Projecting Five ACC Breakout Players

Posted by Mick McDonald on October 25th, 2018

You know the returning stars and you know all about the five-star freshmen who are set to make their debuts. Today we present five ACC players who we believe will be household names around the conference by March.

Can Aamir Simms continue the promising finish to last season following Donte Grantham’s injury? (Al Bello/Getty Images)

  • Aamir Simms, Clemson. A back-end top-100 prospect coming out of high school, Simms was a project last year. In his first 17 games, he mostly saw action in garbage time. But when star forward Donte Grantham tore his ACL on January 20 at Notre Dame, Simms was a different player. Over his last 17 games, the bulky forward shot 48 percent from the field and made 39 percent from three-point range in becoming a key cog of the Tigers’ attack. With an experienced backcourt that excels in ball screen action returning, look for Simms to continue to emerge as one of the best pick-and-pop stretch forwards in the ACC this season.
  • Jordan Nwora, Louisville. Last season at Louisville was a mess from the very beginning (you may have heard about this whole Brian Bowen situation). A group of talented veterans never really meshed under interim coach David Padgett, but because they logged such heavy minutes, the Cardinals’ underlying freshman class never really got a chance to show what it could do. The wing Nwora played just 12.0 MPG last season, but he shot almost 44 percent from long distance and logged a stellar 61.2 percent eFG in ACC play. With new head coach Chris Mack taking over, expect Nwora to become his go-to bucket-getter.

  • Dewan Huell, Miami. We are probably pushing the limits of the word “breakout” by including Huell since he started every game for a good Miami team last season. But given that he averaged over 11 points and almost seven rebounds per game playing next to two elite players (Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown), expect a monster season from the junior center as his usage increases. With Chris Lykes’ proven ability to penetrate (and perhaps more willing to pass than Brown or Walker), Huell should have opportunities for plenty of easy baskets around the rim. He’s also likely to become an even bigger monster on the glass. His defensive rebounding percentage nearly doubled last season to 20.8 percent (from 11.4 percent as a freshman), and it’s reasonable to expect him to make yet another jump to become one of the top rebounders in the ACC.
  • Marco Anthony, Virginia. Given that Anthony played in only 13 games last year and registered double-figure minutes only four times, this selection is somewhat of a reach. But this is a wager on the player development skills of head coach Tony Bennett. Talented wing Devon Hall is gone, along with all of his versatility and shooting at the position, leaving De’Andre Hunter to pick up the slack and start at the three. But Virginia is at its best when it can slide Hunter over to the four and play small-ball. To do that successfully, Virginia needs Anthony to play solid perimeter defense and make open shots on the wing. Here’s betting that Bennett will figure out a way to mold him into a trusted member of the rotation to give the Cavaliers that option.

The buzz is real. Get ready for Nickeil Alexander-Walker to become one of the premier scorers in the ACC. (USA Today Sports)

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech. Buzz Williams’ top recruit from a year ago had a solid freshman campaign, averaging just under 11 PPG while shooting 39 percent from long-range. However, he also had a tendency toward streakiness and inefficiency (55.4 eFG%), and at times disappeared on the floor. The 6’5” Canadian seems ready, however, to put it all together this year in joining Justin Robinson to form one of the best backcourts in college basketball. Williams’ open-floor system will allow him the freedom to look for his shot, and when running hot, he’ll be encouraged to take over games. It says here that Alexander-Walker will finish among the top five ACC scorers this season.

Others to keep an eye on: M.J. Walker (Florida State), Marek Dolezaj (Syracuse), Chaundee Brown (Wake Forest) and John Mooney (Notre Dame).

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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