ACC Basketball: 17-18 Conference Preview

The ACC is often dubbed the best conference in college basketball. With basketball blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame, it’s easy to see why the conference garners the respect it has. This year the ACC has it all: defending champs, potential #1 pick, and additional NBA prospects all over the place. Let’s take a look at how the ACC Conference was voted in the preseason.

Projected Finishes

  1. Duke – No shock. Duke is the Preseason #1, and for good reason. Marvin Bagley is one of the most talented players in the country and Duke has a true point guard in Trevon Duval. Grayson Allen returning to form will be the piece that puts this Duke team over the top.
  2. North Carolina – This will be a different look UNC team, mainly in size. Meeks, Hicks, Bradley and Justin Jackson all leave. Joel Berry is the team’s nucleus but he’s dealing with several injuries to start the year. Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson will be big in Berry’s absence. Fellow senior Theo Pinson is a crucial piece to the puzzle. He’s Roy Williams’s Swiss Army knife and will use a different role every night.
  3. Notre Dame – Bonzie Colson torched ACC bigs for 18 and 10 a night last year. Mike Brey will need an increased effort from TJ Gibbs for his team to compete with the best of the ACC. Improvement there, plus Colson and Matt Farrell, gives the Irish solid foundation going into the year.
  4. Miami – The Hurricanes have a veteran guard in JaQuan Newton, highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker, and potential breakout player in Bruce Brown. The keys for Miami will be Walker’s health; He had ACL surgery over the summer but has been cleared completely. If he is healthy out the gate, Miami will be a nightmare opponent.
  5. Louisville –  I think Deng Adel will be one of the best players in the conference in his senior year. The biggest piece for Louisville will be replacing Donovan Mitchell. VJ King will get the first crack and if he can do an adequate job, Lousiville can possibly have as smooth a transition a possible.
  6. Virginia – UVA will have an exciting back court with Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall. Their issue will be upfront, where they are very thin outside senior Isiah Wilkins. The Cavaliers need to replace their top three scorers in London Perrantes, Austin Nichols and Marial Shayok. Grad transfer Nigel Johnson will help fill some of this loss. A bit of a college journeyman, Johnson averaged 11 points a game last year for Rutgers. He will bring that scoring mentality to Charlottesville, for what will be his third NCAA team.
  7. Virginia Tech – They lose their top 2 two scorers in Seth Allen and Zach LeDay, but they have a solid core returning. Chris Clarke has the ability to lead them in scoring and rebounds. Buzz Williams also has a strong group of guards, including Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Top 100 freshman Wabissa Bede and Nikeil Alexander-Walker.
  8. Florida State – Florida State being eight was a bit of a surprise considering they lost two NBA players and one G-League player. FSU rotated a lot of guys last season, so they do return players who experienced ACC play. None will be more crucial than Terrance Mann. Helping in the back court is highly touted freshman MJ Walker. If the Seminoles can get production out of the great size they have on their roster, they could soldif this pick at eight.
  9. Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech enjoyed a nice NIT run before running into a red hot TCU team in the Championship game. The Yellow Jackets have one of the better one-two punches in the conference in Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, both of whom received preseason All-ACC honors.
  10. Syracuse – Syracuse was a underwhleming team last year to say the least. Not Tyler Lydon or Andrew White leaves them with even less than last year. Tyus Battle will be their best player and they will need junior Frank Howard to be much more consistent than last season. I do think Cuse has a couple of nice freshman that are a year away from really making an impact.
  11. Wake Forest – Bryant Crawford was overshadowed by John Collins at points last year. That will not be the case this year, as he will be shine for the Demon Deacons. Upfront may be somewhat shaky, but strong guard support with Keyshawn Woods, Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin will lead this team.
  12. NC State – It’s year one under Kevin Keatts and that’s good news for Wolfpack fans. Keatts fortunately starts his tenure with a good veteran presence. Abdul-Malik Abu returns and Baylor grad transfer Al Freeman gets added into the mix. NC State also has a great freshman in Lavar Batts that will turn heads. 
  13. Clemson – Clemson loses their all-conference talent in Jarred Blossomgame, but Tigers fans will see a more balanced offense this year. They return four of their top six scorers, all of which averaged 7-10 points last year.
  14. Boston College – I don’t need to tell BC fans about Ky Bowman and Jerom Robinson. Despite the struggles BC’s had, and may have, these two can score with anyone in the conference. Jordan Chatman also returns as the team’s third leading scorer, though there a big drop off between second and third.
  15. Pittsburgh – It will be a tough year for Pitt fans, as they watch Jamie Dixon and TCU flourish and their team struggle. They lose 65 points a game from a team that was bad last year. This year will be a lot of evaluating young players and see who fits for the future.

