A Closer Look at the ACC’s Early Impact Freshmen

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 11th, 2013

The ACC has struggled as a whole to live up to its self-proclaimed billing as the best basketball conference of all-time. It can’t even lay a claim to the best conference currently, as it came out with a tie in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, an event in which three of the ACC’s worst teams weren’t invited. However, the talent in the ACC is deep and it remains an exciting conference from top to bottom. Part of the reason for that is the emergence of new and exciting young players across the league, tantalizing casual fans with skills usually reserved for seasoned veterans. These ACC newcomers play various roles on their teams, some shouldering a large offensive burden while others bring a spark off the bench. Whether these players are one-and-done or around for the long haul, they represent the future of the ACC and have fan bases optimistically looking toward future conference championships and Final Four runs. While some relatively high-profile freshmen have struggled to adapt to the college game — UNC’s Isaiah Hicks and N.C. State’s Beejay Anya come to mind there are plenty of freshmen to note who are already producing. Broken down into a tiered system based on efficacy and impact, the following 13 freshmen represent the best of the ACC so far this season.

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse's success

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse’s success this season.

The Elite ACC ROY Candidates

1). Jabari Parker, F, Duke: Parker is not only an ACC ROY front-runner but an ACC Player of the Year favorite as well. His offensive game has been compared to Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony and he possesses an abundance of elite moves in isolation, ranging from the perimeter to the post. Parker carries a large burden of Duke’s offense this season and his ultimate performance will be judged largely on the Blue Devils’ success. If he can lead his team to an ACC title, he’ll probably win both awards.

2). Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse: Ennis is a calming and consistent offensive presence for Syracuse. He rarely gets flustered and is a key member at the top of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. He has started since day one for Jim Boeheim and is a large reason why Syracuse remains undefeated and an ACC title favorite. On ESPN‘s college basketball podcast, ESPN commentator and former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said Syracuse would be a “borderline NCAA Tournament team without Ennis.” This shows how much of an impact the youngster has had.

On the Cusp

3). Anthony Barber, G, N.C. State: Barber is playing nearly 30 minutes and averaging 13 points per game for the Wolfpack. A lightning-quick, reed-thin guard, Barber shares the floor with diminutive point guard Tyler Lewis and has been relied on thus far for his scoring more than his distributing abilities.

4). Kennedy Meeks, F/C, UNC: Kennedy Meeks recently took home the ACC Rookie of the Week award after a pair of convincing performances versus UNC-Greensboro and a statement win at Michigan State. The big-bodied, 290-pound frontcourt player is known for his Kevin Love-like outlet passes and is an efficient interior scorer and big-time rebounder for this Tar Heels’ team.

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

5). Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame: Jackson has to back up one of the best backcourt tandems in the country in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, but it is a testament to his abilities that Mike Brey finds 24 minutes per game for him. Jackson is the future of the Notre Dame backcourt and is having a very successful, if not understated, freshman campaign, averaging almost eight points per game with very good shooting numbers — 50 percent from three and 53.7 percent from the floor.

6). Ben Emelogu, G, Virginia Tech: Much was made of Emelogu getting named a freshman captain for the Hokies, but he has validated James Johnson’s decision to the tune of 14.0 PPG for the 7-3 squad.

Productive and Will Continue to Improve

7). Davon Reed, G, Miami (FL): Reed averages 9.0 PPG in almost 29 minutes per game for a rebuilding Miami program, and he will be a key cog for the Hurricanes’ future.

8). Roddy Peters, G, Maryland: Peters has taken over some point guard duties (along with Dez Wells) since Seth Allen’s early injury, and he has risen to the occasion.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

9). Michael Young, F, Pittsburgh: A highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school, Young has complemented the experience and maturity of Pitt’s seniors well.

10). Devin Wilson, G, Virginia Tech: This rookie guard is handling 32 minutes per game well for the inexperienced Hokies, whose true talent will be tested come conference play.

11). Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson: Blossomgame has shown himself to be a versatile interior force, averaging close to 5.0 RPG and PPG while blocking over a shot per contest as well.

