Coaching is a unique spectrum. The value of coaching is often overlooked, but it can completely mold or define a team. We’ve seen some of the top coaches come through North Carolina over the years, and every school (especially private) has hunted for that respectable, well-connected, winning person to take over their program. Although many have failed in this process, some have prevailed—including Davidson Day.
Since the hiring of Ron Johnson two seasons ago, the Patriots have been a model of success and consistency. That being said, this wasn’t due to his amazing recruiting ability or overall connections across the state. Johnson came in, established a culture, retooled their stylistic approach, and learned how to develop the pieces already in place. They went from 12-7 (prior to Johnson) to 20-5 (his first season) to 30-1 (last season), but was it because of a perfect storm?
Majority of their core from the last four years is set to graduate. Jackson Threadgill (Charlotte), CJ Huntley (Appalachian State), Adam Brazil (Hampden Sydney), and Will Coble (Randolph Macon) all move to the next level and essentially leave this roster barren. Joel Baucom and Bryce Alfino have already transferred over to Combine Academy. They are only expected to return six players from last season, which sounds worse than the actual reality of the situation.
For starters, one of those five players is Trey Horton, who is arguably among the top group of prospects in the Class of 2023. He received limited opportunity last season but should have a chance to blossom over the next calendar year. Nyles Howard also proved to be a capable contributor from the guard position. He highlighted IQ, initiation skills, and an unselfish approach to the game, which should transition nicely with the new-look roster.
However, Davidson Day hasn’t been just sitting around waiting for opposing teams to surpass them. They’ve already locked in commitments from two of the most coveted players on the North Carolina transfer market in Blane St. Clair and Donovan Atwell. Both players not only fill a need, but also can immediately be inserted into a leadership role. St. Clair was somewhat quiet last season, transferring from Watauga to Moravian Prep and being unable to carve out a role with the national squad due to depth and positional flexibility. In fairness to St. Clair, he already has experience being an efficient focal point (for Watauga) and could feasibly reassume that identity with Davidson Day. Securing Atwell was another big, yet necessary move for the Patriots. Not only has he already garnered a reputation as one of the top shooters in the state, but Atwell is also possibly among the biggest upside prospects as well. He needs to continue adding strength but already has an ideal skillset in terms of passing, shooting, and defense for the next level.
Both guys should emerge as priorities for Division I programs and will ultimately decide the fate of Davidson Day for the foreseeable future.