For the 500-lb recruiting gorillas along Tobacco Road, the offseason arrival of a flood of elite freshmen is par for the course. As such, it’s no surprise that the ACC features plenty of new faces who will be major contributors from Day One.
The headliner of this year’s freshman class at North Carolina is standout point guard Marcus Paige. Paige won’t make fans forget Kendall Marshall quite yet, but he’ll certainly help keep Roy Williams’ offense among the best in the nation in his first season of college ball.
Herein, a closer look at Paige and the rest of the top freshmen—plus one noteworthy transfer—arriving in the ACC for next season.
That Stacey Poole, Jr. couldn’t find a home on the Kentucky roster is hardly an indictment of his talent.
The 6’4” SG played just under three minutes per game as a Wildcats freshman in 2010-11, but now that he’s transferred he’ll have ample opportunity to show what he can do in a Georgia Tech uniform.
Coming out of high school, Poole was a four-star prospect ranked No. 51 nationally by ESPNU. He’s a high-motor guy with very good athleticism, and his dunking prowess is a safe bet to become a fixture on Yellow Jacket highlight reels next season.
Even if Lorenzo Brown’s offseason knee surgery hadn’t gone as well as it did, there would still have been one big-time point guard in Raleigh this season.
Freshman Tyler Lewis is a natural leader who’s equally at home setting up his teammates or creating his own scoring opportunities.
The one knock on Lewis is that—at 5’11”, 165 lbs—he’s not the physical specimen that Brown is.
He doesn’t have the raw quickness to be a dominant defender, but on that end of the floor as on offense, he benefits from outstanding fundamentals and instincts.
At 6’9”, 245 lbs, Robert Carter is never going to be mistaken for a small forward. As a face-up scorer, though, the Georgia Tech freshman boasts an exceptional shooting touch that makes him nearly as dangerous a weapon as the best perimeter players.
When he does post up, Carter’s tremendous hands make him a load for any defender to contain.
He doesn’t have the jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism that often shows up in top ACC big men, but with his power game and agility, he’ll more than hold his own even in this conference.
James Michael McAdoo is set to be the breakout star of the ACC, but his understudy is a remarkable talent in his own right. Freshman Brice Johnson is, like McAdoo, a high-flying 6’9” PF whose athleticism serves him well on both offense and defense.
Johnson is a strong shot-blocker, though after three years of John Henson he may not look that impressive to Tar Heel fans.
He needs a college weight room even more desperately than most freshmen (he’s listed at just 210 lbs), but with his speed he’s a great fit for Roy Williams’ up-tempo squad.
A second-generation member of the Wolfpack, T.J. Warren is following in the footsteps of his father Tony, who played for Norm Sloan in the late ‘70s.
The younger Warren is a high-scoring small forward who (at 6’8”, 230 lbs) has the muscle of a college post player even as a freshman.
Warren is especially dangerous as a three-point shooter, where he’ll be a great complement to rising senior Scott Wood. He won’t knock C.J. Leslie out of the starting lineup, but expect Warren to be one of the conference’s top reserves next season.
Another potent frontcourt weapon who’s stuck behind entrenched upperclassmen, Amile Jefferson was a late addition to Duke’s recruiting class.
Blue Devil fans will be glad to have him on the roster, because he’s a good bet to develop into the best all-around low-post threat Duke has had in several years.
Jefferson is already a productive rebounder and shot-blocker (though, like most freshman big men, he needs more bulk than his current 6'7", 190 lbs).
He’s also an explosive finisher, and once his jump shot catches up with his above-the-rim game, he’s going to be a nightmare to guard on the low block.
N.C. State’s fast break is about to get a lot more dangerous. Rodney Purvis, the gem of the Wolfpack recruiting class, immediately becomes the best finisher on Mark Gottfried’s talented roster (assuming his current eligibility questions are favorably resolved).
The 6’4”, 190-lb Purvis is a slasher who won’t have any trouble scoring through contact, even against ACC defenders. His devastating quickness also makes him a serious weapon on defense, even if he takes a few too many chances at times.
If there’s one thing Roy Williams has proven in his time at North Carolina, it’s that he knows how to find point guards who have speed to burn.
Top 2012 recruit Marcus Paige is no exception to that trend, and that’s just one reason he’ll be the Tar Heels’ starting PG next year.
Paige is a top-tier ballhandler who can pull up for the mid-range jumper or drive the lane.
He’s an outstanding decision-maker who appears ready for major-college competition right now, and with the always-loaded Tar Heel lineup around him, he should be in for a huge season.
For the second time in as many tries, Mark Turgeon has landed a high-powered center to anchor his Maryland recruiting class.
Whether he comes off the bench behind Alex Len or shifts to PF and plays alongside him, Shaquille Cleare is going to be an impact player in his Terps debut.
Cleare is an immovable object in the paint at 6’9”, 275 lbs. He doesn’t have much in the way of a finesse game, but he’s a daunting rebounder with terrific hands who will muscle his way to plenty of points next season.
For the second year in a row, Duke is without a true point guard, and for the second year in a row, the Blue Devils are still going to have a heck of an offense.
Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon is set to take over for NBA-bound Austin Rivers and control the game for Coach K as a scorer.
Sulaimon is a 6’3” SG who can put points on the board from anywhere, though he’s not the kind of pure three-point sniper Duke often features in the backcourt. He’s an immediate frontrunner for the ACC scoring title, and he can play a little defense to boot.