Nothing seems to excite folks more than the weekly debate surrounding which teams fall into the upper echelon of rankings. Whether public, private, or both, everyone has a case to represent their cause. That being said, public school basketball in North Carolina has been as impressive as ever through the first month of the season. Three programs, Farmville Central, Millbrook, and North Mecklenburg, have already started to separate themselves from the pack. However, Kinston, Vance, and Westover all deserve to be firmly in the discussion as top tier teams. Now, let’s take a closer look at what makes these teams special and attempt to pose an argument for each of them…
Anyone who has seen Farmville Central this season knows how dominant they can be on any given night. Already armed with a quality win over Greenfield, there’s a legitimate possibility that this group could go undefeated and win a championship for the second consecutive season. Their upcoming battles with Kinston, Word of God, and potential matchups against The Patrick School and Montverde (at The John Wall Invitational) almost certainly throw a wrench in those plans but one would be unwise to bet against Farmville Central under any circumstance.
NC Central commit Justin Wright is at the forefront of their success, consistently exemplifying high-level intelligence, leadership, and a complete, yet balanced, offensive game. He doesn’t require elite athleticism to embody all the traits of an absolute winner. Almost anyone can fit alongside Wright but Terquavion Smith is a nearly perfect complement to the floor general. He’s long, athletic, and scores the ball in a variety of different ways. Smith can spot-up, attack off the bounce, or relentlessly apply pressure in transition. The duo of Leonte Moye and Samage Teel are the unsung heroes of this group. Moye is a wiry forward/post with great athleticism, rebounding instincts, and the ability to protect the rim or defend on the perimeter. Teel is simply an excellent complement to the aforementioned trio, given his well-rounded game and two-way presence; he’s a quality secondary creator and scorer that fills in the gaps as needed. They also have a slew of young up-and-coming prospects within the program, including Jah Short and various others from last year’s undefeated junior varsity squad. Add in the superb coaching of Larry Williford and this team genuinely has a combination of intelligence, ruggedness, skill, and athleticism unlike any other team in the state.
There’s a clear argument for Millbrook to be dubbed as the top team in the state, especially given the way they’ve thrashed opponents this season. Like Farmville Central, this group has a clear path to going undefeated in the regular season but could also be forced to deal with Montverde (at the John Wall Invitational). Size can be such a rare thing to come by in high school basketball, but this squad features a trio of high-level prospects ranging from 6-foot-8 to 6-foot-10. That’s without even mentioning their 6-foot-6 point guard, who might be the best prospect of the group.
Prior to their abundance of size, Millbrook has found a ton of success behind tough, experienced, grind-it-out guards. Nothing has really changed in that regard, as they still feature guys like Adam Carey, Jalen McCoy, and numerous others that know how to embrace their role. However, Will Felton is the clear leader of this group. He’s an absolute monster on the block, highlighting a phenomenal blend of IQ, strength, footwork, and craftiness on a nightly basis. Felton is a double-double machine with great hands, rebounding prowess, and the ability to utilize his body incredibly well. They run their offense through Felton, but also receive major contributions from Sam Hood and Eric van der Heijden. Hood is a hyper-athletic forward/post with length and efficient inside-out scoring capabilities. Van der Heijden possesses an exceptional crossroads between skill and athleticism, but still has a lot of upside remaining. Add that to New Mexico commit Nolan Dorsey, who has yet to play this season due to injury, and this team should only continue rolling opponents. His IQ, craftiness, and playmaking sense seem to naturally make everyone around him better while his size makes him a nightly matchup problem for opposing point guards. Although only in his third season, coach Christopher Davis has done an excellent job of maintaining their winning culture and playing to their strengths as a team.
Last but certainly not least, we have North Mecklenburg, who arguably has the best reputation and most talented roster of any team mentioned above. Although they’ve beaten everyone by double-digits thus far, they might have the toughest upcoming schedule with Bojangles Bash, Arby’s Classic, and two matchups against Vance looming. They are one of the only programs that have junior varsity players who would be the best players on varsity teams for various different programs across North Carolina.
Between Tristan Maxwell (Georgia Tech), Trayden Williams (Robert Morris), Chris Ford, Jeremy Gregory, Tristan Lexander, Tony Waters, and Shamann Artis, this group has seven legitimate full-scholarship prospects on their roster. Maxwell has the highest ceiling on a night-to-night basis, able to consistently create and pile on points from anywhere on the floor. He’s a true bucket-getter with the ability to heat up quickly and end up with thirty points in the blink of an eye. Maxwell also showcases some high-level flashes on the defensive end of the floor. Alongside him in the backcourt, Williams is as steady and reliable as they come, especially at the high school level. He’s smart, tough, and has no real weaknesses on either end of the floor. Williams is a quality creator, scorer, and defender that can expand his production as needed. Ford has proven to be one of the top glue-guy prospects in the state, simply able to naturally affect all facets of the game. Already Division I prospects, Gregory and Lexander are up-and-coming stars within this program. Then, to have two more guys like Artis and Waters give this program an unbelievable amount of depth. Coach Duane Lewis has been nothing short of spectacular in his twenty-year tenure with North Meck. Lewis is only eight wins away from surpassing his (very successful) predecessor, Leroy Holden, but in five less seasons, which is simply incredible.
There’s no shortage of options for who should be considered the top public school team in North Carolina but there’s also no right or wrong answer. So, who do you think should be given the prestigious title for this season?