Five Observations from the NCISAA Championships

Photo: Joshua Komer

Five Observations from the NCISAA Championships


Five Observations from the NCISAA Championships


The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) crowned its champions in the 3A, 2A and 1A divisions last Saturday.

Here’s five of my observations from the full state of games over that weekend.

1. John Newman is the future of Clemson basketball.

The NCSIAA Championships highlighted five players ranked in the ESPN Top 100 from the junior and senior classes in Joey Baker (No. 15), Coby White (No. 19), Jaylen Hoard (No. 20), Aaron Wiggins (No. 38) and Nate Hinton (No. 95).

In the midst of all this talent, the player that impressed the most was John Newman. The Greensboro Day guard finished with a game-high 24 points in the 3A Championship.

I’m reminded of a former Clemson star when watching Newman. The two players have different skill sets, but Tigers fans should see similarities to Jaron Blossomgame in John Newman.

Similar to what Blossomgame displayed at Clemson, nobody out-hustles or out-works Newman. He plays the game with an uncommon fire and tenacity.

Offensively, Newman is an explosive scorer. He handles the ball with tremendous strength and purpose, he’s not the type of player that wastes a lot of movements with fancy dribbling that doesn’t get him closer to the basket.

When Newman receives the ball, he attacks with the intent of scoring, but never at the expense of his team. He additionally runs the floor exceptionally well and displays great instincts in the open-court.

Newman also possesses a great pull-up jumper. With so many players neglecting the benefits of an effective mid-range jumper, Newman displays an efficiency from both mid-range and distance.

Clemson is getting a special player next season.

2. Kansas and North Carolina have elite point guards on the way

Providence Day’s Devon Dotson looks for an opening against Wesleyan’s Shawn Walker Jr. during a tournament game at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, N.C. on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo Courtesy of Joshua Komer)

I had the opportunity to watch Devon Dotson (Kansas) on Friday followed by Coby White (UNC) in the NCISAA 1A championship game on Saturday.

I’ve yet to see another point guard in the current class with better end-to-end speed than Devon Dotson. I’ve watched teams resort to fouling the future Jayhawk at the three-point line on fast breaks, because defenders just physically can’t stay in front of him.

Earlier in the season, the Providence Day point guard was not attempting as many three-pointers. Dotson was still producing impressive stat-lines, but I wanted to see him showcase a better ability to score from outside. Right on cue, Dotson heated up from beyond the arc in the final weeks of the season.

Dotson’s ability to attack the basket is already at an elite-level. He slashes in the paint so effectively and he’s capable of finishing strong at the rim using his right or left hand. Combining these attributes with an accurate three-point shot makes him a truly dynamic offensive threat.

Coby White will go down as one of the greatest players in North Carolina high school basketball history. White finishes his career at Greenfield School as the state’s all-time leading scorer with 3,573 points.

Some of the plays that White can make during the course of a game are just jaw-dropping.

More specifically, there was one sequence in the championship game in which White handled the ball in transition and took on four Trinity Christian defenders. After crossing half court, White performed a spin-move to his left, while getting only a glance at the basket before launching a deep three. He drilled the shot with ease and subsequently had the Greenfield fans on their feet.

These are the type of plays that Coby White can make on a routine basis.

At 6-foot-4 with a dangerous shot from distance, the first inclination is to project White as being a shooting guard in the college game. However after watching him play, it’s clear to me that the future Tar Heel could replace Joel Berry as the next starting point guard in Chapel Hill.

He also has excellent ball-handling skills and great command when running the fast break.

Coby White is an ideal fit for an up-tempo Roy Williams offense.

3. Fayetteville is the new recruiting hotbed of the South.

Situated in southeastern North Carolina with a population of just over 200,000 residents, the city of Fayetteville is recognized as being the home of one of the world’s largest military installations in Fort Bragg.

Recent years have proven that it’s time to add elite high school basketball to the list of things that Fayetteville is known for.

The Fayetteville powerhouse, Trinity Christian School, defeated Coby White and Greenfield School in the NCISAA 1A Championship with three juniors that will play big-time college basketball in 2019.

Small forward Joey Baker has already committed to play at Duke, while Greg Gantt and Au’diese Toney are mulling offers from schools such as Connecticut, Florida, Oklahoma State, Xavier and Virginia Tech to name a few.

Trinity point guard KJ Marshall also had an impressive junior season and capped it off with a productive performance in the championship game against Greenfield.

Just three miles down the road, Northwood Temple Academy features one of the nation’s top shooting guards in Josh Nickelberry. The future front court of NC State also attends Northwood Temple in seniors Immanuel Bates and Ian Steere.

