Last week, USA TODAY High School Sports began releasing our preseason Super 25 boys basketball rankings with teams 11-25 and teams 6-10. Monday, Plano West (Plano, Texas) was released as our No. 5 . Tuesday, Bishop Gorman was released as our No. 4 team and Wednesday, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) was released as our No. 3 team. Today’s team is No. 2 Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.), which finished 25-9 last season. On Friday morning, we’ll release our No. 1 team:
The Trojans have won back-to-back state 3A independent school titles and should be even better this season with the return from knee injury of 6-9 power forward Harry Giles III, a consensus Top Three 2016 player who helped lead Team USA to the FIBA U17 World Championship over the summer in Dubai.
“Harry’s obviously so talented and can do so many things with the basketball that he’s a mismatch nightmare for other teams,” Wesleyan Christian coach Keith Gatlin said. “He can take a smaller player inside or take a big outside. We have a much better team collectively this year than we did last year when Harry was out. Our other kids grew up when he was out. It killed him last year to watch us lose some games that we felt like we could have won if he was healthy. He is very competitive but the sitting back helped him in his maturity. He’s had to work hard to get his body back to where it was and his leadership has been off the charts.”
Wesleyan also has a couple of elite transfers coming in with Wake Forest commit Brandon Childress, a junior point guard who played at East Forsyth (Kernersville) and is the son of former Wake Forest star Randolph Childress. The Trojans also added Kwe Parker (11.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists), an athletic junior shooting guard from Trinity Christian (Fayetteville). Key returnees include junior small forward Avery Steele, 6-5 junior wing Jalen Johnson (7 ppg) and junior shooting guard Michael Buckland.
“We feel really confident with our guard play,” Gatlin said. “We have Brandon Childress, who can shoot like his father. Kwe (pronounced Quay) is a two-way player who can handle the ball. Michael Buckland and Jalen Johnson also had to bring up the ball a lot last year when they weren’t comfortable doing that and Harry gives us somebody else who can handle the ball.”
Another key addition is T.J. Jackson, a 6-8, 270-pound junior who transferred from Fuqua (Farmville, Va.).
“He’s really good for us because he can bang,” Gatlin said. “We didn’t have a physical presence inside last year when Harry went down.”
Giles said the team’s isn’t likely to be bothered by the pressure of a No. 2 ranking.
“We are better than last year because we play together more as a team than did last year because we don’t have as many big names as in the past two years,” Giles said in a text. “(There) maybe a little nerves from some players, but for the most part no, because at the end of the day, it’s about basketball and we have to play regardless of the ranking. It’s a great honor and we’re going to play to protect it every night but we can’t play thinking about that. We have to just play and do what we do.”
When Wesleyan plays at home, it has support of a solid fan base that is called the Red Sea.
“It’s like a crazy Duke atmosphere,” Gatlin said. “The have different themes for each game and travel with us to a lot of the conference games. They are by far the best fans in North Carolina.”