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ACC Basketball 2011-2012: Top 10 Freshmen Coming into the Conference

Zachary KondratenkoContributor IIIJuly 9, 2011

ACC Basketball 2011-2012: Top 10 Freshmen Coming into the Conference

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    The 2010-2011 season was a down year for the ACC, but you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at recruiting lists and rankings.  

    As always, the ACC is bringing in a ton of 5-star talent this year. Last year, the freshmen had a huge impact on the conference race.

    Harrison Barnes—arguably the best player in America right now—was picked as a first-team All-American before he even played a game. He started slow, but by the end of year he was playing like one of the best players in the country and may have been the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA draft had he decided to declare.

    He wasn't the only impact freshman in Chapel Hill last year.

    Kendall Marshall started the year as just a backup point guard to the talented-but-inconsistent Larry Drew. But midway through the season, it became clear who the better player was, and Marshall was inserted into the starting lineup.

    This eventually drove Larry Drew out of Carolina, but the team was better for it. Marshall may have been the best pure passer in the country.

    Freshman forward Travis McKie had a huge impact on Wake Forest as he led the team in both scoring and rebounding.  

    And the ultra-talented C.J. Leslie of N.C. State put his crazy athleticism on display as he was the Wolfpack's best player last year.

    The 2011-2012 season will have just as many—if not more—impact freshman joining the conference.  

Honorable Mentions

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    Quinn Cook (Duke): Cook is a very good playmaker at the PG position. He's extremely quick, and it allows him to get to and finish at the rim with ease. He's very turnover-prone, though, and will have to improve his decision making if he wants to see anything more than scrap minutes with Duke this year because of the backcourt depth. He'll also need to work on his shooting because we all know how Coach K loves to spread the floor.

    Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia): Brogdon will help Virginia right away with his ability to knock down threes from the wing. He will need to work on his handling and slashing, though, because he's not a great athlete, and if his skills other than shooting don't improve, he'll be nothing more than a shooter in college.

    Robert Brown (Virginia Tech): Brown should be able to average double figures right away due to his ability to get to the hoop. His athleticism will create mismatches on the perimeter. He will need to work on his jump shot though, if he wants to become one of the better SGs in the ACC.

    C.J. Barksdale (Virginia Tech): Barksdale is a very intriguing combo-forward prospect who will help V-Tech immediately with his skills and versatility. He'll score in the post, get out on the break, knock down jumpers and crash the boards. He's skinny, though, and will probably be forced to play on the perimeter at first because of that.

10. Antwan Space

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    School: Florida State

    Hometown: DeSoto, Texas

    Position: Small Forward

    Height: 6'7"

    The Good: Beautiful shooting stroke from three. Height and length allows him to get shots off easily. Good post moves.

    The Bad: Poor ball-handler for a perimeter player. Disappears offensively at times.

    What He'll Do This Season: Space is a very talented player. Shooters with his height and length who can also defend are very rare. He does have flaws, though. Mentally, he can get lost, and he struggles when he has a good defender on him.

    Florida State will be very good this year and filled with smart, defensive-minded players. Because they lack scorers, though, I expect Space to get a lot of playing time to start. If he doesn't stay focused, he could lose it real quick because the Seminoles have a deep team of solid players.

9. Julian Royal

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    School: Georgia Tech

    Hometown: Alpharetta, Georgia

    Position: Power Forward

    Height: 6' 8"

    The Good: Vast arsenal of post moves. Great mid-range jumper with potential to hit the three. Good positional rebounder and defender. Great passer from the post.

    The Bad: Inconsistent and streaky. Not an elite athlete like some other guys in the ACC.

    What He'll Do This Season: Royal is the most polished and college-ready big man coming into the conference. He can score all sorts of ways and does all the other things (rebound, pass, defend) that will probably get him a starting spot. 

    If he doesn't let the pressure of the college game get in his head, I think Royal has a chance to lead the Yellow Jackets in scoring. He's that skilled down low.

8. Alex Murphy

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    School: Duke

    Hometown: South Kingtown, Rhode Island

    Position: Small Forward/Power Forward

    Height: 6'8"

    The Good: Very gifted athlete. Great shooter, passer and dribbler for a player his height. Very smart player, typical Coach K guy. Solid post-up scorer.

    The Bad: Weak, gets pushed around.  A tweener, not strong enough to play in the post but doesn't have the quickness and footwork to play on the perimeter. Doesn't rebound well.

    What He'll Do This Season: Murphy is an interesting prospect, and Duke could and probably will need one of their freshman bigs to play decent minutes. It probably won't be Murphy, though, because he's not ready to defend or rebound at the college level, and he isn't a very good three-point shooter or half-court player so he'll struggle in the Duke system initially.

    He has unique talent, and he'll have a good career at Duke, but due to their depth, he won't make his impact until his sophomore year.

7. Nick Faust

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    School: Maryland

    Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

    Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

    Height: 6'6"

    The Good: Very skilled and athletic. Good all-around scorer, shoots threes, mid-range and slashes. His height allows him to rebound from the perimeter.  

