RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – South Atlantic RegionPosted by rtmsf on September 21st, 2009
Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) are located here.
Here we are with the third installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the ridiculously loaded South Atlantic region. Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season. Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation. Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man. We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off. The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?
South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)
Al-Farouq Aminu, Soph, F – Wake Forest. After a recruiting class compiled by the late Skip Prosser that included first-round selections Jeff Teague and James Johnson, third year coach Dino Gaudio managed to lure five-star talent Al-Farouq Aminu to campus the next season. By all accounts, Aminu had a tremendous freshman season when looking at the big picture. He averaged nearly 13 points per contest, grabbed over eight rebounds a game and shot over 50% from the floor. He starred in Wake wins against BC (26/7), Clemson (21/10) and Duke (15/10). Aminu led all ACC rookies in rebounding, including 11 games as the Deacons team leader while scoring in double-figures 22 times. Due to his superior talent, Wake fans will still maintain they expect Aminu to take it to another level in 2009-10. Too often the 6’9 forward disappeared, though, scoring four points in 28 minutes in a 27-point loss to Miami or nine points in a close loss to bottom-feeder NC State or an 8 point, 2/12 FG performance in the ACC Tournament defeat at the hands of rival Maryland. These peaks and valleys are typical of even the most talented freshmen (besides maybe Kevin Durant), so Aminu shouldn’t be held accountable for Wake’s slide from the #1 team in the land to March goat. But with Teague and Johnson departed, it’s now Aminu’s team in Winston-Salem. With first-round talent and ability, the sky’s the limit for AFA in his second season leading a young Wake Forest squad back to the Dance to avenge last season.
Trevor Booker – Sr, F – Clemson. Trevor Booker is the best player that most people still have never heard of. Consider this: there are three returning players in America who were more efficient than Booker last season and you would have no problem picking all three out of a photographic lineup: Luke Harangody, Patrick Patterson and Cole Aldrich. But do you even know what Booker looks like? You will this year, as the beefy, athletic 6’7 forward can do it all and should vault into ACC POY territory with another year under his belt. Let’s take a closer look. As a second-team all-ACC selection and the top vote-getter on the all-defensive team last season, he trailed only Ty Lawson among high-usage (>20mpg) league players in eFG% (58%), led the conference in FG% and rebounding (first ACC player to do so since Tim Duncan) and averaged a double-double (15/10) in last year’s tough ACC. But most importantly to Clemson fans, Booker is only 20 wins away from becoming the winningest player in the history of the Tiger program. In his three seasons at Clemson, his teams have averaged 24 wins against 10 losses, and the 26 ACC Ws and two NCAA Tournament appearances the Tigers have achieved in large part through his ferocious dunks and tenacious defense represent the best three-year period in the program’s history. Booker had a slight scare last month with a low-grade stress fracture in his foot, but he’s expected to be completely healthy for the beginning of practice in October. It’s a good thing, because when Booker hangs up his kicks for the last time as a Clemson Tiger next March, he may very well be in the argument as the most accomplished player in the history of Clemson basketball.
Devan Downey – Sr, G – South Carolina. Downey enters his senior season at South Carolina with a legitimate shot to become their first AP all-american since Alex English was tracking down every rebound in Columbia in the mid-70s, and along with three other returning starters, has a chance to take the Gamecocks back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. Quicker than a hiccup, the diminutive Downey is simply not guardable one-on-one at this level. He accounted for 33% of SC’s shot attempts last year, but with good reason. Despite his undersized frame, he threw in nearly twenty points and five assists per game, and was among the national leaders in steals (for every 20 USC defensive possessions, Downey would get a steal!). Downey is one of those players who, undoubtedly due to his size, plays the game with a gigantic chip on his shoulder. How else to explain calmly dribbling down the clock to hit a game-winner at the SEC’s toughest venue, as he did last January at Rupp Arena against Kentucky (before the Cats imploded)? His astounding play and winner-take-all attitude represents a sea change in the South Carolina program, which has been largely moribund for the last decade under the previous coach’s regime. With Honorable Mention players Dominique Archie and Zam Fredrick returning to Columbia this winter along with Downey, the Cocks might be ready to finally make the leap from “regular NIT participant” to the NCAAs.
