RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – South Atlantic RegionPosted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2010
It’s October. The leaves are starting to turn colors. Halloween candy is already in the stores. There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat. Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials. For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series. The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season. Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package. As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy. What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays. Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.
You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.
South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC)
- Kyrie Irving – Fr, G – Duke. To get an idea how highly touted Kyrie Irving is, consider this: coming off a season where Duke won the national title and only lost one key playmaker on offense, most people believe that the Blue Devils will run their offense through the talented freshman from New Jersey who many recruiting experts rank among the best to ever come from the state that has produced so many great college players, including Duke legends Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. His development during his sophomore year of high school when ESPN analysts stated that he “would be a top 300 player nationally in the 2010 class” and then said a few months later “could be an impact player in the Atlantic 10 or a high-major role player” to his senior year when he was a top five recruit (#1 according to some services) and those same recruiting analysts were stating “it will be shocking if he isn’t an all-conference performer and possible all-american his freshman season” portends the potential for his development into a truly special player. Irving is one of the rare players who arrives on campus with the ability to both score and distribute the ball to his teammates. After all the talk about how Coach K had lost his edge in recruiting, Irving might be his most dynamic recruit since Williams arrived in Durham back in 1999. Despite only being on campus for a few months, his Blue Devil teammates have probably already begun to appreciate his high basketball IQ, competitiveness, and all-around ability. Even though many will question his inclusion on our Impact Player team over his more proven teammate Nolan Smith, Irving has demonstrated a skill set in high school that goes beyond what Smith has demonstrated even with three additional years of experience under the watchful eye of Coach K. If Irving is able to make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game (and having Singler, Smith, Seth Curry, and the Plumlees around should help), his game could make the Blue Devils heavy favorites to repeat when March arrives. With Irving’s game we don’t think it will be question of if but rather when he feels truly comfortable at the college level, so all the Duke haters should be preparing for a long season ahead.
- Malcolm Delaney - Sr, G – Virginia Tech. If you’re a Hokies fan and a Twitter fiend, back on May 8th you were probably just a little surprised but very happy that Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was going to put off NBA riches for a year and return to school for his senior season. Nobody, however, could have been happier than Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. We shudder to think at the number of blood pressure medications that man must be taking these days, having seemingly been the victim of more last-second heartbreakers and burst NCAA Tournament bubbles (are we allowed to refer to “the bubble” in October?) than any one man should ever be expected to endure, but the return of Delaney to Blacksburg should have lowered Greenberg’s systolic by about 20 points. It probably went back up over the summer, though, after Greenberg lost two of his forwards for the season — specifically presumptive sixth man J.T. Thompson to a left ACL tear and Allan Chaney to viral myocarditis (a condition slightly less than 0.6% of all people in America have) — and has another one in Cadarian Raines recovering from surgery in March to repair a re-fractured left foot. The importance of Delaney, then, and the impact he’ll have in this geographical region become obvious. VT will have to go small, and that means more touches for Malcolm, who we’re guessing will have no problem taking on more responsibility in terms of both scoring and rebounding, and we’re saying this about the top scorer in the ACC last season (20.2 PPG). He played an average of 35.8 MPG last year (4th ACC, 58th nationally) and we wonder if he’ll even sit at all this season. Most importantly, if the Hokies are going to attempt to return to only their second NCAA Tournament in the last 15 years (and what would be Delaney’s first), Greenberg will be counting on emotional and vocal leadership on the floor and in the locker room from Delaney, his RTC South Atlantic Impact Player and ACC Player of the Year candidate.
