Despite finishing second overall in the Pomeroy Ratings, I still believe that the ACC is the best basketball conference in the country. With a conference full of elite programs with storied histories, it is not surprising that the nation's top basketball recruits are attracted to the ACC, with the hope of launching to the NBA.
Previously, I wrote about the Florida State Seminoles' most recent additions. In this piece, I take a look at the recruiting classes of the top 7 teams in the ACC in the first of a two part series. In 2009, the ACC had 5 of the top 25 recruiting classes in the country, as ranked by Rivals.com.
For the sake of comparison, I will go through each school as they finished in the 2008-2009 ACC standings. For each school, I will focus on their "top recruit" and provide some basic statistics. Consider this the warm up to the ACC previews that will appear latter this year. Keep in mind that some of the numbers I provide are derived from small sample sizes and can and will be skewed, but they are to serve as a reference point and conversation piece.
1. University of North Carolina Tarheels (34-4, 13-3)
Roy Williams and company have done it again. After winning the national championship, they went on to sign one of the top classes in the country, bringing in 5 new players, all ranked within the top 60 in the country. This class will be pivotal to the Tarheels' success this year as they saw Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green jump to the NBA. They also need to fill the tiny void left behind the departure of Bobby Frasor. Roy Williams needed to add guards and forwards to his team and he accomplished that and earned himself the #5 class in the country.
John Henson 6'10" 200lbs PF Tampa, FL 5-Star
Ranked the #5 player overall in the 2009 class, John can flat out play. Clearly, John sees the court extremely well and moves well in traffic. While I am not a big fan of the form of his jump shot, it is effective and he can apparently shoot anywhere from the floor. Henson seems to have an excellent understanding of basketball and is clearly a student of the game. He also appears to be extremely patient but is very explosive off the floor. He will need to put on some weight before he is effective night in and night out in the ACC. However, he will be contributing from day one, especially with the departure of Hansbrough. If Ed Davis can develop into a true center, they will have an outstanding combination at the 4 and 5 with Henson. Here is an interview with Henson, seems like a nice kid with a good head on his shoulders. Henson may play at the three as well due to his athletic ability. Some have knocked him for his strength and ability to play with his back to basket. He has the frame to develop into bigger player, which will help him in his overall game, particularly given the fact that he has great speed. I see John developing into a Tayshaun Prince like player, but will he be able to compete through the season in a conference that is likely going to be the biggest and tallest conference in the nation? In Roy's system, I have no doubt that John will excel and will likely be moving on to the NBA very soon.
Here is an Interview with Henson and the Wear twins, who are also UNC signees.
The rest of the class:
Leslie McDonald 6'4 195lbs SG Memphis, TN 4-Star #65 Overall Video
Dexter Strickland 6'3 175lbs SG Elizabeth, NJ 4-Star #34 Overall Video
David Wear 6'9 210lbs PF Santa Ana, CA 4-Star #59 Overall Video
Travis Wear 6'9 210lbs PF Santa Ana, CA 4-Star #60 Overall Video
Composite: Average Stars: 4.2 Average Height: 6'7" Average Rivals Ranking: 44.6
The overall theme with this crew is that they are an athletic group that can shoot from anywhere on the floor. They fit perfectly into Roy Williams's style of basketball and will make an immediate impact. Last year, the average height of UNC's players was 6'5", or 67th in the nation. They are clearly adding taller players to their roster. They also averaged 2.05 years of playing experience, with the departures and these five additions, UNC will be one of the younger teams in the conference, if not the country. Deon Thompson will be the only senior on the team, meaning that these 5 must contribute immediately.
2. Duke University Blue Devils (30-7, 11-5)
There weren't many departures from Duke following the 2008-9 season. However, they lost an oustanding player in Gerald Henderson and Dukie favorite Greg Paulus and little known David McClure. One would think that with the known departure of Henderson, Coach K would be actively searching for someone to run the offense. Can Jon Sheyer run the show for the Blue Devils? Will Ellliot Williams develop into a true point? With those questions, Duke added two power forwards to their team. The good news for the Blue Devils is that they are returning an overwhelming majority of their team and they will transition from one of the youngest teams in the country to one of the more experienced squads. Despite only adding two players, the Blue Devils earned the 16th spot in Rivals top 25 recruiting classes.
