High school basketball is back! After almost 50 private school games over the first ~11 days of the season, we’ve finally reached our first ‘Explained’ article of the season. It’s only right that I explain the philosophy behind the rankings. I weigh strength of schedule (SOS), results, and the eye test as the three main components, with the value of each fluctuating as the season progresses. I’ll explain how much importance each component holds each week as we get further and further along. For this week (and much of the early season), SOS and the eye test matter much more than a team’s results. Basically asking, “How good do you look against good teams?” Likewise, I am of the belief that sample size is the most important data point when assessing teams, prospects, etc., and therefore won’t punish or reward a team for one outlier result. Have a horrific shooting night and lose (this will be more relevant in the public school article next week), you won’t drop too far. Have 3, 4, or 5+ horrific shooting nights and lose, you will drop pretty far. Like last year, you can view the current rankings tweet at the link below, and at the link beneath that, you can view current and past rankings straight from the website which is a new feature added for this season.
*Given the few amount of games played this week, there will not be an article for Private Schools Week 2*
Game of the Week
Speaking of new features, I’m going to highlight a single game each week between two Wake Hoops teams that the general public ought to keep an eye on, as well as one from the previous week that taught us the most, was the most exciting, etc. (criteria will change from week to week as this gets started).
In week one, the game of the week was St. David’s at Durham Academy. An electric performance by PJ Jeffries (20p, 13r) and an unconscious shooting night from Quin Frasher (14p, 4/8 3p) spearheaded an incredibly balanced and unselfish DA attack. St. David’s, with their mostly new rotation, showed obvious signs of growing pains, coming out of the gate slow and desperately looking for consistent shot-making. They finished a rough 16/56 from the field and 2/19 from three, both of which are unluckily low and should return closer to the mean over time.
Week two’s games of the week is GRACE Christian vs Southeast Raleigh at the Enloe HoopsGiving by HoopState Network. The game, coming the day after Thanksgiving (Friday 11/24) features the current #1 ranked private school and #11 ranked public school in the triangle. There’s a great deal of prospects with ‘24 Quasim Oden, ‘24 Steven McLeod, and ‘26 Michael Phillips headlining the Eagles and ‘24 Josh Alford, ‘25 Ethan Reid, and ‘25 Christian Ananaba headlining the Bulldogs. Both teams match up pretty well athletically and physically, with GRACE playing a slower-paced style focused on sets and execution while SER plays with a high tempo predicated on pressure defense and fluid offense. Both are trending upwards in their respective classifications and this game should set the tone for both programs moving forward.
- GRACE Christian (3-3)
GRACE played the toughest opening week schedule of anyone in the triangle, with matchups against Greensboro Day, Asheville School, Calvary Day, and Victory Christian. They played two of those games without star senior Quasim Oden and managed to go 1-3 overall. Their win over Asheville School is the most impressive win of any triangle team so far and their ability to compete with GDS (ranked 15th in the state), Victory (ranked 4th in the state), and Calvary provided enough for them to keep their top ranking for the time being. Steven McLeod has been their anchor so far, leading the team in multiple stat categories and acting as the clear on-court leader. It’s only a matter of time before Michael Phillips gets going from three, shooting just 31% so far. With Oden returning to the lineup, expect Phillips to get much easier looks in areas that he’s comfortable. Noah Kyritsis and Dylan Couse have both stepped up more than anticipated to start the year, with Couse in specific playing a huge role in their win over Asheville School. In the preseason, there were whispers that this team could be a dark horse state title contender and their game against SE Raleigh this Friday will go a long way in determining how real those chances are.
Week 2: vs. SE Raleigh
- Trinity Academy (3-0)
The Tigers have started strong once again, starting 3-0 for the 5th time in six years. They moved from 3rd to 2nd, using quality wins over NRCA and Harrells Christian to propel them. Kamran Prince and Parker Bye both look exceptional in the early part of the season, with Prince operating well at either guard spot, carrying a heavy load and Bye making every winning play imaginable while being a feature piece within the offense. Both have been among the biggest stock risers in week one. When I attended TAR workouts in September, there was a clear and obvious emphasis placed on defensive principles, something that was a huge bright spot in week one. While they don’t have a ton of dominant individual defenders, it’s hard not to notice the high level of connectivity that they have as a unit. On the offensive end, they’ve made a point of featuring Bye as a shooter, running him off screens and getting him involved whenever they can. Support pieces DJ West and Cameron Bynum have both made real impacts in the backcourt and are good bets to increase their production within their current roles. They have a matchup with an athletic and physical Knightdale team this week, posing as a great test for this young roster.
