After two months of watching travel ball and tracking Wake County players through their offseason recruitment and development, we thought it would be a good time to look ahead about six months and give our first insight into the 2023-24 high school season. Obviously, a lot can change from spring workouts to the first official practice. Injuries, transfers (in and out), and coaching changes are just a few of the off-court situations that can drastically alter the course of a team’s winter season. Even things that usually foreshadow a lot about the upcoming season, such as the June jamborees and scrimmages, have still yet to happen and there’s just no telling which soon-to-be middle school graduates will have an immediate impact at the varsity level. Personally, it feels too soon to deliver rankings with any real merit, so we split the 26 schools into five different tiers that generally describe each team’s situation going into next season.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the teams with unproven supporting casts and teams with new-look rotations.

Unproven Supporting Casts

Every team in this tier comes from a successful season, ranging from deep playoff runs to appearances. They each have at least one proven star and their season will be defined by how they can fill in the gaps around them. Former varsity reserves and JV stars will be relied upon to play expanded roles, and the better those guys are at their job then the better these teams will be.

Cardinal Gibbons

2022-23: 13-15 (7-3), CAP-6 Regular Season Champs & Tournament Runners-Up, Lost in 2nd Round of Playoffs to Broughton (58-56)

Why They’re In This Tier: The reigning CAP-6 champs return the elite duo of ‘26 Aiden Smalls & ‘25 Cash McSweeney, both of whom were members of our CAP-6 1st Team All-Conference. They lose a lot of depth and experience to graduation but the good news for the Crusaders is that they have a lot of options to fill those roles. 2024s Turner, Yardley, Wayand, and 2025 Phillips are some of the older names that should do a solid job of filling in the gaps. Younger guys like 2026s Will Migdal, Brycen DuBose, and 2027 Griffin Cockerham are all higher potential bets to really impact the outcome of this season.

Potential Breakout Players: Ronny Turner (2024), Chet Yardley (2024), Will Migdal (2026), Brycen DuBose (2026), Griffin Cockerham (2027)

Holly Springs

2022-23: 26-6 (13-1), SWAC Regular Season & Tournament Champs, Lost in East Regional Final to Richmond (69-61)

Why They’re In This Tier: Holly Springs only returns two starters (Ryan Crotty & Will James), both of whom happen to be one of the top players in their class. Jake Cackovic should see an increased role as the third starter but outside of that their entire rotation will be untested new pieces. Their bench won’t be the deepest, but 2024 guards Marcus Vanvield and Campbell Harrington should provide valuable and reliable minutes in the backcourt. Also, look for 2026 Josiah Currie as one to take a jump and possibly contribute on the varsity level.

Potential Breakout Players: Will James (2025), Marcus Vanvield (2024), Jake Cackovic (2025), Campbell Harrington (2024), Josiah Currie (2026)

Panther Creek

2022-23: 20-8 (10-4), Finished 3rd in SWAC, Lost in Conference Semifinals, Lost in Third Round of Playoffs to Holly Springs (83-64)

Why They’re In This Tier: The Catamounts return star guard Chris Uwayo and will need every other rotational piece to step into a larger role. Losing guys like Surgers, Richardson, Tator, & Becton will hurt, but they’ve got a lot of options lined up to replace them. The continued development of their bigs, Ware & Ehlinger, will be important in replacing their now-graduated rim presence. Look for Cam Hunter to step into a more voluminous version of Becton’s role from last year, while guys like Ja’tez Ward will help carry the ball-handling load. The breakout of 2026 Zy’vaun Puckett is fast approaching, and he’ll be a vital piece of this program for the next three years.

