Players To Watch: Atlantic Coast Conference

Scott McGrathCorrespondent INovember 28, 2009

ATLANTA - MARCH 13:  Al-Farouq Aminu #1 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons attempts a dunk over Dave Neal #35 of the Maryland Terrapins during the Quarterfinals of the 2009 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament on March 13, 2009 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This is the third volume of the "Players to Watch" segment, featuring players from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The ACC this season has so many promising young and talented players this season that it's extremely difficult to make a short list, but I will do the best I can.  If you have a player you feel should get some credit (really, for any of the conferences), feel free to comment and get your voice heard.

But, now, the players to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference:

Joe Trapani—Boston College

Trapani transferred to BC from Vermont two years ago, and saw his first year of action with the Eagles last season.  He had a stellar shooting season and was the perfect scoring complement to Tyrese Rice.  With Rice graduated, BC is reeling on the offensive end, and will rely on Trapani to pick up the slack.

Trapani still has a lot of room for improvement, but his scoring this season is already up from last season, as well as his rebounding.  He has yet to really have a break out game, but has put up more than 20 points on two occasions this season.

If the BC Eagles hope to have any success this season, Trapani will lead them to that success with his scoring and rebounding, as they will certainly feel the ill effects of being without versatile scorer Tyrese Rice.

Nolan Smith—Duke

Smith certainly had a successful season last year, but with the transfer of Elliot Williams and departure of Gerald Henderson and Greg Paulus, he will be relied on heavily at the guard position.  He certainly has responded so far this season, as he leads all Blue Devils in scoring even Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer.

Smith has scored 20 or more points twice in just four games, and has been the "marathon man" for Duke so far, playing 40 minutes against Arizona State and against UConn.

Smith is critically important to Duke, as he can take a lot of the pressure off of Singler and Scheyer to score.  He also has the team's best free throw percentage (which seems odd given how much Scheyer is praised for his free throws), making him a valuable asset at the end of games.

Deon Thompson—North Carolina

Thompson had a decent season last season, but he was not necessarily needed to be great much of the time.  Overshadowed by Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, and Wayne Ellington, Thompson was not as crucial to their offense as he is this year, but still added 10 points per game.

This year, with those four players gone, Thompson is being relied on as the offensive cornerstone for the Tar Heels and he has certainly risen to the challenge.  Thompson has almost doubled his scoring from last season, has already scored 20 or more points three times this season, and has had two double doubles (including one against Ohio State).

UNC has a fairly young squad this season, and one could even call this year a rebuilding year (but a rebuilding year for UNC still carries extremely high expectations with it). 

Thompson and Marcus Ginyard are clearly the leaders of this team, and Thompson will be forced to step up as the leader of the team.

Al-Farouq Aminu—Wake Forest

Aminu had a stellar freshman season, but his game was held steady by the prolific scoring of sophomores Jeff Teague and James Johnson, both of whom declared for the NBA Draft at the end of the season.

Without Teague and Johnson around, the Deacons have a significant offensive gap that needs to be closed up, and with that space, Aminu's game has blossomed in his sophomore season.  He is averaging more than 20 points per game through four games, and has only scored less than 20 in one game against Winston-Salem State where he was in foul trouble for much of the contest.

Aminu has also been a hound on the glass, averaging nine rebounds per game, and doing much of it on the offensive end as well.  Stunningly, this season Aminu has 20 defensive rebounds and 16 offensive rebounds.

Aminu is the young leader of a rather experienced Demon Deacon team (the first one in a few years), who will be starting or at least giving significant minutes to four seniors.  Given his inexperience, Aminu will certainly have some bumps in the road this season, but expect some surprising numbers from the "super sophomore."

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