Aug 8, 2013
Apex's #3 T.J. Evans with the ball during round three of the NCHSAA Basketball Championships Friday March 1, 2013 (Photo by Jack Tarr)
It's not a secret the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational brings out some of the best high school basketball talent in the country each year.
This year is no exception.
Included in the field this year are eight five-star players and four four-star players. And according to the ESPN.com rankings, the tournament field features 11 players ranked in the Top 30 of their respective classes.
The pool of players also includes a lot of local talent.
Broughton returns to the Holiday Invitational this season after making it to the state championship game last season. The Capitals lost a lot of talent off of that team, but they do return some key pieces.
Cameron Gottfried, the son of NC State coach Mark Gottfried, is back at Broughton for his senior season. The younger Gottfried is a 6-foot-1 shooting guard. He has an offer on the table from Loyola (Md.).
Broughton – the host school of the Holiday Invitational – has played in the event more than any other team in the history of the tournament.
Apex is another talented team, and unlike Broughton, the Cougars return nearly everything they had last season.
The senior duo of T.J. Evans and T.J. Wells may be the best back court in Wake County this season.
Evans is a 6-foot, 175-pound point guard who has been a participant in Dave Telep's Carolina Challenge. According to ESPN, Evans is a two-star player and the 25th best overall player in his class from the state of North Carolina.
Evans has been the two-time Tri-9 Conference Player of the Year.
Wells is also a point guard, standing at 5-foot-10. Last season, he averaged nearly seven assists per game for the Cougars.
Apex also found a very talented freshman last season in Ian Boyd, who spent a lot of time in the post for the Cougars. Boyd was also the starting quarterback on the Apex football team as a freshman.
The Cougars are a favorite to make a playoff run in the 4-A ranks this winter. Last season, Apex fell to Broughton in the third round of the state playoffs after holding a double-digit lead in the second half.
One of the highest-rated in-state players in the Class of 2014 is Clayton big man Gary Clark.
Clark will lead his Comets into the Holiday Invitational this season for the second time in his career.
According to ESPN, Clark is a four-star prospect and is ranked the eighth best player in the state from the Class of 2014.
Clark has a number of big offers – including NC State and Wake Forest. Other offers include Charlotte, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Maryland, Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Richmond, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Wilmington, Virginia Commonwealth, Wichita State and Xavier.
Clayton made an appearance in the Eastern Regional last season where it fell to Seventy-First.
One of the most successful high school basketball programs in the state in recent years has been Kinston.
The two-time defending state champions return to the Holiday Invitational field this season with five-star junior Brandon Ingram.
Ingram is the 12th best player in the nation from the Class of 2015, according to ESPN, which also ranks him as the second best small forward and the best in-state player.
The 6-foot-7 Ingram reports offers from NC State, North Carolina and Wake Forest.
Sanderson is a team that has high hopes this season after missing the state playoffs last year.
Senior Parker Fennema, a 6-foot-6 small forward, is a two-star player and the 33rd best player in the state from his class, according to ESPN. Earlier this year, Fennema committed to Army.
There are two other Wake County Public Schools playing in the tournament: rivals Garner and Middle Creek.
Garner returns point guard Julius Barnes, a 5-foot-8 rising junior. According to ESPN, Barnes is a three-star player and the fifth best player in the state from his class.
Trinity Christian School of Fayetteville has a very talented back court, albeit a young one.
Shooting guard Kwe Parker, a member of the Class of 2016, stands at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds. Parker is a four-star prospect and the 24th best player in his class, according to ESPN.
Parker has an offer from Virginia Tech already.
Joining Parker is 6-foot-2 point guard Dennis Smith.
Word of God is also back in the Holiday Invitational after winning the tournament last season.
The Holy Rams lost several key players from last season, but point guard Quentin Jackson, Jr., son of Word of God coach Quentin Jackson, transferred from Middle Creek to Word of God during the off-season.
Jackson is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound junior. A participant in Dave Telep's Carolina Challenge, he is ranked the 14th best player in his class in North Carolina.
Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT