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SAD SAM’S ANNUAL I-MECK 4A PREVIEW
Greetings HS hoops junkies from across the jumping-off-the-Panther-bandwagon piedmont.  The Sadster is here to once again cast the dye on the upcoming I-MECK 4A conference season.  The Great One finished last season by hitting on 83% of his state tournament picks and will no doubt do at least that well this year.  He also precisely picked the correct order of finish in the I-MECK once again.  This season promises to have twists and turns but like a good navigator on a submarine, The Sad One knows where they will be.  He not only will reveal the correct order of finish; he will also deliver his weekly Furious 5, his midterm and final report cards and yearly superlatives.  As always his yearly superlatives will include all-conference teams, the Coach of the Year and the coveted Hot Dog of the Year award.  Keep in mind that only NC 4A Charlotte area public schools are eligible to be in the F5.  It is now time to reveal what the ol’ cubic zirconia ball (can’t afford crystal) has to say about the season.  This is the predicted order of finish for the 2018-19 I-MECK 4A season with a synopsis of each team to follow in order……(drum roll please):
1. NORTH MECK
T2. VANCE
T2. WEST CHARLOTTE
4. HOPEWELL
5. HOUGH
6. LAKE NORMAN
7. MALLARD CREEK
8. MOORESVILLE
Now for the projected conference regular season winner…………..
NORTH MECK
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The Vikings have dominated conference play for several years including running the table the last 2 of the last 3 years. Running the table may be a stretch this year since 6’10 SR F Jae’lyn Withers moved to Ohio, but Coach Duane Lewis has plenty of weapons to finish 1st and make a deep playoff run.  The 1st of these weapons is 6’3 JR G Tristan Maxwell, who is an accomplished 3 point shooter as well as an all-around scorer.  Joining him in the backcourt will be 6’2 JR G Demar Anderson who can distribute the goods in addition to scoring.  On the frontline will be 6’5 SO F Chris Ford, who will be making the adjustment from role player to main cog.  Beside him will be 6’6 JR F work horse Dee Givens who must rebound consistently to guarantee team success.  Finally, on the perimeter is 6’2 JR bombardier Shammond Artis who can shoot with anyone in the state.  The bench is anchored by 6’2 JR G Trayden Williams, a transfer who surprisingly lit up the Vikings in the state playoffs as a Rocky River Raven.  6’2 JR ATH Daqon Stewart brings defense and physicality and 6’1 SO G Tony Waters will see some backcourt minutes.  Scoring won’t be an issue but the Norsemen must defend and rebound to stay in front of……………………… 
VANCE
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HS hoops is usually dictated by the teams with the best guards and Vance has solid backcourt play in 5’10 SR G Brandon Beidleman, who can drive, draw, dish and ring the register from the outside.  Alongside him will be fellow SR, 6’2 Ralph Black, a scorer in his own right.  Manning the frontline will be a host of Cougars led by a pair of 6’5 senior forwards, Trevon Barnes and Daniel Hodges.  Mixing in with them will be 6’5 JR F Daniel Ransom, 6’3 SR Donald Hill and a look at the future in 6’6 FR C Daniel Sanford.  6’0 SO G Courtney Blake will be spelling Black and Beidleman and can score himself.  Depth and guard play make the Cougars The Great One’s surprise team but must be consistent on the boards to have a shot at the title and keep pace with……………..
WEST CHARLOTTE
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The Lions had high hopes for the 18-19 campaign when it appeared they were getting 4 star transfer Juwan Gray, but that fell through.  However, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare as another 4 star FSU commit, 6’8 SR F Patrick Williams will lead the way.  Williams is a do-it-all player who excels at all 3 levels and hits the glass to boot.  He will be aided on the frontline by 6’4 SR C hustler Davontez Walker, and a future star in 6’6 SO F Josiah Dow.  Another future D1 player, 6’1 SR G Cartier Jernigan will lead the Dub Cee backcourt effort.  He will have the experienced 6’3 SR G Quinton Thomas at his side to give balance.  A sneak peak at the Lion’s future will spell some of the main cogs off the bench in a trio of freshmen.  These Lion cubs are 6’1 G Marcus Magness, 6’3 F Chancellor Morrow (great name), and 5’10 Camden Jernigan, the younger brother of Cartier.  This year’s Pride of Lions will be an athletic slash-and-dash group but must find consistent outside shooting and defend well if they want a chance to move up, as well as stay ahead of…………………….   
