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North Carolina private schools battle for supremacy

  |   January 19, 2018  |   Michael McLamb

The state of North Carolina has consistently produced some of the best competition for private school basketball in the country.

When putting together the list of notable alumni, the collection of players is undeniably impressive. Stephen Curry (Charlotte Christian), John Wall (Word of God Christian Academy), Dennis Smith Jr. (Trinity Christian School) and Theo Pinson (Wesleyan Christian Academy) are just a few of the names that have history in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA).

The league is also home to some of the best rivalries and most passionate fan bases in the state. This is especially true in the NCISAA 3A classification.

With over half the season in the rearview, here’s a look at the top contenders for the 3A state title.

1. Wesleyan Christian Academy (17-4)

Wesleyan Christian Academy is easily the most talented team in the entire state. The Trojans are led by two 4-star small forwards in Aaron Wiggins (Maryland signee) and Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest signee). Opponents have struggled all season when trying to defend against these two versatile wings.

The Wesleyan roster would be deadly enough if it only featured Wiggins and Hoard, but the list of weapons is much greater than simply these two players. The team also features a trio of 3-star prospects in junior twins Keyshaun and Kobe Langley, along with power forward DeAndre Wilkins.

Head coach Keith Gatlin’s club came up just short in the championship game last season against Greensboro Day. This year though, Wesleyan has reloaded with even more talent as a result of greater experience and adding the Langley twins who played at Southwest Guilford in 2016-17.

Four of Wesleyan's losses came at the hands of teams that are currently ranked in the USA Today's Super 25 poll (No. 3 University School, No. 10 Simeon, No. 13 Paul VI and No. 16 Oak Ridge).

Additionally, some of the team's most noteworthy victories came against opponents that were formerly nationally ranked (IMG Academy and Mater Dei).

2. Greensboro Day (19-3)

This is certainly not Freddy Johnson’s deepest team that he’s ever coached, but the Bengals consistently still find ways to win. Greensboro Day is led by senior shooting guard John Newman who is a 3-star prospect that is signed to play at Clemson next season.

Newman is the tone-setter for a stifling Greensboro Day defense that excels at forcing turnovers and shutting down high-powered offenses. The Bengals' offense has struggled at times, but the team’s defense has stepped up on numerous occasions to secure big victories.

Greensboro Day posted an unimpressive 50 points per game in matchups against fellow state title contenders: Charlotte Christian, Christ School and Providence Day- but still managed to win against all three opponents as a result of only allowing 42 points per game in those contests.

3. Christ School (15-7)

Since losing in two games at the John Wall Invitational in Raleigh over Christmas Break, Christ School has played some of its best basketball of the season.

The Greenies have won six games in row, which featured a 16-point win over Providence Day and a hard-fought 67-63 win over a Norcross (GA) team that features 5-star prospect Brandon Boston and 4-star recruit JoJo Toppin (Georgia signee).

Christ School is led by one of the internet’s most popular players in 5-star junior Jalen Lecque. The 6-4 combo guard is the 9th ranked player in the class of 2019 according to 247 Sports.

Lecque is joined by 6-10 power forward Justice Ajogbor. The sophomore 4-star prospect is a dominant force in the paint and also a matchup nightmare for undersized teams. Sophomore Norance Berry (offered by Tennessee) and junior Brandon Stone (offered by South Carolina) are having terrific seasons as well.

Christ School seems to be best equipped to knock off Wesleyan Christian Academy at this point in time.

4. Charlotte Christian (15-5)

Charlotte Christian is playing as good as anyone in the state right now. The Knights notched huge statement wins over Providence Day and Cannon in their last two outings.

Against Providence Day, the Knights trailed by as many as 13 points in the third quarter before roaring back to snap an 11-game losing skid against the Chargers. Charlotte Christian will receive the opportunity to test its talent against Wesleyan Christian Academy on Saturday.

Head coach Shonn Brown’s team certainly has the depth to compete against the Trojans. Senior captain Blake Preston (Liberty signee) along with juniors Efosa E-Udosomwan, J.C. Tharrington, Paul Hudson and Seth Bennett are all players that can lead Charlotte Christian in scoring on any given night.

Preston was especially lethal in the team’s win over Providence Day last Friday. The 6-9 power forward has a great feel for the game and he’s remarkably unselfish with the basketball.

Preston also runs the floor exceptionally while also possessing a smooth mid-range jumper and an effective back-to-the-basket skill set. The senior will need to come up big for the Knights again on Saturday if they hope to take down Wesleyan.

5. Providence Day (17-9)

The month of January has been a difficult one for the Chargers so far. Providence Day has four losses in its last eight games highlighted by tough defeats against Charlotte Christian and Christ School during that time frame.

Nevertheless, the Chargers have proven their ability to rebound quickly this year.

Head coach Brian Field challenged his unit with a difficult non-conference schedule this season. Providence Day has played some of the best teams in the country including the USA Today’s No. 1-ranked team in Montverde (Fla.).

Providence Day’s willingness to schedule tough opponents early in the season will certainly pay dividends down the road.

Some of the benefits of that decision have already manifested itself. In November, the Chargers loss to formerly ranked Cox Mill (N.C.) in the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, before coming right back in the month of December to get their revenge against Cox Mill en route to capturing the Chick-fil-A Classic title in Columbia, SC.

Every opponent knows that newly-minted All-American Devon Dotson (Kansas signee) is going to be a nearly unstoppable force every time he hits the floor.

However, Dotson is not the only player on Providence Day that can light up the scoreboard. Senior captain Trey Wertz (Santa Clara signee) is one of the best sharpshooters in the state and he’s joined by guard Isaac Suffren (offered by Drexel among others) to create a truly formidable trio.

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