Unfortunately, the result of all of this has been a surge of early entrants to the NBA, meaning we should expect an “off” season for college hoops in 2005-06’. No conference has been hit harder by the flight to the NBA than the ACC. The following are impact guards that will not be returning to the ACC this season as a result of both graduation and early entry to the NBA: Will Bynum, Taron Downey, BJ Elder, Daniel Ewing, Raymond Felton, John Gilcrest, Julius Hodge, Jared Jack, Rashaad McCants, Jackie Manuel, Chris Paul, and Von Wafer. Duke fans, however, still have much to be happy about, namely the return of sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
Formed in the mold of Reggie Miller and Richard Hamilton, Redick has become a master at using space on the floor, working hardest away from the ball. If you have ever watched the Blue Devils play on ESPN, and it would be impressive if you haven’t, you know that Redick is the NCAA all-time leader in free throw percentage (.938). What you may not know is that he is only 752 points away from surpassing Johnny Dawkins as Duke’s all-time leading scorer. This past season, Redick scored 721 points in just 33 games, as Duke was upset in the Sweet 16.
Who, may I ask, is going to challenge J.J. Redick in the 2005-06’ season? Returning for his senior year after leading the conference in scoring (22.8 ppg), Redick comes back to a stacked Duke team that will hover well above their depleted conference. With Sheldon Williams in the post, a solid group of experienced role players in Dockery, Melchioni, and Nelson, and an outstanding recruiting class headed by McRoberts and Paulus, Duke is an odds-on favorite to breeze through league play, and will start the year ranked number one in the country. Duke’s depth, combined with a lack of quality teams in the ACC, will provide Redick with ample opportunity to do something phenomenal. Rather than winning another ACC MVP award or another ACC title, Redick has a chance to put up numbers that haven’t been seen in a major conference for ages. In the 1974-75’ season, the legendary David Thompson scored 29.9 ppg for North Carolina State.
While Redick is a team first guy, and would never openly admit to individual goals, a healthy J.J. could realistically average more than 30 ppg during this “off” year of college basketball. Is there anybody in the league capable of slowing Redick down? Can anyone be expected to prevent him from scoring 30 points or more in most games, and compete with him on both ends of the floor? Short answer: probably not. Aside from Redick, the ACC’s top returning off guard is Miami’s Robert Hite. In 2004-05’, Hite finished fourth in ACC scoring with 17.2 ppg. So how will Hite fair against Redick? During Duke’s first game at Miami, Redick held Hite to six points on 2 for 7 shooting, while Redick dropped 21, slightly below his average. In their second meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Redick scored 29 points in 32 minutes, topping Hite’s 17 points on 6 for 15 shooting. What about Guillermo Diaz, Miami’s point guard and the league’s second highest returning scorer (19.4 ppg)? While Diaz is most noted for his outstanding athleticism, and is equipped with a vertical leap that exceeds 40 inches, don’t expect the 6’2” point guard to give 6’4” J.J any problems. Redick’s greatest strength as a shooter stems from his perfect form, which allows him to release the ball at the very crest of his bound. This means that small guards such as Diaz rarely have much influence over his shot. Moreover, on the defensive front, Diaz will be guarded by Duke point guard Sean Dockery, who has made his name by playing smothering defense.
Other than the two Miami guards, Redick has little competition in his conference. Wake Forest’s Justin Gray is an established star, but will move to the point guard position to fill the spot vacated by Chris Paul. Listed at 6’2”, Grey will also be hounded by Dockery and should have little impact on J.J’s game. Boston College junior Jared Dudley is coming off of an impressive season (16.5 ppg/7.5 rpg), but listed at 6’8” and playing small forward, will surely not be matched up with Redick. J.J. Redick has come a long way since Johnny Dawkins pulled him out of a friend’s apartment by the ear before the summer after his sophomore year (a reliable rumor). After two months of training and a major attitude adjustment, he has established himself as one of the better college basketball players of this decade. More than a simple sharpshooter, Redick has earned a reputation as a complete player, even inspiring Coach K last year to declare him the team's best off-the-ball defender. While it may be too early to predict such a feat, the weakness of the ACC this season may very well pave the way for Redick and the Blue Devils to make NCAA basketball history.