Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 28th, 2016

Yesterday we relayed several interesting and funny quotes from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here). Most of the buzz around the second floor of the Ritz-Carlton was about the condition of Duke freshman forward Jayson Tatum‘s foot — injured in practice the previous day — but we found out that afternoon that the phenom’s injury was relatively minor and he is expected to return to action in a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, there were a few key themes from the day, which we will explore below. We also present the preseason award results as voted on by the participating media in Charlotte.

LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP

North Carolina's Joel Berry discussed his role as a leader during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II discussed his role as a leader during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

A number of ACC programs need to replace their primary leaders from the year before. Here’s how some of the players and coaches from those affected schools see that crucial dynamic working out for their team this season.

  • North Carolina – Even with Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige now departed, Roy Williams still has some veterans to call upon. Among his senior class of Tar Heels, Williams anticipates that Nate Britt is the most likely to step into a primary leadership role. With a smile, Williams commented on his other seniors: “Isaiah [Hicks] hardly talks at all; Kennedy [Meeks] probably talks too much, so they listen to Nate a little bit more than anybody else.” The coach also believes that junior point guard Joel Berry will step up as well after his stellar postseason play last year. For his part, Berry thinks North Carolina needs a collective leadership group, saying, “So I think a lot of people are stepping into that role. If we can get everyone on the team talking and trying to see what’s going on the court, what’s going wrong, what’s going good, I think that will be great for us as a whole.”
  • Virginia – Recently we wrote about what Tony Bennett faces this year without the extraordinary all-around services of Malcolm Brogdon. As London Perrantes quipped, “Yeah, I mean, it felt like Malcolm’s been here for 10 years. So not having him is probably going to be a huge change.” As a senior point guard, much of Virginia’s leadership vacuum will have to be filled by Perrantes, but he won’t be the only player expected to step up. When asked about that issue, Bennett responded, ” I think there’s an eagerness or an excitement for the opportunity for guys like Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, Marial [Shayok]. You know, London has been a key figure to this. Isaiah [Wilkins] has played a lot, but these other guys who have been more in a supplemental role, I think they’re really excited for the opportunity to have it be their team and have a bigger role than they were on in teams past.”

  • Miami – Jim Larranaga is also looking at a leadership by committee situation. The two returnees he’s expecting the most from are roommates Ja’Quan Newton and Davon Reed. Newton steps into the starting point guard role as a junior and Reed is a returning senior starter on the wing. When asked about his new leadership role, Reed gave this thoughtful answer: “Leading is a funny thing. I’ve been trying to figure it out since I’ve been in college. You can’t communicate to everybody the same way. Certain guys you can’t yell at; certain guys you can be a little tougher on. The challenge has been fun with each player in how you relate and connect to each player. It’s still a learning process. I’m still learning.”

COACHES AS MENTORS

Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams believes his role goes way beyond coaching basketball. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams believes his role as head coach goes way beyond coaching basketball. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

In the morning session on Wednesday, players from Florida State and Virginia Tech expressed how much their head coaches help them on and off the court. Seminoles guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said this about Leonard Hamilton: “Coach Hamilton is like a father figure to me. Somebody that I can just kind of go in the office and just talk to whenever I need somebody to talk to. It doesn’t even have to be about basketball […]  I’m just so thankful to be able to have a coach like him in my life and somebody that mentors me in the right ways.” Later, Hokies senior Seth Allen described Buzz Williams by saying, “I look to him as just like a father figure, mentor […] he’s much more than a coach to me.”

When those two coaches had their turn at the podium, each was asked to talk about what motivates them at this point in their careers. We found their answers to be among the most thoughtful comments we heard all day, and expressed in a way that we in the media rarely see. It’s obvious that they are genuine — what they say is totally aligned with the impact they appear to have on the young men in their program. In a nutshell, both Hamilton and Williams seem to have great perspective on what a college head coach should be. See if you agree:

Leonard Hamilton

I love what I do. I love working with young people and trying to communicate with them during what I think is probably most important period of their life, when they’re teenagers going into young adulthood. Yes, I’m excited about wanting to win ACC championships and get to the NCAA Tournament, but I’m happier when I am invited to their weddings, when they ask me to be the godfather to their kids. I’m more concerned about when I look at my trophy case and I’ve got lots of awards, but the awards that I’m more concerned about is what kind of husband, what kind of fathers, what kind of neighbors, what kind of citizens these guys are going to become.

