Coach Watson is that they have a plethora of promising underclassmen who should continue their run of dominance of the JV scene before building on the success and culture that this roster creates.

4) Wakefield

2022-23: 15-11 (6-4), 3rd in NAC, 1st Round of Playoffs (L to Laney 64-66)

Key Losses

Cameron Spencer – 13p, 3r, 62 3pm – Graduated – Playing at Chowan
Khi Benjiman – 12p, 4r, 2a – Graduated – Running Track at Tennessee
Jalen Yancey – 10p, 7r, 4a, 2s – Graduated – Playing at Flight 22 Prep
Dominic Haney – 7p, 5r, 1a, 1s, 1b – Graduated – Playing Football at '''
Hayden Doebler – 3p, 2r – Graduated
Gavin Porter – 3p, 2r – Graduated
Cameron Bynum – 13p, 3r, 3a, 2s (JV) – Transferred to Trinity Academy

Key Returners

Syncere Burnette – Sr – 7p, 3r, 4a, 1s
Caleb Hardy – Sr – 5p, 1r, 2a, 34 3pm
Jason Howard – Sr – 4p, 1r, 1a
Tristian Pretlow – Sr – 4p, 1r, 1a
Taj Boone-Chambers – Sr – 3p, 1r
Kaden Tezyk – Sr – 2p, 1r, 1a
Chris Harris – Sr – 2p, 1r

Key Newcomers

Colin Taylor – Jr – JV
Drew Bir – Jr – JV
Bishop Dudley – Jr – JV
Dillon Taylor – Jr – JV

Deep Dive

Wakefield is probably the most senior-reliant team in the triangle, with eight members of their rotation graduating this year. Similar to Knightdale, they have zero underclassmen on varsity and only a few juniors that will compete for minutes. They'll be led by guard Syncere Burnette who's coming off a productive summer and is looking primed for a huge step forward. He's a gifted playmaker, able to manipulate defenses with his passing ability at an elite level. He creates advantages for himself and his teammates like very few players can. He'll have the reigns to the offense this year and if a few things can fall the right way, he'll be a big reason why this offense is one of the most prolific around.

Around Burnette, seniors Chris Harris, Caleb Hardy, Kaden Tezyk, Chris Harris, Trisitan Pretlow, Taj Boone-Chambers, and Hampton Ferrell are all expected to contribute in meaningful ways. Harris will be the main option behind Burnette and is one of the most improved players in the triangle. He has a very well-rounded skillset with no real identifiable weakness. He defends at a high level, doesn't force much, and will be a consistently reliable option for this team. Hardy, Tezyk, Harris, and Farrell are all lethal shooting threats who will provide a lot of instant offense with their ability to shoot, move without the ball, and make the extra pass. Hardy and Tezyk have more shot making ability to them while Harris is a great option at point guard. Given how well each of them can shoot, it's going to be difficult for teams to catch all of them on an off night. Expect them to be relatively balanced as far as shot attempts and scoring goes, as the shots will go to whoever is hot that night. Pretlow and Boone-Chambers are the x-factors for this group, given their rangy athleticism and two-way impact. Despite their lack of size (Pretlow being around 5'11' and Boone-Chambers being around 6'), both have real vertical pop and a twitchiness to their game that allows them to create a healthy amount of rim attempts and paint touches. Both will be tasked with versatile defensive assignments as well. Look for them to determine this team's ceiling as their ability to defend multiple positions, score in transition, and make winning plays will be heavily relied upon.

Juniors Dylan Goodknecht and Colin Taylor will be the two holding down the interior. They're both adequate defenders who can make shots and rebound it well. Their ability to defend and anchor the team while their guards handle the majority of offensive production will be essential to their success.

The expectations for this team are wide open. If the shooting can be sustained and they're able to contain bigger and more athletic teams defensively, they can compete for a top two spot in the conference. Regardless of how consistent the scoring and defense is, this is still a playoff team at minimum and should be looked at as a dark horse team to make a playoff run, given the aforementioned shooting potential.

5) Rolesville

2022-23: 7-19 (3-7), 5th in NAC, Missed Playoffs

Key Losses

Isaac Tatum – 12p, 4r, 3a, 1s – Transferred to Fayetteville Academy
Jordan Saddler – 10p, 7r – Graduated
Kazim Oladipo – 5p, 4r – Transferred to St. David's
Ibukun Adewumi – 4p, 5r – Transferred to Knightdale
Bryan Epperson – 1p, 1r – Transferred to Southern Wake Academy
Jeremiah Bates – 1p, 1a – Transferred to Millbrook

Key Returners

Michael Downing – Sr – 13p, 3r, 1a
Braylon Cheltenham – Sr – 3p, 2r
Chadwick Wright – Sr – 2p, 2r
Stephen Radway – Sr – 2p, 2r

Key Newcomers

Life Lynch – So – JV
David Brown – So – JV
AJ Roberts – Fr
Marquis Bryant – Fr

Deep Dive

Rolesville lost more than maybe anyone in the triangle during the off-season, with five different impact players transferring out. While the mass exodus is obviously a huge blow to the program, it clears out room for young, exciting pieces to get an early opportunity on the varsity stage. Outside of a few tough games, Rolesville has a non-conference schedule that can provide some extra wins, something that wasn't the case last season. They played just two non-playoff teams in the non-con last year and winning both games. With a lighter schedule early on, there's a world where this team surpasses last year's win total, despite the heavy losses.

