Herald Weekly-area boys basketball players to watch

Drexler Clark, Hough – The senior guard has been battle-tested the past two seasons in the competitive I-MECK 4A conference. Look for a breakout season.

• Cody Cox, SouthLake Christian – The 6-foot-5 junior forward picked up valuable experience last season when he averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. Look for those numbers to jump and for Cox to play a key role in turning around the Eagles’ 10-19 record last season.

• Jamon Cunningham, Lake Norman Charter – Senior point guard (he’s 5-11) was named Knights’ most valuable player last season when he averaged 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals.

• Isaac Dittleman, Community School of DavidsonAt 6-4, this junior center will be the tallest Spartan as they begin their first varsity season. He’s a transfer from Hough who likely will see significant playing time.

• Justin Jordan, Davidson Day – Does the last name sound familiar? Yep, his uncle is the famous NBA owner. Justin’s a 6-3 senior guard who’ll hope to fill the void left by three Patriots who graduated to college basketball.

• Luke Maye, Hough – A 6-7 forward who made a splash during his freshman season when he averaged 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds last year. An I-MECK 4A all-conference pick. He’s already fielding college offers, and some ACC schools are recruiting him.

• Taj Middleton, Hopewell – At 6-4, this sophomore is the tallest point guard in the area. But he’s suited for the position. Look for him to improve on last season’s 6.6 points per game as the Titans try to rebound from a 6-18 performance.

• Alex Scearce, Lake Norman Charter – The 6-2 senior forward averaged 9.3 points and 8.5 rebounds last season. He’s one of the area’s top football receivers, so you know he’s got good hands and doesn’t mind contact. Among four senior starters for the Knights.

• Tahjai Watt, North Mecklenburg – The 6-5 senior forward is strong and quick. Last season, he averaged 10 points and eight rebounds and was an I-MECK 4A all-conference pick. With nine seniors gone from last season’s squad, look for what to take on a prominent scoring role.

Herald Weekly-area girls basketball players to watch
• Brandi Arey, Hough – The senior guard averaged 10.5 points for a 19-9 Huskies squad that reached the state playoffs last season. She was an I-MECK 4A all-conference pick as a junior.

• Destiny Barrino, North Mecklenburg – The 5-foot-8 junior guard/forward averaged 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals as a sophomore. She was named to the I-MECK 4A all-conference team.

• Julia Brown, Hough – The 6-foot junior forward is also a volleyball standout. She averaged 8.2 points and led the Huskies in rebounding (4.7) last season.

• Alex Busch, Lake Norman Charter – The 5-10 junior forward who was the Knights’ offensive player of the year last season when she averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game.

Bryanna Curry, Hopewell – The 6-foot junior guard/forward is an excellent shooter who’ll be called up top fill the void left by Shareé Boyd (graduated), the Titans’ career scoring leader. She averaged 10.4 points last season.

• Anna Diggs, Hough – The junior point guard sank 55 three-pointers as a sophomore, helping the Huskies win the I-MECK 4A conference title.

• Isabella “Izzy” Krider, Community School of Davidson – The 5-3 sophomore point guard who will direct traffic as the Spartans embark on their first varsity season. She averaged 2.6 steals per game as a freshman.

• Ezinne Mbamalu, Lake Norman Charter – The 6-2 junior center is a major deterrent in the lane. Last season she averaged 4.5 blocked shots, 14 points and 14 rebounds. She’s a force in the middle who likely will only get better.

• Giselle Verville, SouthLake Christian – The junior point guard is expected to fill part of the scoring void left by graduated seniors Brianne Mack and Kourtney Hailey, both 1,000-point career scorers in high school.

SouthLake Christian’s Washington commits to Mississippi State

HUNTERSVILLE – SouthLake Christian running back Robert Washington Jr., a freshman, became the youngest player to accept an offer from an SEC college when he committed to Mississippi State on Nov. 17.

Washington made his decision after visiting the Starkville, Miss., campus during the Bulldogs’ game against Arkansas. He made a verbal agreement with coach Dan Mullen.

“Robert likes Mississippi State a lot and it was a tough decision as a parent to let him commit so early,” said Robert Washington Sr. “But they pretty much promised Robert a four-year deal, which means that even if he gets injured, they will honor the scholarship. It is somewhat of a safety net.”

Washington received an offer from Mississippi last summer, but it didn’t include a four-year guarantee.

Washington, 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, rushed for 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. He battled a hip injury during the first half of his freshman season, but returned with rushing games of 151, 155, 163 and 165 yards in consecutive weeks. He averaged 11.4 yards per carry during the season and helped SouthLake Christian reach the state final.

“Mississippi State recruited Robert hard,” Washington Sr. said. “As a parent, I had concerns because it’s a long time away. The coaching staff could be gone, and commit is such a strong word.”

Washington has played the past two years on the Team USA 15-Under team and was named team captain in 2011. At last summer’s developmental camp in San Antonio, Texas, he ran for more than 100 yards in several scrimmages and threw a 45-yard halfback pass for a touchdown.

Last summer, Washington was picked for the Football Tech Future Stars Game, to represent North Carolina, but he declined, and instead prepared to play for Team USA and his freshman season at SouthLake Christian. He also attended several prestigious summer camps.

Fast start for North Mecklenburg boys’ basketball team

CHARLOTTE – Tahjai Watt scored 32 points to lead North Mecklenburg High to a 59-40 road victory against Garinger in the season opener for both teams Nov. 20. Watt is the lone returning starter for the Vikings, who were 22-8 last season.

Quay Collins added eight points for North Mecklenburg, which used a 19-8 scoring advantage in the second quarter to build a double-digit lead.

Six Davidson Day players named to all-state team

DAVIDSON – Davidson Day players named to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II all-state team were running back Jordan Brown; wide receivers Evan Gates, Jordan Young and Aaron Seward; quarterback Will Grier; and offensive lineman Schuyler Coleman.

• Young was added to North Carolina’s team in the Oasis Shrine Classic all-star game, which will be played Nov. 24 at Mooresville High. Coleman, Gates and Seward are on the team.

– Compiled by Cliff Mehrtens