Week 2: vs. Knightdale
- Cary Academy (3-1)
The Chargers had one of the better wins of anyone in week one, beating Southern Wake Academy without Champ Lando or Max Shearin. Outside of SWA, their only quality opponent has been Providence Day, who they lost to by 19. They’ve done a solid job of maximizing their size advantage, specifically in the SWA game, where they slowly began dominating the interior as the game progressed. The 1-2 punch of Wyatt DeGraaf and Aidan Rousseau has been and will continue to provide serious matchup problems for opponents. The backcourt of McCoy Williams and Preston Moore has done a great job of balancing scoring and playmaking, with either of the two able to take on either responsibility. They don’t play again until December where they have an absolute gauntlet waiting for them. Games against Covenant Day, Carmel Christian, Wesleyan Christian, Trinity Academy, and Charlotte Christian all within two weeks before the Christmas break. How they perform in that stretch will be a telling sign of where they belong in these rankings.
Week 2: None
- Durham Academy (3-2)
The Cavaliers had as successful of an opening week as they could’ve hoped for, picking up big wins over St. David’s and Charlotte Christian while competing with a very good Wesleyan Christian team. They’re the most balanced team in these rankings, with six players contributing meaningful production. After transferring in over the summer, point guard Josh Dorsette has had a solid start to the year. It’s something that should only improve as the team gets more and more acclimated together and his ability to produce as a lead guard is uber-important to their success this season. Quin Frasher has been unconscious from deep to start the year, shooting 17/34 through their first five games. JJ Wilcox, PJ Jeffries, Nathan Bullock, Amare Burrus, Frasher, and Dorsette have all provided meaningful contributions and can each be the go-to guy on any given night. They’ve dismantled multiple good teams with their balanced and unselfish play style and as they come across multiple high-profile matchups in December, we should get to know how good this team really is.
Week 2: None
- Ravenscroft (1-1)
The Ravens had a solid first week, taking a very good Greenfield team to the wire and dominating O’Neal. They’re largely a two man show, with Chance Gladden and Jackson Rein carrying a huge amount of the offensive load. The duo complements each other well, with Gladden acting as a score-first combo guard who shoots it at a high clip and Rein working as a stretch forward who also shoots it at a high clip. The two have been hyper efficient and have caused all sorts of mismatch problems for opponents so far. The missing piece for this team right now is consistent production behind and around their two stars. For them to compete with the best teams in the triangle and the state they’ll need at least a couple more pieces to take a significant step forward. A big reason they lost to Greenfield was Jackson Rein battling with foul trouble throughout the contest. They need to find a way for their offense to stay efficient with one or both of their main guys on the bench. On the bright side, as long as Gladden and Rein can continue their early production, they’re going to be one of the toughest teams to put away. Matchups with Voyager and Wake Christian this week put them in a very good spot to move up and possibly crack tier one.
Week 2: @ Voyager, @ Wake Christian
- North Raleigh Christian (2-2)
This is the best NRCA team in a while. They have two quality wins over South Wake Homeschool and Metrolina Christian and have only lost to good teams. Their freshmen backcourt is living up to the hype so far with Brennen Jefferson and Caiden Jenkins doing a lot of heavy lifting on the offensive end. They have a balanced supporting cast with Cody Dickerson headlining a seemingly deep rotation. Their lack of experience and size can prove to be a problem, especially against some of the tougher teams on their schedule. Regardless, there’s a lot to like with this team early on, specifically with their balance and competitiveness. They have a solid schedule leading up to the new year before they play an absolute gauntlet to finish out the year. Their matchup against Willow Spring this weekend will tell us a lot about their ability to grind games out and handle physicality.
