Boys Best of the Rest: Cougars hold court, but Falcons flying high

United Faith is looking to keep pace for a league title with (from left) KC Hankton, Jaylen Sims and Nathan Springs while Queens Grant will lean on Jah’Quez Sanders in their new  conference home. Andrew Stark/MMHW photo

United Faith is looking to keep pace for a league title with (from left) KC Hankton, Jaylen Sims and Nathan Springs while Queens Grant will lean on Jah’Quez Sanders in their new conference home. Andrew Stark/MMHW photo

The Carmel Christian and United Faith boys will duke it out for the Southern Piedmont title all season long. Both are exceptionally talented and will be contenders in the NCISAA title races after Carmel Christian played in the 2A championship game and United Faith made the Great 8 of the 1A bracket last year. Providence is very young, but will be improved this year. Queen’s Grant is in the PAC-7 IA league that has some really good competition, but the Stallions will be very good and should be one of the top teams.

Carmel Christian

Coach: Byron Dinkins, second season (185-27)

2016-17 Record: 21-7, 10-1 in Southern Piedmont

Returning Starters: 4

The Cougars are back after playing in the NCISAA 2A championship game and are loaded once again to make another big run.

All-conference returnees Myles Pierre and Marten Madie join all-state guard Donovan Gregory to form a dynamic and gifted backcourt.

All three are juniors and will play a key role in getting the Cougars back among the state’s elite teams.

Greg McDonald, a 6-7 senior, will anchor the inside. He is a capable scorer and rebounder.

Sophomore guard Ford Cooper is a key rotation guy as is senior guard Markai Francis and senior forward Jack Lendhart. Those guys add depth and scoring punch off the bench and will get plenty of big minutes.

The Cougars are welcoming in five transfers to an already deep and talented team and all five are expected to play big minutes this year.

Covenant Day transfer Josh Price, a 6-3 guard, was the Lions leading scorer at over 12 points per game and will fit nicely into this talented backcourt.

Union Academy transfer Jake Boggs is a 6-7 forward who will provide size on the inside. Last year, he averaged eight points and five rebounds with the Cardinals. He will fit right in up front.

Northwest Cabarrus transfer Kenny Gwynn is a 6-3 forward who averaged about four points per game last year as a reserve. He’ll find his niche with the Cougars.

Senior Ardrey Kell transfers Twaan Thomas and Jonathan Murphy are a pair of 5-9 guards who will be rotation guys this season.

United Faith

Coach: Josh Coley, second season (25-5)

2016-17 Record: 25-5, 10-2 in Southern Piedmont

Returning Starters: 4

Coach Josh Coley turned around the Falcons after they had suffered a pair of losing seasons and got them back to the quarterfinals of the NCISAA tournament.

With abundant talent and four starters back, that will be the expectation again this year.

KC Hankton, a 6-8 forward, has 15 Division I offers and is a smooth scorer and polished rebounder. He’s back as the team’s leader in both categories after averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds as an all-state junior.

Brett Swilling adds more size to the wing at 6-6. Swilling averaged 13 points and 3.5 rebounds last year. He’s generating next-level interest. Jason Thompson is another Division I prospect. The 6-7 wing averaged nine points and seven rebounds.

Senior point guard Rafael Jenkins is a steady ball handler and yet another next-level talent who averaged 12 points per game last year.

Sam Wolfe adds size and depth up front. The 6-7 forward averaged about four points and three rebounds per game last year. Elias Tewolde and Bryson Canty were rotation guys last year and will contribute.

The Falcons were already deep and talented, but welcome four new faces who will contribute immediately.

Jaylen Sims is a 6-6 guard committed to UNC Wilmington. He will make a huge impact and will fit in nicely with the returning starters.

Six-foot-10 center Nathan Springs, who averaged over six points and nearly six rebounds at Myers Park, is an Ohio University commit who will be a good addition.

Metrolina Christian transfer Malcolm Wade and Hough transfer Chris Hill will add depth at guard for a team capable of making a run for a state title this year.


Coach: Larry Epperly, second season (0-24)

2016-17 Record: 0-24, 0-14 in So. Meck 7

Returning Starters: 3

The Panthers haven’t had a winning season since the 2008-09 year and last year really struggled under first-year coach Larry Epperly. They played in just two games that were decided by under 10 points and this year will be another uphill battle. They have just one senior on the roster and have five sophomores and a freshman who will be among their top players. They may take some time to get going but the thought is they can grow together.

Providence doesn’t have much size and will struggle rebounding the ball, but they have some experience in the backcourt that they will use to their advantage.

Tate Mulkey is the team’s leading returning scorer at 6.3 points per game and the junior will again man one of those guard spots.

Ben Schloeder is a 5-9 point guard who averaged about five points per game, and Pat Sullivan is a 6-2 guard who scored nearly four points per game.

Newcomer Christian Peterson will play center, but at 6-5 is a little undersized. He will be joined by Jake Brockman, a 6-4 senior forward, to form the interior of the Panthers defense and hopefully provide some interior scoring.

Will Cotton is another newcomer who can play either guard spot and will see some immediate court time.

Overall, the Panthers should be much improved, but may not be ready to challenge for one of the league’s top spots quite yet.

Queen’s Grant

Coach: Jay Forsythe, fifth season (64-38)

2016-17 Record: 13-11, 7-3 in Uwharrie Athletic

Returning Starters: 4

Coach Jay Forsythe has led the Stallions to three consecutive winning seasons. This year, he returns four starters and a host of newcomers looking to continue that streak.

Jah’Quez Sanders has started every game of his career at point guard. Sanders is back after averaging 11 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. He’s a next-level talent that will run the show and distribute the ball.

Jeremiah Murphy joins Sanders in the backcourt after averaging six points and four rebounds as a freshman.

Up front the Stallions boast 6-5 forward Khalil Chapman (seven points, five rebounds per game) and 6-3 wing Xavier Westbrook (six points, six rebounds).

Andre Cooper provides another interior player with his 6-4 frame. He is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Junior Josh Suggs will backup Sanders at the point, and both returners will see plenty of time.

Porter Ridge transfer AJ Gallagher is receiving Division I interest and will be a force inside. The 6-6 senior is a go-to scorer and skilled passer out of the post.

Prince Lemon will add depth at the guard position, and 6-4 sophomore guard LB Boyette is another talented kid who is a rotation player for sure.

The Stallions seem to have all the pieces to continue their winning season streak and have a chance to be very good.

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