Wake Forest Big Three Gathering Respect in Busy ACC

J SorianoCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2009

Three things you can count on when you live in North Carolina: good barbecue, good weather, and, with four ACC teams less than two hours apart, good basketball.

Last week I was lucky enough to score one of the sold-out tickets to the Carolina-Wake Forest basketball game in Winston-Salem, an early ACC conference battle featuring two top five teams.

In scoring a prized ticket, I figured I would see at least two of three things: Wake would give UNC a good game, the Tarheels would blow them out, and I would see three solid NBA prospects on the same court, UNC's Hansborough, Danny Green, and the speedy Ty Lawson.

And I was right. Sort of.

Wake did give the Heels a good game. A beating. And I did see at least three future NBA players. But they weren't necessarily wearing Carolina Blue.

In beating the vaunted Tar Heels, sophomores Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and touted freshman Al Farouq Aminu put the rest of college basketball on notice, if not a few NBA scouts.

Teague, the mercurial point guard, has continued his upward ascent from virtual unknown to top ACC guard to possible candidate for player of the year awards. He is averaging 21 and four and seems to be able to get his shot off, or to the line whenever he pleases.

When defenses converge, he finds the open man more often than not. He ran circles around the notably fast Lawson and kept the Heels, literally, on their heels the whole game.

James Johnson is a mismatch for any team. An NBA sized 6'9", 245 pounds, Johnson can handle the ball the length of the floor, pack one in traffic, and bury the open three. This season, he is posting 14 points and eight boards a game—solid ACC numbers, especially on a team loaded with scorers and big men.

Aminu, one of the most highly sought after preps a year ago, arrived at Wake with a wingspan much longer than his 6'9" frame, and NBA potential. After just 16 games he is averaging just under 13 points and nine rebounds per game and a gaudy 26 blocks.

His young resume includes a 21-12 game against E. Carolina, 10 boards and a couple of monster dunks against Clemson, and a five-block game against Indiana. Of the three Wake stars, his could shine the brightest.

With follow-up road wins against BC and Clemson, and a No. 1 ranking, the rest of the nation can't help but notice. The Tar Heels will continue to get their recognition, and Duke still has Singler and Henderson to grab plenty of hype.

But as long as the Demon Deacons continue whipping the cream of the ACC, expect these three to grab the spotlight from the player factories in Chapel Hill and Durham.