Greg Monroe, Soph, C – Georgetown. Teaming up with fellow Hoya guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, lengthy 6’11 sophomore center Greg Monroe has a chance to erase last year’s collapse from the minds of the Georgetown faithful. Or at least heal the wounds. A top-ten ranked team following a late December win at future Final Four participant Connecticut, a contest in which Monroe tallied 16 points on an efficient 6/10 from the floor, it appeared Hoyas headman John Thompson, III, had plans for another deep run in March. Instead, his team fell apart, losing seven of eight in the height of conference play, including two losses to Cincinnati and two more to St. John’s at various points in the season. While ineffective guard play and a letdown year defensively played key roles into the collapse, the over-reliance on the freshman Monroe also factored into the spiral, the length of his first college schedule and an overwhelming sense of pressure to carry the Hoyas as a rookie, understandably, a bit too much to handle. In his second full season and with a skill set that leaves NBA scouts drooling, Monroe has the chance to carry Georgetown to redemption. His all-around repertoire for a big man is enviable from his tremendous versatility and passing ability in the post to running the floor with guards and utilizing his rare length to snatch rebounds over smaller opponents. Reports also indicate Monroe has bulked up over the summer while becoming more comfortable scoring with either hand. Following a 17-shot performance at Notre Dame on January 5, Monroe did not attempt more than 12 shots in a game the rest of the season, leading many Georgetown fans to hope Monroe learns when to use his supreme talent to take over games while at the same time continuing the stunningly efficient play (57% FG) of his freshman season. The sophomore campaign could spell an epic turnaround for Monroe, Thompson and Georgetown in the Big East.
Kyle Singler, Jr, F – Duke. Despite how well he’s done since arriving in Durham, Greg Paulus, Coach K himself. Those days are over, at least until Seth Curry becomes eligible and we again endure the requisite shots of his mom in the stands. In terms of returning players, at 6’8 and 235 pounds, Singler represents the only proven on-the-block banger for the Blue Devils, not to mention the fact that the kid – again, rather quietly – led the team in scoring (16.7 ppg), rebounding (7.7 rpg), steals (1.5 spg), and blocks (1.0 bpg), and tied for 3pt FG% at 38.3%, 19th in the conference. That’s all fine and dandy, but consider this, as well: Singler broke through the 1000-point barrier for his Duke career last year, which was of course only his sophomore season. Of the cavalcade of stars that has paraded through Duke over the last 25 years, do you know how many other Blue Devils have scored 1000 points by the end of their second seasons? A mere five. Currently listed at 17th on nbadraft.net‘s 2011 mock draft, most folks outside of Durham (and maybe Chapel Hill and Medford, Oregon) wouldn’t recognize him if they were shown a plain-clothes photo of the guy. When it comes to rating impact players in this geographic region of the country, your first focus is Tobacco Road. Given what he’s achieved so far and how important he is to Duke’s success this upcoming season, any discussion of that type has to begin with Kyle Singler. Get to know him.has seemingly never been the main focus at Duke. The television cameras have always tended to focus on other personalities during Duke games — the more vocal and demonstrative , the backcourt adventures of
Larry Sanders (MM), Jr, F – VCU. There were only a few real candidates in this region in terms of mid-major impact players, but no matter. The almost unanimous choice was Larry Sanders, the 6-10, 220-pound junior forward from VCU. You probably didn’t hear much about this particular Ram last year, having played on the same team as no less than the excellent , now of the Utah Jazz. You probably remember VCU scaring the bejeezus out of UCLA in the first round of the NCAA last year (Maynor had 21/6/7 but missed a shot at the buzzer to win it); Sanders shot poorly in that game but still put up 10 points and pulled 11 boards, representing one of his eleven double-doubles from last year. We wouldn’t recommend getting too ambitious in the lane against VCU this season, also — Sanders was 7th in the nation in blocks/game (2.7). NBADraft.net is assuming that Sanders is gone after this, his upcoming junior year, and has him ranked as 12th in their 2010 mock draft. If VCU is going to have any shot at repeating last year’s 24-10 (14-4 Colonial) mark, this man is the key, and he is our mid-major representative for South Atlantic Impact Players.
Honorable Mention. Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech. Dominique Archie, South Carolina. Noah Dahlman, Wofford. Ed Davis, UNC. Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech. Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech. James Florence, Mercer. David Gonzalvez, Richmond. Andrew Goudelock, Charleston. Joseph Harris, Coastal Carolina. John Henson, UNC. Damian Hollis, GW. Sylven Landesberg, Virginia. Gerald Lee, Old Dominion. Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech. Cameron Long, George Mason. Harouma Mutombo, Western Carolina. Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford. Jonathan Rodriguez, Campbell. Jon Scheyer, Duke. Howard Thompkins, Georgia. Deon Thompson, UNC. Cameron Wells, The Citadel. Julius Wells, James Madison. Chris Wright, Georgetown.