Potential Breakout Players: Logan Ware (2024), Greg Ehlinger (2024), Cam Hunter (2024), Zy’vaun Puckett (2026)


2022-23: 19-8 (6-4), CAP-6 Regular Season Runners-Up, Lost in Conference Semifinals, Lost in 2nd Round of Playoffs to Richmond (74-64)

Why They’re In This Tier: The Spartans have a very solid big three of Nathan Fife, Gordie Balas, and Patrick Dalton, but will need at least 3-4 unknown pieces to step up if they want to replicate last season’s success. Their JV was 0-22 last year, and while 1-2 of those guys could make an impact immediately, it’s more likely that current varsity guys make that jump first. Their lack of viable depth options is a concern but if they can find just two pieces to succeed around their big three then they’ll be alright. Look for Fife to ascend further into Wake Hoops POY contention, while Balas and Dalton push for all-conference nods (in Balas’ case all-defensive awards are viable as well).

Potential Breakout Players: Gordie Balas (2025), Benjamin Ellison (2025)

Leesville Road

2022-23: 14-10 (4-6), Finished 4th in CAP-6, Lost in Conference Semifinals, Lost in 1st Round of Playoffs to Hoggard (63-58/OT)

Why They’re In This Tier: Leesville will have to replace their entire rotation outside of Hayes Oxendine, Cole Lanford, and Arnav Shah. While there are a few good options for those spots, the biggest storyline is going to be how Hayes Oxendine handles being the guy. Prior knowledge will tell us that he’s going to be just fine being the primary creator, but how well he handles it will dictate not only his personal success but also his team’s. JV standouts Kaden Drumgo and Kierre Baker look to fill in valuable gaps while the spring emergence of Arnav Shah has been very encouraging.

Potential Breakout Players: Arnav Shah (2024), Kaden Drumgo (2025), Kierre Baker (2025)


2022-23: 15-10 (4-6), Finished 6th in CAP-6, Lost in 1st Round of Conference Tournament, Lost in 1st Round of Playoffs to Hillside (46-36)

Why They’re In This Tier: Enloe returns the trio of Gift Moses (reigning CAP-6 DPOY), Owen Pedersen, & Juice Coleman. Outside of that, they’ll be looking for new pieces to help make up the production and leadership void left by the departure of Montague & Adebimpe. Moses should return as a favorite for the conference DPOY while Pedersen & Coleman are contenders for Breakout POY. 2025s Simba Debman and Malone Bridgers are good options to fill in the lineup outside the big three.

Potential Breakout Players: Simba Debnam (2025), Malone Bridgers (2025), Juice Coleman (2026)


2022-23: 5-19 (3-11), Lost in 1st Round of Conference Tournament, Missed Playoffs

Why They’re In This Tier: The Cougars face the tall task of replacing do-it-all big man Sam Martin, along with a large majority of their bench rotation. The good news, however, is that Kody Frey is back healthy, and Zaelyn White is only going to continue improving. Outside of their star 2025 duo, Apex has a lot to replace and not a lot of options to turn to. If all goes well, Adley Calhoun could be in contention for Breakout POY as the third option for this team. New names will have to emerge for this team to reach new heights.

Potential Breakout Players: Adley Calhoun (2024), Kody Frey (2025)

New Look Rotations

This tier is full of programs that lost a lot of production to both graduation and transfers. Each roster has one or fewer proven stars and will have to rely on unproven pieces to produce and play a bulk of the minutes.

Apex Friendship

2022-23: 12-13 (5-9), Finished 6th in SWAC, Lost in 1st Round of Conference Tournament, Missed Playoffs

Why They’re In This Tier: The Patriots come into this year having to replace their big three of Weschler, Toster, & Diop. They have one of the deepest backcourts in the county with guys like Lanier, Green, Gladiuex, Major, & Mattachione. How Coach Lowman goes about ironing out the guard rotation will go a long way in determining the floor of this program. How their bigs, specifically Chuks Ezeonu & Tristan Kent, develop over the off-season is something that will determine the ceiling of this team. If those two can provide a valuable interior presence on both ends of the floor, then this team is going to be better than people think.

