By Marcus Shockley
I’ve had the good fortune this season to already have seen both Wesleyan Christian Academy and Christ School in person, and this Friday both teams collide in a huge early season high school match up.
Wesleyan is currently ranked #1 in North Carolina by Rivals for 3-A private schools, while Christ School is right behind them at #2.
Nationally, PrepNation.com does not have Wesleyan ranked (a massive oversight), but they do have Christ School listed at #7 on the East Coast.
Private school basketball in North Carolina is one of the hotbeds of collegiate talent right now, and that’s one of the reasons this game is a hidden gem that scouts and a few college coaches will be paying attention to.
The biggest names in this game are Wesleyan’s Theo Pinson (SG, 6’5″, 2014) and Christ School’s Shannon Hale (PF, 6’8″, 2013). Pinson holds several big name offers and is well known among mixtape aficionados, while Hale has committed to Alabama and will play his college ball in the SEC. But the game is loaded with future college players and several key match ups. Neither team is a one-man-show.
To break down this game you have to start in the backcourt, with the point guard match up. Running the point for Christ School is Jon Elmore, 6’3″ combo who is adept at handling the offense. Elmore can score effectively and is a really good rebounder at the guard position. Originally, Elmore was listed as an off-guard, and he moves well even when he’s not the ballhandler. Elmore is the type of player who is going to have his hands on the ball at some point in almost every possession – either facilitating from the point, or getting his hands on second chance points.
Going against Elmore is Wesleyan’s JaQuel Richmond, a player with his own handful of big collegiate offers. Richmond is quick and one of the best passers in high school. He throws bullet precision passes and handles pressure extremely well. He’s a tough-minded player who handles almost all of the floor general duties. Richmond is a pass-first point guard but his ability to get into the lane with his speed is his best asset; he’s also a one-man-fast-break several times a game, getting rack-to-rack, in traffic, for the score.
Although I see Theo Pinson as a collegiate SG with good size, he currently plays the SF spot quite a bit for Wesleyan. Pinson has a loose, laid back game and he often looks as though he’s going half speed; however, he is a high major athlete who can burn teams with the deep shot. He’s also a great cutter and uses his athleticism to finish around bigger players on the move. There are two aspects to Pinson’s game that won’t show up on a mixtape – he takes defense seriously, actively defending on the perimeter, and he is a very good passer from the SG or SF spot. It’s also key to note that there has been a lot of hype on Pinson, starting from his early high school days, but it doesn’t appear that he’s trying to prove anything and is working on just being a valuable player on a potent team.
Shannon Hale is a nimble power forward – runs the floor extremely well and can catch and score with ease. But calling him a big man kind of downplays just how nimble he is – Hale can slash from the perimeter a bit and on occasion will take the ball coast to coast. He’s very effective playing the high-low with center Lloyd Burgess, a 6’10” junior, and is always a threat to put the ball on the floor from the top of the key and get to the rim.
Wesleyan will look to take advantage of the athleticism they have on the wings; unlike Christ School, they really don’t have pure post players like Hale and Burgess, but they do have a stockpile of wings who can jump out of the gym, starting with freshman Harry Giles (SF, 6’8″, 2016). The hype on Giles rivals that which has been lavished on Pinson, but so far in his high school career, the affable forward has proven he’s got all the trappings of a phenom – he’s led the team in scoring on most nights, has several dunks over older players and in a recent tight game against QEA, showed a passion and desire to win that will serve him well in the years to come. Giles is an explosive, fluid athlete, plays way above the rim and has a very high ceiling. His most effective move is a running one-handed slasher that is almost impossible to defend. Complementing Giles is Deshaunte Carelock (SF/PF, 6’6″, 2014), another explosive athlete who is overlooked but can also play way above the rim on both ends of the floor. Trey Chapman (SF, 6’6″, 2013), committed to play at VMI, is another solid forward with length, and one who can consistently hit the mid range or deep shot. Teams have a tendency to overlook Carelock and Chapman far too much.
Meanwhile Christ School has a couple of solid wing athletes as well, starting with Jaylen Allen, a pure scoring guard, 6’3″, who is really solid slashing to the bucket. However, a key aspect of Allen’s game is his passing lane defense; he has a knack for darting out from seemingly nowhere, poking the pass away and getting down the court for a quick layup or slam.
Alex Wnuk of Christ School is a 6’6″ small forward who has a versatile game and stays involved on both ends. Josh Level is a small forward with great athleticism and upside as well. Level has been suffering an injured ankle so it’s not clear how much, if any, he’s see court time in this one.
The bench is relatively strong for both teams. DJ Harvey And Timothy Walker are both solid prospects for Christ School and freshman Michael Buckland of Wesleyan has given them solid minutes all season, as has Harrison White, who is committed to Brevard.
This should be a solid game with both teams looking to work their roster to their advantage; both teams are good in transition but Christ School may try to play a more traditional post game with Hale and Burgess; meanwhile Wesleyan can look to create mismatches on the perimeter which will allow their explosive dunkers to get a step on their man and get loose. Three point shooting – as in, which team is able to use the deep shot most effectively – may be a factor as well.
Although this won’t decide the entire season by any stretch, it will be an excellent litmus test for these two teams.
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