- Kevin Anderson – Sr, G – Richmond. Richmond’s Kevin Anderson will in 2010-11 put the finishing touches on a remarkable collegiate career in which the slightly built guard from Atlanta, Georgia, will have become the most accomplished UR player since the school joined the Atlantic 10, and one of the program’s best-ever. Anderson has scored 1,552 points in his three seasons at UR, and assuming he remains healthy and at least matches his junior year scoring average of 17.8 PPG, he’ll be in position to make a run at Johnny Newman (2,383 points) as the all-time leading scorer in Richmond history (or, at worst, finish second). But it’s not just about his scoring — Anderson, the 2008 A-10 Rookie of the Year and 2010 A-10 Player of the Year, has led the renaissance of Richmond basketball from a continual conference also-ran to three straight top five conference finishes and postseason appearances. This culminated last year in UR’s 26-9 season and #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the first trip back to the Big Dance for the program in six long years. Anderson is expected to lead the Spiders to even greater heights this season; perhaps even garnering the program’s first NCAA win since the John Beilein era (1998). He does his damage with the bounce — few players in the conference or nationwide are as quick with the ball as Anderson, who can drive past any defender to find open seams in the paint for floaters or kickouts to the wing. If you play him to drive, he has the ability to nail the three (although with a career 31.0% conversion rate from downtown, he could stand to be more selective), and even though he bears a score-first mentality he can drop dimes when warranted (8 against VMI; 7 against GW; 5 against Missouri in 2009-10). Two other starters return for the Spiders this season, the multi-talented forward Justin Harper (11/5) and former star big man Dan Geriot (14/6 prior to his knee injury in 2008) — if Geriot can regain his confidence to become anywhere near the player he was two years ago, Richmond should be well-equipped on both the inside and the perimeter to make a move toward the top of the Atlantic 10 once again. One thing you can count on is that Anderson will do everything within his powers to get them there.
- Harrison Barnes - Fr, F – North Carolina. For three of the past four seasons a freshman has been the dominant player in college basketball with Blake Griffin being the lone exception in the era dominated by Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and John Wall. If you are looking for a freshman to take that role this year, look no further than Chapel Hill where Harrison Barnes should lead Roy Williams and the Tar Heels back to the NCAA Tournament after their noticeable absence last season. If there is a light of hope for Tar Heel fans this year in the sea of Duke repeat (or three-peat) hysteria it should be Barnes’ play. Barnes may not be as polished as Irving is in terms of his passing or perimeter game, but his raw athleticism should make him among the most exciting players in the country to watch and has made him the projected #1 pick in most 2011 NBA mock drafts. Unfortunately for Barnes he may have to do much of the work for the Tar Heels on his own, unlike Irving who will have ample support from a cast of potential All-Americans. Barnes will be forced to work with a decent but uninspiring pair of guards in Larry Drew, II and Dexter Strickland while relying on the rail-thin John Henson and the talented but often injured Tyler Zeller on the inside. If Henson can start to show some of that potential that made him a McDonald’s All-American and Zeller can make it through the season without missing significant time for injuries then Barnes very well could lead the Tar Heels into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. If that doesn’t happen, the Tar Heels should still be a NCAA Tournament team and their fans will spend the rest of the season enjoying the Harrison Barnes Show while wondering how their team feel so precipitously in such a short period of time.
- Kyle Singler – Sr, F – Duke. By the end of his senior season, it’s a distinct possibility that Kyle Singler departs Duke leaving a legacy that few of his predecessors on Tobacco Road can duplicate. The chance to play key contributor on a team that wins consecutive national championships would place Singler on a pedestal with the likes of Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley in the annals of Blue Devil history. Taking a step back and looking at his senior campaign from a national perspective, many view Singler as the prohibitive favorite to take home the National Player of the Year award, win ACC Player of the Year and make First-Team All-America. Although his statistics may be tempered a bit given a loaded supporting cast and potential to play in a large handful of blowouts, Singler’s importance to the Blue Devils cannot be understated. His willingness to shift back and forth from both forward positions gives Mike Krzyzewski plenty of options, whether it is to feature Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Seth Curry with Singler as a slightly undersized power forward or go bigger with the Plumlee brothers and create a height advantage for Singler as a small forward. The Oregon native’s skill level just keeps rising with every collegiate season and he’s molded into the top inside/outside threat in the ACC, complete with the ability to play any role from penetrator to defensive stopper to charge-taker to scrappy rebounder. His stardom doesn’t just come out on one end of the floor, either. Singler plays solid man-to-man defense and grabbed over eight rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted as a 6’8 forward on a strong rebounding team in 2009-10. He’s an extremely focused, dedicated and fearless young man who’s never afraid to take the big shot, shining brightest on the biggest stage last March and April. A nagging right wrist plagued a good portion of Singler’s junior season and offseason minor knee surgery over the summer was a slight setback, so avoiding the injury bug is a legitimate question for him heading into 2010-11. What isn’t a question is the impact a healthy Singler would have on a team that could rank as an all-timer under the Krzyzewski reign in Durham. The leader of that unit is a floppy-haired, northwestern boy with a sheepish grin named Kyle Singler, quite possibly your next Duke National Player of the Year.