Potential Breakout Players: Chuks Ezeonu (2024), Kendall Lanier (2025), AJ Gladieux (2025), Jadon Green (2026)


2022-23: 15-11 (6-4), Lost in Conference Semifinals, Lost in 1st Round of Playoffs to Laney (66-64)

Why They’re In This Tier: The Wolverines lose four of their top five scorers but return a lot of low-usage role players to fill in the gaps. 2025 Cameron Bynum could take over primary usage duties thanks to his length, feel, and skill set. Other perimeter contributors consist of Syncere Burnette, Chris Harris, Caleb Hardy, Jason Howard, & Kaden Tezyk. Similar to Apex Friendship, their guard depth will only take them so far and their real ceiling lies with the unproven big men.

Potential Breakout Players: Chris Harris (2024) Cameron Bynum (2025), Collin Taylor (2025), Caleb Hardy (2024), Jason Howard (2024), Kaden Tezyk (2024)


2022-23: 16-14 (5-5), Finished 3rd in CAP-6, CAP-6 Tournament Champs, Lost in 3rd Round of Playoffs to New Hanover (52-48)

Why They’re In This Tier: Broughton is in a unique position as they return just two of their top eight and zero starters. The good news (from a scouting perspective) is that they’ll have a few intriguing prospects play heavy minutes for them. They have a slew of JV players that should make an instant impact, Hudson Fitzgerald, Storm Taylor, and Brayden Tuttle, just to name a few. Chauncey Sumpter, Harrison Peatross, and Zyione Callaway are the best returners in the program. Sumpter and Peatross have pretty solid floors while Callaway has a promising ceiling.

Potential Breakout Players: Chauncey Sumpter (2024), Harrison Peatross (2024), Zyione Callaway (2025), Hudson Fitzgerald (2026), Storm Taylor (2025), Brayden Tuttle (2026)


2022-23: 13-12 (9-5), Finished 3rd in GNRC, Lost in Conference Semifinals, Lost in First Round of Playoffs to Garner (77-63)

Why They’re In This Tier: The Bengals’ best four-year stretch in school history has come to an end and it’s time for them to rebuild. They return just two rotation players from last year (Abdou Diop & Drew Willis) and will rely on a handful of players from a 2-17 JV team. 2025 Nathan George had a solid spring where he showed some improvement in his decision-making and poise as a lead guard. 2024 big man Drew Willis could be a sneaky double-double threat with the added usage and minutes. For them to compete they’ll need to lean into the potential shown by 2026 Abdou Diop. He should be the go-to guy for this program for the next three seasons.

Potential Breakout Players: Abdou Diop (2026), Nathan George (2025), Drew Willis (2024), Nicholas Clark (2024)

Wake Forest

2022-23: 18-11 (5-5), Finished 3rd in NAC, Lost in Conference Championship, Lost in 2nd Round of Playoffs to New Hanover (63-43)

Why They’re In This Tier: Wake Forest has now lost their entire starting lineup either to graduation or transfer. They didn’t play a ton of guys last year and now will look to those varsity reserves to fill some big shoes. 2025 Kavon Simmons is their best returner and he’ll shoulder one of the highest usage rates in the county next year. This will be a rebuilding year for the Cougars so look for them to possibly lean on some 2026 and 2027 guys in order to get them some developmental reps. You should never count a Coach Ackles-led team out so don’t be surprised if Wake Forest sneaks a couple of wins out from under some better teams.

Potential Breakout Players: Kavon Simmons (2025), Franklin Baret (2024), Braeden Markel (2024), Amare Cooke (2026)

East Wake

2022-23: 19-9 (13-1), QUAD Regular Season Champs & Tournament Runners-Up, Lost in 2nd Round of Playoffs to First Flight (75-61)

Why They’re In This Tier: East Wake returns just a single rotation piece in Ben Fox and brings in a new coach in Craig Wilson. This team is arguably the biggest mystery of anyone in the county due to the fact that they’ll be made up almost entirely of JV players. The good news for East Wake is that their JV team was very successful last season, finishing 18-5 while beating some solid 4A schools and dominating their conference. Look for Coach Wilson to use Fox in some creative ways, priming him for another breakout season.

Potential Breakout Players: Ben Fox (2025), Haywood Ruffin (2026), Jaylon Burton (2024), Pierre Crespo (2025), Michael Tayborn (2025)