12). Nate Britt, G, North Carolina: Britt plays 25 minutes per game and has taken on the point guard duties as Marcus Paige has become the Tar Heels’ primary perimeter scoring option with P.J. Hairston still sidelined.

13). Lennard Freeman, F, N.C. State: Freeman plays 26 minutes per game for Mark Gottfried, and the Washington, D.C., native is a huge help on the boards, averaging almost seven rebounds per contest.

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New Starting Lineup Working for NC State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 9th, 2013

Although it’s still very early, NC State is showing signs that this may not be quite the down year many were predicting. After a lackluster 2-2 start to the season, head coach Mark Gottfried made some major lineup changes that are starting to pay big dividends during a four-game winning streak. The most obvious change is the return of seven-foot center Jordan Vandenberg, who missed the first four games due to an injured ankle, but he’s not the only newcomer to the starting lineup. Although all five opening game starters are now healthy, three of those players are coming off the bench.

T.J. Warren is Averaging 26 ppg in Last Four Games (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren is Averaging 26 ppg in Last Four Games
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Without Vandenberg in the lineup, the Wolfpack had to use all three freshmen bigs to man the post. When their highly regarded recruiting class was formed, BeeJay Anya, from famed DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, was NC State’s highest rated post recruit. Kyle Washington from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire was the next highest, with the third post player of the class, Lennard Freeman from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy, less celebrated than the other two. Ironically the three freshman bigs are performing in the exact opposite order when compared to expectations. Anya, who was listed at 275 pounds for his senior year of high school, inexplicably reported to Raleigh over the summer at 337 pounds and is currently listed at a hefty 325. He simply cannot play effectively at that weight. Out of necessity, Anya played about 10 minutes per game in the team’s first five contests, but only a total of three minutes in the last three.

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Pac-12 M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 4th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The annual McDonald’s All-America Game was played on Wednesday night, and fresh Arizona commitment Aaron Gordon was named the game’s MVP. Gordon scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the West to a 110-99 victory. Washington signee Nigel Williams-Goss was the West team’s best player off the bench, scoring 10 points and dishing out six assists. Jabari Bird, who is headed to California in the fall, added nine points in just 13 minutes of action.
  2. The Huskies still have one available scholarship for next season after Gordon spurned Lorenzo Romar for Arizona. The Husky Haul takes a look at where that extra scholarship should go in this piece. LoRo will likely go the JuCo route, opting for a post player with maturity and experience. Remi Dibo or Octavious Ellis would both be solid options for the Dawgs, a pair of face fours that would add a great scoring punch after the departures of Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy. As the article states, if Romar wants to add a player straight out of high school, Lennard Freeman or Junior Etou would likely be the only options.
  3. I still find this story ridiculous, but after yesterday’s complaining from Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh, USC has backed off the use of the “Dunk City” phrase. Stating that the moniker belongs in Florida, athletic director Pat Haden says that the Trojans are going to create their own cute phrase. Andy Enfield signed a six-year deal with the Trojans on Monday.
  4. Keeping it in the Southland, USC officially introduced Andy Enfield as its new head coach on Wednesday. While speaking at the introductory press conference, Pat Haden listed Enfield’s ability to develop talent and his up-tempo style of play as the main reasons he wanted the former FGCU head man so badly. Haden mentioned bringing the Trojans program back to relevance, and resetting the basketball culture from the slow-down style of Kevin O’Neill is of highest priority. Whether you agree with the qualifications of Enfield to become a Pac-12 head coach, there’s no question he has brought excitement back into the SC program. And that’s important, because it was slipping quickly.
  5. Also dropping Wednesday was the news out of Berkeley that junior California guard Allen Crabbe will forego his senior season with the Golden Bears to enter this summer’s NBA Draft. The move makes sense, as Crabbe has either been near the top of the league or at it in the scoring category the past two seasons, and he now wants to see how his game will translate at the next level. Crabbe is projected by most to be picked late in the first round.
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