Week 2: vs. Willow Spring
- St. David’s (2-3)
The Warriors played a brutal schedule in week one, leading to a 2-3 record with a quality win over TDACH and quality losses to Durham Academy, Cardinal Gibbons, and Wesleyan Christian. They struggled immensely to make shots in week one, with shooting splits of 39/20/51 through five games. Given the current slump, you have to expect them to find their stride sooner rather than later as it’s incredibly unlikely they’ll sustain this drought, given the talent they have on the roster. Outside of their shooting woes, there’s a lot to like with this roster. Freshman guard George Coleman has been good to start the year, flashing more and more self-creation ability each game. Preston Copeland has shown flashes of dominance, particularly on the glass and as a rim protector. Kazim Oladipo has done a great job of getting to his spots, showing off great wiggle and body control on his drives. Look for him to have a few prolific scoring outbursts this season as the shots start to fall. Cooper Berkoff was the team’s leading scorer last year and is still getting comfortable within a mostly new offense this year. He’s a prolific shooter and, like the rest of the team, is due for a hot streak. They don’t have a game until after Thanksgiving which should give them time for 1) AK Proctor to return from injury and hopefully rejoin the lineup and 2) for the team to reset and work out their kinks before a good stretch of mostly winnable games.
Week 2: None
- Cary Christian (2-0)
Cary Christian ran through week one with two convincing wins against both Thales schools, winning by a combined 59 points. Andrew Neal and David Wisniewski were simply unstoppable, combining for 50p, 18r, 6.5a, & 6.5s per game. The two play incredibly well together, with Neal creating plays any way he wants and Wisniewski doing a great job of anchoring the post. Neal’s ability to create shots for himself and his teammates is going to raise this team’s ceiling and will allow them to make some noise in conference play. Despite being a bit undersized, Wisniewski does an incredible job of not wasting touches or dribbles in the post, getting a majority of his work done within the flow of the offense. The Knights will need a third player to step up and shoulder part of the duo’s weight, especially as they get into conference play. Looking forward, they play Chatham Homeschool and South Wake Homeschool this week. Chatham will provide an interesting matchup with their balance and South Wake has one of the top homeschool players in the state in Ira Wilson. Both games will be telling of the Knights’ ceiling.
Week 2: @ Chatham Homeschool, vs. South Wake Homeschool
- Wake Christian (3-1)
There’s a lot to be intrigued about with this Wake Christian team as they’ve started the year strong and haven’t found their shooting consistency yet. They’re averaging 59 PPG and are only shooting 29% from three. Their offense being good without a high volume of threes is intriguing because guys like Beckett Coon, Berkley Coon, and Brady Williams are all prolific shooters who rely mainly on outside scoring to make up most of their production. If they can sustain their current ability to score inside the arc and around the basket (especially Beckett Coon, converting 67% of his twos so far) then there’s no reason they can’t be one of the more dangerous offenses around once their shots start to fall. They picked up good wins against Thales Apex and Cape Fear Christian and will face their biggest test by far this week as (#5) Ravenscroft visits. A strong performance against the Ravens will see this team move up the rankings next week.
Week 2: vs. Ravenscroft
- Trinity of Durham & Chapel Hill (1-2)
The Lions beat NCSSM and then lost to St. David’s and Caldwell Academy. Beating St. David’s would’ve seen them rise on this list and their ability to take them the distance is impressive. The main reason they kept their 10th ranking is based on what senior Kyren Smith has done so far. He was one of the most productive players in the triangle last year and is averaging 24p, 8r, & 4a per game through the first week of the season. He’s struggled shooting the ball so far, going just 2/19 from beyond the arc; a split you have to expect to improve as the law of averages kicks in. TDACH will only go as far as Smith can take them. The production is there and it’s only a matter of time before the efficiency follows. They don’t play again until after Thanksgiving when they have two winnable games before a very important matchup with Durham Academy on 12/8 that will tell us a lot about this Lion team.
Week 2: None
Outside Teams to Monitor
Thales Apex (2-4)
Thales Apex is the first team out right now, dropping from 9th to 11th after a 2-4 start to the year. They’re still looking for their first signature win of the season and could get it this week in the form of the GFS Thanksgiving Tournament in Green Sea, SC. They have a solid roster with a lot of productive pieces and will be even more dangerous as Justin Brown continues to work his way back from a preseason injury. They’ve scheduled relatively hard over the month of December and there’s a lot of intrigue with this group, especially if things start to click the right way.
Week 2: @ South Columbus, @ TBA
Friendship Christian (3-0)
Friendship Christian has been one of the surprise teams of week one, sitting at 3-0 and not being projected to lose until they play St. David’s on 12/5. It’s unclear how real this team actually is given their weak SOS but they’re currently tied with Trinity Academy for the largest win streak in the triangle so they’re definitely worth monitoring over the coming weeks.
Week 2: vs. Bradford Academy