Nearby Village Christian Academy has a dominant program of its own with two state titles in the last three seasons.

This season, the Knights showcased three players that will play Division 1 basketball in Travion McCray, Khuath Gatkuoth and Junub Chuol. Junior forward Derrick Quansah also took a major step forward this year.

McCray is quite possibly the most improved player in the entire state of North Carolina. McCray won Player of the Year honors in the hyper-competitive Sandhills Athletic Conference and is now collecting interest from Clemson, Kansas State and Virginia Tech.

Former Trinity Christian School standout and current Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. was just the beginning for Fayetteville, NC.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of team basketball.

Greensboro Day wasn’t given much chance against Wesleyan Christian Academy in the NCISAA 3A Championship game. The Trojans defeated Greensboro Day both times in the regular season by an average of 15 points.

There’s only a few teams in the country that are blessed with two athletic forwards like Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest signee) and Aaron Wiggins (Maryland signee). I watched as the duo dominated on Friday against Providence Day in the semifinals.

Greensboro Day was additionally without the services of senior Will Dillard (Georgia Southern signee) who was forced to sit out in mid-January after doctors discovered a blood clot in his right lung. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard was a major reason for the Bengals’ great success on defense.

However, in spite of all the unfavorable odds, Greensboro Day never backed down from the fight. The Bengals executed a stifling defense against Hoard to hold the 6-foot-8 forward to a surprising zero points.

Greensboro Day never allowed the Trojans to get anything easy on offense. The Bengals shut down the lane and contested everything.

On the offensive side, Greensboro Day passed and then moved without the ball using expert precision. It’s so refreshing to watch a high school team who feels comfortable settling into their offense in order to find the best shot. The Bengals consistently made five or more passes on every possession before even attempting a shot.

I’ll also point out that the passes that Greensboro Day executed were purposeful, not simply passes around the perimeter that didn’t get them closer to the best available shot. The Bengals worked the ball inside, found cutters and hit teammates coming off screens. It was truly beautiful basketball to watch.

Carson McCorkle is a name that people should be aware of for the future. McCorkle is a 6-foot-3 freshman with early offers from Georgia Tech, Iowa, NC State, South Carolina and Wichita State.

McCorkle is undoubtedly one of the best shooters in the class of 2021. The Greensboro Day shooting guard can punish defenses with minimal space. He scored 15 points off the bench for the Bengals.

Nevertheless, it was the team effort that carried Greensboro Day to the victory. Head coach Freddy Johnson played eight different players in the title game.

All eight players gave the Bengals significant production and played unselfishly towards the goal of the team.

In 2018, Freddy Johnson eclipsed 1,000 wins in his legendary coaching career. He capped off the milestone season with his 10th state championship in a dominant 67-53 win over rival Wesleyan Christian Academy for the second consecutive season.

5. Byron Dinkins is building something special at Carmel Christian.

The most exciting matchup on Saturday was by far the NCISAA 2A Championship between Gaston Day and Carmel Christian. The two schools battled for two thrilling overtimes before the Cougars prevailed in dramatic fashion by a score of 74-72.

Since starting in coaching in 2010, Byron Dinkins has coached in the championship game of the NCISAA 2A classification in all eight seasons of his career. He won three titles at Northside Christian Academy before taking the head coaching job at Carmel Christian last season.

Dinkins lost in the championship in his first attempt with Carmel Christian, but found himself back in the title game on Saturday. The Cougars trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter before roaring back using an 11-0 run.

Carmel Christian got significant contributions from Myles Pierre and Donovan Gregory. Pierre finished with 28 points including the go-ahead basket with 9 seconds remaining. Gregory added 19 points, despite sitting for the entire second period as a result of foul trouble.

I’m excited to see where Pierre and Gregory end up in 2018. Both are currently fielding offers from several schools such as Appalachian State, Charlotte, Hampton and Houston Baptist to name a few. With more time to develop during the offseason, the duo might just play their way into some high-major offers.

Pierre has received interest from Virginia and Tennessee, while Clemson and Ohio State have reached out to Gregory in the past.

In the midst of all this, there’s few people more excited about the future of his players than Byron Dinkins. Coach Dinkins played four years at UNC Charlotte from 1985-1989 before playing two seasons in the NBA and recording a successful professional career in Greece.

“My goal is to get these seniors ready for college, whether they play ball (in college) or not,” said Dinkins in an interview with the Charlotte Observer in 2015. That same philosophy has carried Dinkins to success after success three years later.

In the end, there’s no one that appreciates the level of compassion and care that Byron Dinkins has provided more than the players that call him coach.


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