Ryan Kelly 6'9 205lbs PF Raleigh, NC 5-star #20 Overall
Ryan received offers from Duke, Georgetown, UNC, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest-- not a bad list. Once again, Duke has enlisted another big man that can shoot from anywhere on the floor. From what I have seen, Ryan moves extremely well in traffic for a big man and has a very nice shot for a big man. As with any player that is 6'9 and 205lbs, Ryan needs to put on some weight and get into the weight room, which can be said of a lot of kids his size and age. Ryan is going to create match up problems, however he is playing in the ACC which is an extremely tall conference in general. Here is his highlight tape from the Reebok Summer Championships. He will fit in nicely with the Duke system. If Duke converts to a zone defense on a regular basis, his size on the wing will be a big help. Imagine a front court of Kelly, Singler and Zoubeck.
The rest of the class:
Mason Plumlee 6'10 205lbs Arden, NC 4-Star #55 Overall Video
Composite: Average Stars: 4.5 Average Height: 6'9.5" Average Rivals Ranking: 37.5
Duke has added two outstanding big men to their team. Plumlee is a highly gifted athlete and stands out in many highlight tapes as a very aggressive player. Last year, their average height was 6'4 and their average experience was 2 years. Both numbers will significantly increase this year. The theme of the ACC this year is to go big or go home. Duke may not need a true point if all of their big man can dribble and move like these two, but will likely struggle against teams that have more flexible lineups.
3. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (24-7, 11-5)
Wake Forest was one of the youngest teams in the country last year, ranking 280th overall in Division I basketball averaging 1.3 years of playing experience. With only the departure of Jeff Teague and James Johnson, both first round draft pics, the Demon Deacons return an outstanding core of young talent. It should come as no surprise, that Wake did not make the Rivals.com Top 25. There's little time for significant playing time in the near future on this team. Wake was one of the tallest teams in the country last year and actually ranked #1 in effective height. So, instead of going big they brought in players to fill a major whole in their offense: 3 point shooting. Wake added a SF and two guards to their gigantic line up.
Ari Stewart 6'7 190lbs Marietta, GA 4-Star #52 Overall
Ari, literally, had offers from all over the map. Apparently, Florida State was on his list but we never officially offered. One of the first things I notice about Ari is his leaping ability, which will be a nice addition for Wake. However, they already have some very athletic big man that can clean up around the hoop. They were one of the better rebounding teams in the country, so it will be interesting to see how Ari will expand the scope of the Wake offense.
The rest of the class:
C.J Harris 6'2 175lbs Winston-Salem, NC 3-star NR Overall
Konner Tucker 6'2 175lbs Jacksonville, TX 3-Star NR Overall
Composite: Average Stars: 3.3 Average Height: 6'2.3" Average Rivals Ranking: High
Wake is keeping most of their height from last year, so going small will not be a problem. Keeping a majority of their core hurt them this year in the recruiing process. However, C.J harris did win the NC-SC All-Star Three point shooting contest and this will likely be his contribution to the team.
4. Florida State University Seminoles (25-10, 10-6)
Check out this article to see my thoughts on the new additions to the Seminoles.
Here are the stats:
Michael Snaer 6'5 190lbs SG Moreno Valley, CA 5-Star #7 Overall
Terrance Shannon 6'7" 190lbs PF Forsyth, GA 3-Star NR Overall
Jon Kreft 6'11" 260lbs Marianna, FL 4-Star NR Overall
Brandon James 6'9 250lb PF Savannah, GA
Composite: Average Stars: 4 Average Height: 6'8" Average Rivals Ranking: High
The tallest team in the country just got bigger...that is if Jon Kreft and Brandon James are eligible. These are oustanding additions, even if it is limited to Snaer and Shannon.