They'll be led by a relatively small senior core, headlined by Michael Downing. Downing is a tough, physical point guard who can create his own shot, get to the rim, and create for others at a high level. He's the emotional and vocal leader of this team and will need to prove that he can be efficient on high volume in order for this team to reach their ceiling. Look for defenses to gear-up towards him, forcing either him to make tough plays or his teammates to create for themselves. Around him, the duo of Braylon Cheltenham and Chadwick Wright have shown positive flashes with both enjoying productive summers. Each of them are quality shooters and have shown that they can create for themselves when needed. The thing to watch with both of them this season is how well they can handle the heightened shot creation responsibilities.

Around their senior trio they'll have a handful of intriguing young pieces who will be placed in bigger roles. Guys like freshmen AJ Roberts and Marquis Bryant and sophomores Life Lynch and David Brown headline the young core. Roberts is the most intriguing of the bunch, displaying a lot of potential given his positional size, athleticism, and ability to score at multiple levels. He's physical on both ends of the court, is a capable outside shooter, and is difficult to defend when he gets going downhill. While it's still early, he's trending as one of the top 2027s in the triangle and is in a prime position to make real noise this season.

Entering a rebuilding year, there are no expectations for this program as the main indicator of forward progress will be their ability to win close games and the development of their young talent. Given the expected production of Downing and the variability of their young talent, this team is more than capable of stealing a couple games and surpassing last season's win total.

6) Wake Forest

2022-23: 18-11 (5-5), 2nd in NAC, 2nd Round of Playoffs (L to New Hanover (43-63))

Key Losses

Jaevian Alston – 16p, 7r, 2a, 1s, 2b – Transferred to Word of God
Dashaun Grant – 13p, 5r, 4a, 2s – Graduated – Playing Football at Elizabeth City State
AJ Smalls – 12p, 2r, 2a, 1s, 45 3pm – Graduated – Playing at Notre Dame of Maryland
Nigel Smalls – 10p, 4r, 4a, 2s – Graduated – Playing Football at Gardner-Webb
Sam Frye – 7p, 4r, 1a, 1s, 44 3pm – Graduated

Key Returners

Kavon Simmons – Jr – 5p, 2r, 1a
Franklin Baret Jr – Sr – 3p, 2r
Braeden Markel – Sr – 2p, 1r

Key Newcomers

Jayce McDonald – Jr – JV
Juel Tillery – Fr
Palmer Chase – Fr
Scotty Jones – Fr
Caleb Lashley – Fr

Deep Dive

With Wake Forest returning just three rotation pieces, a couple impact players from their JV team, and a handful of intriguing freshmen, they'll be one of the more interesting teams to follow along with, regardless of their success level. They'll rely heavily on upperclassmen Kavon Simmons, Franklin Baret, Braeden Markel, Jayce McDonald for consistent production and leadership. Simmons is the most dynamic of the bunch, proving himself as a shot maker and defender last season. He can create his own looks with relative ease and looked comfortable playing alongside the talented senior backcourt they had last year. How he handles the added responsibilities and usage will be crucial to this team's success. Baret is an elite athlete and will be used as a versatile defender and scoring threat in transition. Markel is a solid, reliable guard/wing who can make shots and limits mistakes. McDonald played JV last season and will be the main frontcourt option for this group. He has a solid frame and understands his role. Look for him to be a quiet but reliable post threat.

The freshman class for this program is truly remarkable with multiple guys projected to start in game one. Palmer Chase and Juel Tillery headline the class. Chase is a 6'4' wing/forward who enjoyed a successful summer with Team Curry. He has a great cross between production and potential and should be looked at as the catalyst for the rebuild. Tillery is a dynamic combo guard who can score, create, and defend at a high level. He'll be tasked with running the offense and guarding some of the older, talented guards in the conference. Other names such as Scotty Jones and Caleb Lashley will have impactful roles as well.

In Coach Ackles' first season as the Head Coach in 2019-20, Wake Forest went 5-20 and had three freshmen playing heavy minutes. Now, that class of freshman is recently graduated, winning 18 games each of the past two years and winning a playoff game in both seasons. Coincidentally, the cycle appears to be repeating itself, with the Cougars losing their entire starting lineup from last season and now bringing in one of the top freshmen classes in the triangle. Similar to Coach Ackles' first season, this group is in a heavy rebuild and should show plenty of exciting flashes, indicating their future success.