Buzz Williams

I mean this in a sincere tone, not a condescending tone, for sure not in an arrogant tone. I’m kind of bored with basketball just to be real honest with you […] But the thing is I think I’ve just matured to the point that maybe we’re just using basketball as a microcosm for life, and that doesn’t mean that I’m trying to be holier than thou, and it doesn’t mean that I’m even a good figure to be an example of that, but the older I’ve gotten, I’ve just become more consumed with who the Seth Allens of our program end up being as future husbands and future fathers and future leaders of our country, and so all that we do is predicated on that. We practice. I can draw up an out-of-bounds play if I have to. But if I don’t have to and they know it, we want to do something different, I don’t fight them on that anymore. But I do fight them on knowing how to shake somebody’s hand; knowing how to introduce yourself; knowing what good manners are; knowing what having a grateful heart is; how to be humble in your body language; how to treat women; how to treat people. Those things are really important because those are the things that I want to make sure that my kids learn in my house. It’s trite, but if I’m going to love my children in the same manner I love our players, then I need to be the same teacher to our players that I am to my children, and I shouldn’t coach them just because they’re better players than my children. So basketball has become a descending priority not only in my job but also in my life.

IT’S A GUARD’S  GAME

NC State basketball player Dennis Smith, Jr. answers a question during the 2016 ACC Men’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

NC State’s Dennis Smith, Jr. was selected as the ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year and was also named to the Preseason All-ACC First Team at the 2016 ACC Men’’s Operation Basketball in Charlotte. (Photo by Nell Redmond, theACC.com)

Since Duke is regarded as the nation’s best team in most national preseason rankings, it’s no surprise that the Blue Devils were the runaway winner in this year’s ACC Preseason Poll. We were a little surprised that the teams projected in the middle of the ACC standings weren’t more bunched together. We thought that only about 150 voting points would separate the schools picked at #6 and #12, but that was not the case this year. The attending media members selected four guards on the 2016-17 Preseason All-ACC First Team, and two of those were picked for individual honors. Duke’s Grayson Allen is the prohibitive favorite to be the league’s best player this season, while NC State’s ultra-confident (not cocky) Dennis Smith, Jr. gets the nod as the ACC’s top rookie.

ACC Operation Basketball 2016-17 Preseason Poll

Team & Points

  1. Duke (85) – 1359
  2. North Carolina (6) – 1239
  3. Virginia – 1125
  4. Louisville – 1034
  5. Syracuse – 905
  6. NC State – 772
  7. Notre Dame – 716
  8. Florida State – 705
  9. Miami – 650
  10. Virginia Tech – 645
  11. Clemson – 623
  12. Pittsburgh – 511
  13. Wake Forest – 309
  14. Georgia Tech – 199
  15. Boston College – 128

2016-17 Preseason All-ACC Team

First Team

  • Grayson Allen, Duke (87)
  • Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (70)
  • Joel Berry II, North Carolina (45)
  • London Perrantes, Virginia (36)
  • Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (34)

Second Team

  • Justin Jackson, North Carolina (22)
  • Jayson Tatum, Duke (21)
  • Tyler Lydon, Syracuse (20)
  • Dwayne Bacon, Florida State (16)
  • Michael Young, Pitt (14)

ACC Preseason Player of the Year

  1. Grayson Allen, Duke (70)
  2. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (7)
  3. London Perrantes, Virginia (5)
  4. Joel Berry II, North Carolina (5)
  5. Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (2)
  6. Andrew White, Syracuse (1)
  7. Davon Reed, Miami (1)

ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year

  1. Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (51)
  2. Jayson Tatum, Duke (20)
  3. Harry Giles, Duke (10)
  4. Tyus Battle, Syracuse (5)
  5. VJ King, Louisville (2)
  6. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State (2)
  7. Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech (1)
Brad Jenkins (271 Posts)


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