2018 NAC 6 Basketball Preview

The inaugural season of the NAC 6 could be an interesting one

With non-conference play behind us, we are now getting into the thick of the high school basketball season. Local schools play in a conference called the Northern Athletic Conference, or NAC 6. The NAC 6 is made up of Corinth Holders, Heritage, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest and Wakefield. This is the first year that the conference has existed. In football season, the conference held two of the top teams in the state in Wake Forest and Heritage. This basketball season, the conference will be fairly deep on both the men’s and women’s side of things.

Coach Pat Kennedy, of NAC Conference/Heritage High
Pat Kennedy makes adjustments during a time out at the John Wall Invitational Tournament in Raleigh, NC. photo courtesy of News And Observer

Women’s NAC 6

The Heritage girls are the favorites to win the conference this winter. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the Huskies are ranked as the #3 team in the area (Raleigh and surrounding counties). Heritage has Alissa Smalls, a Morehead State signee, at point guard. They also feature other college prospects in juniors Demi Washington, Cydney Johnson, and Alcenia Purnell. In the non-conference season, Heritage went 11-2 with losses to Southeast Raleigh and Holly Springs.

In addition to Heritage, Wakefield, Rolesville, and Wake Forest are also ranked in the N&O top 25.

First of all, the Wolverines of Wakefield are already 10-2 this season. According to those same rankings, Wakefield is the #8 team around here. Junior Jada Peebles is pledged to join the NC State Wolfpack after she graduates high school. Wakefield will pose a threat to Heritage and can make a run in the postseason.

Twin sisters Kayla and Keenan Surles are big senior contributors for Wake Forest. The Cougars also have Jalin Debnam, who averages just under 12 points per game. The royal blue and red squad certainly has players who can rack up some points.

Comparatively, Rolesville comes into conference play with a strong 9-5 record. While they have no players averaging double digits, three Rams have averages in the nine points per game range Rolesville has played strong defense as a team, only allowing 41.8 points/game.

Interestingly, Knightdale is not ranked by the News & Observer despite holding an 8-3 record. The Knights have some strong players, including a freshman who averages 12.1 points/game in Diamond Thomas. Alternatively, Corinth Holders will be tasked with adjusting to 4A competition after moving up from the 3A classification. The Pirates have a big thing going for them: size. They list three players at 6’0 or over. One is a freshman, one a sophomore, and the other a junior.

Men’s NAC 6

The men’s portion of the conference may be a bit more “up in the air” than the women’s. The Raleigh News & Observer rankings have no Northern Athletic teams in the top 10. However, the rankings have four NAC teams ranked in the 11 to 21 range. According to those rankings, Knightdale is a slight favorite to win the men’s side.

As a result of a consistent wealth of size and athleticism, Knightdale has always had a solid basketball program. On the 2017-18 team, the Knights have seven players listed at 6’4 and above. That kind of size makes it hard for any team to score down low on them. So far this season, they carry a 9-3 record and have beat some very good Cary and Athens Drive teams. Further, the Knights get strong guard play from Xavier Fennell and Cole Johnson, among others. They are ranked #11 in the area by the N&O.

To some, it may be surprising to see that Heritage is not the top ranked team in the conference by the N&O. The Huskies had a monumental 28-2 season last year (including a perfect 24-0 regular season).  However, they lost seven of the players on that team to graduation. As a result, coach Tilden Brill has had to work with a very young group of players this season.

Heritage still has Virginia Tech signee Jarren McAllister (18 ppg) and ECU signee Jayden Gardner (25 ppg). Two freshmen and one sophomore get serious minutes on this Heritage squad. This is a very intriguing team to keep an eye on, as more often than not young players experience a large amount of growth as the season rolls on. They’ll go into conference play with an 8-4 record and ranked #12 in the area.

Similarly, the Wakefield Wolverines have a talented duo in Elijah Shabazz and Trae Smith. The Wolverines have an impressive 11-3 record on the season and are ranked #15 in the area. Smith and Shabazz are only juniors but average 16.7 points and 11.1 points, respectively. Both players can get to the basket at will. Trent Wilson, a senior, is averaging a remarkable 45% from three point range. Wakefield has the talent to contend for the conference title.

In addition to those three teams, Rolesville is also ranked in the top 25. The Rams come in at #21 in the rankings behind the play of Ricky Clemons, Jaylin Parker, and Joe Green and Dominique Johnson. Rolesville is 9-4 but has won 7 of its last 8 games. Expect this team, with a lot of senior leadership, to compete strongly in the NAC 6. Coach Tommy Moore has a lot of experience and will be able to get the most out of his kids. Earlier this year, Rolesville took the most talented team in the state, Garner, to overtime.

While they’re not in the News & Observer rankings, you can’t forget about Wake Forest. The Cougars have some very good players that make them a tough team to out. Almost akin to Knightdale, they posses a good level of size. Jordan Reid is 6’9, John Jiles is 6’4 and Quandre Bullock is 6’4. Junior guard Darrius Everett is one of the top pure scores in the local area. Corinth Holders has 10 non-seniors and 7 seniors listed on it’s MaxPreps roster. Many people are interested to see how they can compete on the 4A level. In the past, Corinth has had some strong teams, including one that went 22-4 in 2013.

Who do YOU think will will the NAC 6 in both boys and girls? Sound off in the comments.

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