HOPEWELL
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This season’s Titans will be trying to replace most of their starting guard rotation from last season.  The presence and scoring of 6’7 SR F Brice Williams will help ease that transition.  Williams is a Charlotte commit, following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Henry Williams, who passed away last spring.  (The Great One knew his father for many years and had a good conversation with him just days before his passing at the Top 80 in Greensboro.)  Alongside of Williams will be 6’8 SR F Alvin Cannady, who can knock down corner 3’s.  Helping out on the frontline are 6’3 SR F Zahir Moody, 6’5 SR F Donovan Jones and 6’7 JR F Devin McLaughlin.  The backcourt is manned by 5’11 SR G Jalen Jones and 6’1 SR Kendyl Lloyd.  Although the Titans are senior laden, they must defend better and limit their turnovers if they are to have a shot at moving up and stay ahead of rival…………………………      
HOUGH
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The Huskies were hit hard by the graduation of Crawford, Early, Praeger, Washington and Montague, not to mention the transfer of Drake Maye to Myers Park.  However, the Brilliant One thinks that HC Jason Grube will find a way to challenge for a state playoff spot.  A good place to start is the versatile 6’7 SR F Jabril McCormack, who is a versatile player who could blossom into a star this season.  Another version of the brothers Maye is 6’9 JR C Beau Maye, who must average a double double if Hough is to have success.  The backcourt picture is a little murky but appears that 5’10 JR Jackson Bissette and another future star, 6’4 FR G Graham Worland will settle in.  Worland is an all-around bucket getter who should really appear on college radar screens this season.  6’4 JR F Rhett Mabry figures to fill the other frontline spot.  The Huskies are very young but will get baptised by fire in this league.  They will be better in February than in December but must gel quickly if they are to have a chance to rise in the standings and keep ahead of………………..
LAKE NORMAN
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This year’s version of the Wildcats will once again feature a lot of 3 point shots going up.  Although the defections of Edds, Robinson and Johnson hurt, there is still enough firepower to make a run at the playoffs.  It starts with 6’0 SR G Zane Haglan, who is an accomplished shooter who will lead the Lakers in scoring.  Joining Haglan in the backcourt will be 6’2 SR G Zach “I know nottthhing” Schulz.  The perimeter will be rounded out by 6’0 JR G,F Jack Edmonson who is a shooter who can play both spots.  Dominic Adams is a 6’5 JR F who brings energy to the boards and the new space heater in the paint is 6’7 C,PF Jonas Courtney who will eventually play D1 ball.  The 18-19 cast of Wildcats isn’t K.C. and the Sunshine Band or Kishaun’s Krew of recent years but will be an exciting group to watch.  If they can defend and rebound, the have a chance to move up in addition to staying on dry land ahead of…………………………………..   
MALLARD CREEK
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The Creek may be rising with some good young talent on hand in the form of 6’3 SO G,F Justin Taylor who should lead the Mavericks in scoring.  Joining him on the perimeter will be 6’1 SR G Kam Ross who should provide some leadership and 6’0 SR G Demitri Dixon who can also score.  Spelling them in the backcourt will be 5’10 JR G Kalib Baker who is a ball handler and 5’11 SR G Sincere Washington.  Size is a problem but 6’5 JR Evan Ravenel is an experienced veteran who can really help the MC effort if he can hit the boards consistently.  The playoffs may be out of reach this year but if the Mavs can defend well enough and be strong on the glass, they could move up, but should still stay ahead of………………..     
MOORESVILLE
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Last season the Blue Devils didn’t put up much of a fight and it may not be much different this season.  However, The ‘Ville does have an accomplished backcourt with 5’9 SR water-bug G Shy Smith and 3 point bomber 6’0 SR G Griffin White.  A.J Stewart, a 5’11 SR W figures to play a big role in the effort as does 6’0 SR F Jordan Kelly.  Hope for the future rests in 6’3 SO F Lamont Thornton and he must play bigger if the Devils are to have a shot at avoiding the league cellar.
There you have it folks!  It’s now time to get to your nearest gym and watch the season transpire as The Great One has foreseen.  He will post a new Furious 5 every Sunday so don’t miss it.  Legooooooooo!!!!
SAD SAM – HS HOOPS GENIUS