    The Bad: Very skinny and weak. Streaky shooter.

    What He'll Do This Season:  Faust definitely possesses undeniable offensive talent. He's a balanced scorer who can take over games at times. That will get him time at Maryland right away.

    I don't see him being any more than a rotation guy this year, though, for two reasons. First, Maryland is loaded with good perimeter players. Second, he needs to get a lot stronger, or he's going to get bullied in the ACC.

6. Marshall Plumlee

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    School: Duke

    Hometown: Warsaw, Indiana

    Position: Power Forward/Center

    Height: 6'11"

    The Good: Athleticism makes him a great transition big man. Good skills in the post. Height and athleticism helps him rebound and make up for defensive shortcomings with nice blocks.

    The Bad: Needs to strengthen up and work on fundamentals. Often gets pushed around and beat for rebounds.

    What He'll Do This Season: If you look at all three Plumlees as prospects, Marshall is probably the most naturally gifted. He's the tallest and most athletic. But he's also the most raw and least college ready.

    Coach K will toughen him up, but it will take Plumlee a year or two to really develop into a trustworthy post player. His talent will get him some minutes this year; but he'll be behind both his brothers and Ryan Kelly.

5. Michael Gbinije

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    School: Duke

    Hometown: Chester, Virginia

    Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

    Height: 6'6"

    The Good: Balanced offensive player with all-around skills. Very smart and polished. Doesn't force plays. Great length.

    The Bad: Not an elite athlete or shooter. Struggles with getting to the hoop off the dribble.

    What He'll Do This Season:  Gbinije has a college-ready game, and he doesn't make mistakes; that will get him at least some time this year. If he improves his perimeter shooting and slashing, he'll get even more minutes.

    Duke likes to play three-guard lineups, and with Curry, Dawkins, Rivers and freshmen Gbinije and Cook, they'll have the personnel to do it a lot.

    But because Duke has Rivers, Dawkins and Curry, it's a stretch to expect Gbinije to crack the starting lineup this season.

4. Dorian Finney-Smith

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    School: Virginia Tech

    Hometown: Portsmouth, Virginia

    Position: Small Forward

    Height: 6'7"

    The Good: Great handler, passer and shooter for a player of his size and length. Solid three-point shot. He can slash and shoot. Good offensive rebounder.

    The Bad: Isn't strong and doesn't posses a postgame. Struggles boxing out and will get pushed around if he plays four.

    What He'll Do This Season: Finney-Smith is the jewel of V-Tech's best class in a long time. He has NBA-level talent and will start right away.

    It'd be a mistake for them to play him at four. He will get beaten up and lose confidence if they do that. Play him on the perimeter for 30 minutes a game and let him do his thing.

    That thing could just be leading this team in scoring and being one of the conference's best players from Day 1.

3. P.J. Hairston

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    School: North Carolina

    Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina

    Position: Shooting Guard

    Height: 6'5"

    The Good: Big, strong and tough when attacking the hoop. An absolute knockdown shooter from anywhere beyond the arc.

    The Bad: No mid-range game. Needs to use his strength to grab rebounds. Out of shape at the moment.

    What He'll Do This Season: Hairston will need to get in shape and toughen up on defense, but his scoring ability will get him minutes right away. Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald will start the year coming off the bench ahead of him, but if they falter, you know Roy is never afraid to make rotation changes or play freshmen.

    Because UNC generally struggles with three-point shooting, Hairston could be a key contributor on a team favored to win it all. 

2. James McAdoo

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    School: North Carolina

    Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

    Position: Power Forward

    Height: 6'8"

    The Good: Great fundamentals and loves the little things. Always in the right position. Great finishing ability. Incredible rebounder and shot-blocker. Decent perimeter skills.

    The Bad: Needs to bulk up and get stronger down low. Must improve his jumper.

    What He'll Do This Year: McAdoo will probably fill the "Ed Davis" role at UNC this year. He'll be the sixth man and will be counted on to score a decent amount, but his biggest responsibilities will be rebounding and defense when the Heels choose to give Zeller and Henson breaks.

    McAdoo could be a one-and-done, but like Davis, I think he'll be best off to stay two years and develop his shot and offensive skills. But great things on both the college and pro levels are in McAdoo's future.

1. Austin Rivers

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    School: Duke

    Hometown: Winter Park, Florida

    Position: Shooting Guard

    Height: 6'4"

    The Good: Absolutely tremendous scorer, incredible slasher and a great shooter all the way out to NBA range. Has NBA moves on the perimeter. Plays within the flow of the game, knows when to pass and when to take it himself.

    The Bad: Doesn't put too much effort into staying in front of guys on defense; would rather go for steals. No left hand.

    What He'll Do This Year: Rivers is the best offensive player coming into college basketball. He will start right away and will probably be Duke's best player due to his scoring ability. Like he did with Singler and Irving, Coach K will probably make Rivers play defense.

    Rivers was born to play in this Duke system and has a legit shot to average around 25 points and be an All-American. He'll probably be a top five pick.

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