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year – Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame)

I mentioned it above, Colson dominated last season in the paint. Crowned an undersized post player, Colson proves you don’t need to tower over opponents to have success. Colson has the ability to beat defenders from inside and out. Add to it the fact that Mike Brey is great at putting Colson in positions to best succeed, and you have trouble if you’re on the opposing sideline. Duke has the diaper dandies, UNC may be the returning National Champs, and Louisville and Miami have better NBA prospects, but Notre Dame has the Player of the Year.

Freshman of the Year – Marvin Bagley (Duke)

Again, this is really not a surprise. Duke has a number of talented freshman, and Miami does have a super talented player in Lonnie Walker, but none of them compare to Bagley. Many have called him the best prospect since Lebron, and his arrival has been long awaited. On a loaded Duke team, Bagley’s numbers won’t reach their maximum potential, but you will see his ability to change the course of a game several times throughout the year.

All ACC Teams

First Team 

Bonzie Colson – Notre Dame

Marvin Bagley – Duke 

Joel Berry – UNC

Grayson Allen – Duke

Ben Lammers – Georgia Tech

Second Team 

Bruce Brown – Miami

Quentin Snider – Lousiville

Deng Adel – Lousiville

Josh Okogie – Georgia Tech

Jerome Robinson – Boston College

Kahlil Whitney Working to Make Roselle Catholic Best in New Jersey

The addition of Kahlil Whitney to Roselle Catholic last year proved to be a big one as the class of 2019 wing has emerged as one of the top prospects in New Jersey regardless of class. Whitney is a big time athlete, is becoming a much better shooter, and is a huge reason why Roselle Catholic is looked upon as one of the best teams in the area this season. Whitney and his teammates gave fans attending the Hoop Group Fall High School Showcase an idea of what to expect from them this year.

“It’s been great playing here and taking part in some high level games,” Whitney said. “Playing against teams like Westtown and Lincoln is always a good challenge. I think we played well as a team, but I do think we need towork on some things defensively.”

He has been working on a couple of key parts to his game in the off-season.

“I’ve just been working on playing hard and executing on defense at all times,” he said. “Every game I know that I will have to guard the best player so defense is important to me. I also have worked on my ball handling and shooting to become a well-rounded player.”

Georgetown, Oregon, Syracuse, UConn, Virginia Tech and Virginia have been in to watch Whitney during his fall workouts. These programs among others have been actively recruiting the class of 2019 standout.

“I would say Oregon, Georgetown, Syracuse, Illinois, St. Johns and a couple more have been after me hard,” he said.

Whitney sees Roselle Catholic having another successful year as long as he plays on a high level.

“I think that as long as I improve on rebounding the ball and creating for others we’ll be the best team in the state,” Whitney said.

Taurean Thompson to Transfer, Eyes Seton Hall

During the summer, the College Basketball transfer market is one of the busiest periods. With hundreds of players switching schools all over the country, coaching staffs are always busy trying to add to their current team. However, even with schools across the nation starting classes this week, additions are still being made to rosters. Such is the case for Kevin Willard and the Seton Hall Pirates.

Coming into this year, Seton Hall is a consensus Top 25 team in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll. Returning four starters, including three 1,000 point scorers in Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez, the Pirates look poised to make a run in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Aside from their three-headed monster, the Pirates also return two-year starter and defensive stalwart Ish Sanogo, sharpshooter Myles Powell, and aggressive big man Michael Nzei. The Pirates also bring in a recruiting class that features Top 100 player Myles Cale, Point Guard Jordan Walker, and big man Sandro Mamukelashvili, the Pirates have a deep roster.