- Tracy Smith (6th) - Sr, F – NC State. This is the season of great expectations in Raleigh as head coach Sidney Lowe has rounded up the nation’s fifth ranked recruiting class with power forward C.J. Leslie and guards Lorenzo Brown and Ryan Harrow bringing plenty of excitement with them to campus. But it is Smith who is already the known entity here, and a very effective one as well. Smith averaged 16.5 PPG as a junior and did so in a consistent manner, failing to score in double figures just three times. He also pulled down over seven rebounds a night and was the team leader in a variety of other statistical categories, ranging from minutes played to fouls drawn to field goal percentage, a category in which he led the entire ACC. Smith is a 6’8, 255-pound beast, capable of overpowering defenders and dominating with his strength, but last season Smith proved himself to be more than just a power player, showing a capable face-up game, a set of polished post moves and some excellent footwork. In his senior season, with a significant infusion of talent on the Wolfpack roster, Smith should see fewer double-teams and better chances on the offensive end. His scoring average may not improve, since he’ll have to share touches with those more talented players (especially Leslie as his frontcourt running mate), but the already efficient Smith may prove even more adept at the offensive end. There are a couple areas where Smith needs to improve, however. First, while he is quite accomplished at using his skills to draw fouls and get to the line, he needs to continue to work on his stroke from the charity stripe. As a junior he improved to a 65% free-throw shooter (from just 59% as a sophomore), but given the rate at which he gets to the line, another little bump in accuracy could be huge. Second, while his 7.3 RPG ranked ninth in the ACC, Smith is capable of far more on the glass. While he was a monster early in the season (in his first 10 games he never failed to grab less than seven rebounds), he faded late, grabbing only ten total rebounds in the Pack’s final three games and never grabbing double-digit rebounds after January 23. Smith needs to be a double-double threat on a nightly basis, a role he is perfectly capable of playing. As the accomplished veteran on a young Wolfpack team that is trying to break its NCAA Tournament drought (they last received a tournament bid in 2006, the longest such drought in the ACC), Smith will need to be not only the go-to offensive player, but also a team leader, providing an example to the younger players of the hard work that is necessary to succeed, and there is no better place for him to begin that task than cleaning the glass on a regular basis.
- Nolan Smith - Sr, G – Duke. It’s not often that a potential all-american will be on the outside looking in on a list like this, but that says more about the talents of the guards above than it does about Smith. Mr. Consistency was huge in Duke’s Elite Eight win over Baylor in last year’s NCAA Tourney (29 pts).
- Andrew Goudelock - Sr, G - College of Charleston. This lights-out shooter who has hit 41.7% of his three-point attempts in three seasons returns to continue his assault on the CofC record books — he stands only 442 points away from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Others Considered (* denotes injury or suspension)
- Donald Sims – Sr, G – Appalachian State
- Jamarco Warren - Sr, G – Charleston Southern
- Shamari Spears – Sr, F – Charlotte
- Demontez Stitt – Sr, G – Clemson
- Chad Gray – Sr, F – Coastal Carolina
- Jeremy Simmons – Sr, F – College of Charleston
- Jake Cohen – Soph, C – Davidson
- Seth Curry – Soph, G – Duke
- Brock Young – Sr, G – East Carolina
- Amu Saaka – Sr, F – Furman
- Cam Long – Sr, G – George Mason
- Nick Barbour – Jr, G – High Point
- Denzel Bowles – Sr, C – James Madison
- CJ Leslie – Fr, F – NC State
- Malik Cooke – Jr, F – South Carolina
- Cameron Wells – Sr, G – The Citadel
- John Henson – Soph, F – North Carolina
- Tyler Zeller – Jr, F – North Carolina
- John Williams – Sr, F – UNC-Asheville
- Joey Rodriguez – Sr, G – VCU
- Jeff Allen – Sr, F – Virginia Tech
- Dorenzo Hudson – Sr, G – Virginia Tech
- Austin Kenon – Sr, G – VMI
- CJ Harris – Soph, G – Wake Forest
- Noah Dahlman – Sr, F – Wofford