5. Clemson University Tigers (23-9, 9-7)
Believe it or not, Clemson was one of the smaller teams in the country last year, averaging 6'4.7", 135th in the nation. They were also an extremely young team, only losing two seniors K.C Rivers and Raymond Sykes and sophomore Terrance Olgelsby (off to Europe). Despite their youth, Clemson had relatively few holes in their team, but this did not prevent them from folding down the stretch in ACC play. This recruiting season adds 4 very talented players to the Tigers and earned them the 18th best recruiting class overall.
Milton Jennings 6'9 200lbs PF Summerville, SC 5-Star #25 Overall
Milton has a huge frame and is very aggressive around the rim. This video is comical, look at the size of the kid posted up against Jennings. I don't think the second video is a fair assessment of Jennings. It looks as if he runs the floor well and has nice hands around the basket. Apparently he didn't do a lot in the McDonald's All-American game, but neither did Blake Griffin. His size will be a nice addition to the Tigers, but how will he do when matched up against bigger competition night in and night out.
The Rest of the Class:
Devin Booker 6'7 220lbs PF Union, SC 4-Star NR Overall
Noel Johnson 6'7 180 SF Fayetteville, GA 4-Star #53 Overall Video (Very long video, previously committed to USC)
Donte Hill 6'4 200lbs Virginia Beach, VA 3-Star #150 Overall Video
Composite: Average Stars: 4 Average Height: 6'6.75" Average Rivals Ranking: High
Clemson achieved a few objectives by adding size and shooters to their line-up. I wish I had more to say about Milton Jennings. He is clearly a talented atheltic player, but a true assessment is not fair from the video available. Where Jennings might help the most is on the defensive boards, which was certainly a weak area for the Tigers.
6. Boston College Eagles (22-12, 9-7)
Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing to see here. At least according to Rivals.com and Scout.com, the Eagles have not made any additions to their team. Granted, they only lost Tyrese Rice, was their senior leader and best player. However, despite only losing one player, there is room for scholarship players on the BC squad. There is clearly something missing here that I am not privy to.
7. University of Miami Hurricanes (19-13, 7-9)
After starting out strong and playing a very difficult early season schedule, the Miami Hurricanes had a rough ride through the ACC. Miami was one of the most experienced team in the country with 4 seniors on the team, 3 of whom had regular playing time, most noticeably Jack McClinton. With those departures, Miami was able to make a number of additions.
Durand Scott 6'4 180lbs SG New York, NY 4-Star #33 Overall
Durand's job will be to try and fill the scoring void left by Jack McClinton, a very tough task indeed. Durand is a very athletic player and has a nice looking jump shot. I was a little concerned when I first saw that video that Durand had a hitch in his shot before the release and also held the ball too long at his waist, but that improved as the video went on. Appears to have a quick step and appears to enjoy playing on the defensive end as well. Durand adds size to this a team that was already above average in height. Scout.com mentions that Durand is a "big time player, competitive and tough but need to improve his ball handling and decision making." This could spell trouble in a league full of outstanding guard play. He is also used to playing on the big stage as he lead his team to a state championship.
The Rest of the Class:
Garrius Adams 6'5 185lbs SF Apex, NC 3-Star #134 Overall Video
Donnovan Kirk 6'7 210lbs PF Detroit, MI 3-Star #149 Overall
Antoine Allen 6'2 182lbs SG Fitchburg, MA 3-Star NR Overall
Composite: Average Stars: 3.25 Average Height: 6'4.5" Average Rivals Ranking: High
Garrius Adams will be a nice addition to the Hurricanes, espescially if Scott can move to the point and have Adams at the two. Last year, Miami was one of the most experienced teams in the country. They will have 4 seniors on the team including Dwayne Collins, who should develop into an oustanding player this year. Will Miami's seniors be able to counter the youth movement for the Hurricanes? McClinton is a huge loss for the 'Canes, but they are certainly set up with these additions to be very competitive in the ACC. They were not ranked in the Rivals.com top 25.
There you have it. The newest additions to the top 7 teams in the ACC. There is another influx of talent into our conference as we have some of the top recruiting classes in the country. Look for part two of this series that looks at the remaining teams in the ACC, a few of whom have some of the best recruiting classes in the country. As always, I appreciate your feedback and input.