Recent news has come out however regarding a former Seton Hall target, former Top 100 Forward Taurean Thompson. The big man who averaged 9.2 points with 3.8 rebounds on a very solid 55 percent shooting from the field showed a lot of promise for the Syracuse Orange in his freshman campaign despite only playing 18 minutes a game.

On Monday morning, Donna Ditota of syracuse.com reported that Thompson had left Syracuse and is unlikely to return to the University.  “We have been informed that Taurean is taking a leave of absence from Syracuse University,” Head Coach Jim Boeheim said on the matter, “My understanding is he wants to go to school closer to home due to some family health issues.”  Thompson was expected to be a big piece for Boeheim and the Orange this year.

Since Thompson announcing his decision to leave, all signs have pointed to him transferring to the Hall.

Now what does this mean for the Pirates?

Seton Hall would be adding a valuable piece to an already loaded roster. With former 2017 commit Darnell Brodie electing to take a Post Graduate year at Montverde Academy, Seton Hall is left with an open scholarship for this year. Adding Thompson would not only fill the scholarship, but be a good piece for the future as it is more than likely he will have to sit out this year due to NCAA transfer rules. The Pirates landed transfer Quincy McKnight earlier in the summer. Both he and Thompson would be great pieces to add, once eligible for play.

Thompson only being a sophomore sets the Pirates up to have a good foundation after the inevitable graduation of the four seniors and the possibility of loosing Nzei to a graduate transfer. A Thompson commitment gives the Pirates a future front line of Thompson, Mamukelashvili, and current JUCO transfer and 7 footer Romaro Gill, who is expected to red shirt this year. That would be a good core for Willard to work with.

Follow Matt on Twitter – @PignataroMatt

An Early Look At The ACC

ACC Basketball

We are 51 days away from the college basketball season. While college basketball season is fast approaching, many of us cannot have the new season come soon enough. With that said, let’s take an early look at the ACC for next season. Here’s our 1 through 15.

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Bigger Than Ball Vol. 5: Aidan Igiehon

Aidan Igiehon is a top ranked basketball player whose aggression and footwork around the basket have colleges from all over the country lining up to see him play.  What’s even more impressive than his ability on the court is the unique journey he has taken to play basketball in the United States.  Igiehon is an Irish citizen, living and going to school in New York.  He’s also one of the most humble kids we have gotten the chance to interview so far.  Here’s our in depth Q & A with the number 55 ranked junior, Aidan Igiehon.  

 

You don’t typically see many kids from Ireland playing ball in the States, how’d you end up coming over to play?

 

It’s funny, I didn’t actually come over here to play ball.  I came over here with my local team called Dublin Lions, they play ball, and I went to this Sixers camp – Philadelphia 76ers.  I was 13, 6’5” – yeah, I was like tall and skinny…and then I was athletic and could dunk the ball.  They were like “yo he’s 13?”, and then a lot of high schools came to see me.  No one really helped me get over here.  I just traveled with my team.  I went from Philly to New York to visit my family, and then stayed a couple months; and then I was playing in the park with my Aunt – my Aunt’s daughter’s Coach is best friends with Dana. He set up a workout, and I’ve been with them ever since.  Never thought about playing with anyone else.  

How was it playing on the EYBL circuit? You were relatively unknown before  you started playing AAU basketball, how did that help your recruiting?

 

On the circuit that’s when I really blew up.  The first session…it was the game against Bol Bol and Shareef [O’Neal] – people were like…like didn’t know who I was at the time.  They were just focused on Shareef.  “theres a kid dunking crazy”, it was me – I was just cocking it back, like ahh!  I had 18 points with like seven dunks and a couple free throws.  After that game my phone started blowing up – they started calling me.  Then I got my first ACC offer.  Syracuse.  After I got that offer, a lot of schools started contacting me.  I was too excited.  Dana was telling me to relax.  I guess he expected it, but I didn’t…Syracuse was like my fourth or fifth, and from then on I had like 20 something.  

 

Who has been the best person you’ve played against so far?

 

Marvin Bagley. Gotta be – and second that Bol Bol.  Bol Bol might be better actually, I don’t know.  He’s nice…underrated.   Only thing is, he’s 7’3” but he hates to play around the rim.  He plays from the free throw line and up.  It’s easier for me to guard big men rather than guards so that made it tough.

 

Which NBA player do you think you play like?

A mixture…I wanna say a mix with Deandre Jordan…and with Anthony Davis.  Yeah – mix that – take a little skill off AD.  My aggression and how hard I dunk the ball is like him.  I am actually very skilled, but many people don’t know that.  All they see is the dunks.  I can finish with both hands and start the break.  It’s tough to show that sometimes because showcase games usually show the guards.  Nobody really knows my name like that so that’s why I’m trying to use this July period to get known.

 

Soccer is the main sport played in Ireland,  and you seem to have great footwork for a player your age – Did you play when you were younger?

 

Yeah, I actually started off playing soccer.  I started playing ball when I was 12, but before that yeah – it was only soccer.  So, I played center midfield – I started off playing right back, and right defensive mid.  I wasn’t thinking about playing in college honestly, I didn’t even know about college athletics when I was younger.

 

Do you still play?

 

I still play soccer for fun, like with my older brother.  He’s 20.  He’s playing semi-pro right now upstate.  He plays in college, but he’s going to be a pro…It’d be cool for me to be able to play for the same school as my brother…I still work out like a soccer player.  When I’m training I do a lot of ladder stuff.  With Dana [Dingle-New York Lightning AAU coach], we start with a couple sprints then some high knees and then other footwork. As you get really tall, really quickly you get kinda slow.

What was the biggest adjustment basketball-wise when coming over from Ireland?

 

The speed of the game, the physicality of the game, and how serious everyone is about it.  In Ireland it’s just fun and games.  Like people here, they work out like one in the morning – I’m used to like, training with a team. That’s how we do it. That’s why the development has been different for me.  I was probably one of the best players in the country back then.  For my age.  There were some good players though.  Now looking back it was kinda like, eh.  There was one guard though, Matt Drummond.  He was good.  I had to wait a couple months before I could play when I came here, just the speed of everything…they threw me into the fire though.

 

Biggest non-basketball adjustment?

 

So basically, I’m in New York so I’m in the city.  In Brooklyn.  So, how there are mad trains and mad buses, and how you don’t use cars to get anywhere…and just the speed of life. It was a big change.  I lived in a very nice estate in Ireland, that you had to drive everywhere. Everywhere’s kinda far…hilly – quiet.  Ireland’s nice, the weather’s just horrendous.  Sometimes you can have all four seasons in a day.  Freezing, then warm, then it gets kinda hot and it’ll rain.

 

You’ve been living in New York for a few years now, do you ever get homesick?

 

Oh yeah.  All the time.  I’ve got a ton of friends and even now, a ton of people follow me like “yo you’re my inspiration”…I actually have to go back and run a camp – I have to give a speech and everything.  A ton of people are going to be there. [laughing] I’m looking at them like, yo I’m just a regular kid – I don’t look at it like how they look at it.  I look at it like I’m just playing ball you know…

What are you planning on saying in your speech?

 

Basically…first thing they’re gonna ask me is if I can dunk.  After that there just gonna ask me questions about my life.  “How can we get there?” They all want to come over, but unfortunately they can’t all come, but who am I to say they can’t.  So I’m going to let them know they have to work hard, and try and tell them how I much work out – and how you have to stay focused on academics. That plays a huge part.  Because I have good academics my recruitment is great.  I have a 3.7 – because of that my recruitment took off.

 

You have well over 20 Division I scholarship offers now, which gives you the opportunity to pick a school that really fits you.  What are you looking for out of the programs that are recruiting you?

 

I want to be somewhere where I can play right away.  My goal honestly is to be a pro.  I’m going to try man.  I just started playing ball..like I’m working hard, so I think I have a chance.  That’s why I work out so much – I’m just trying to work on my skills.  I’m really gonna try.

 

What do you think you need to work on to become a more complete player, and hopefully reach your goal of playing professionally?

 

I think I need to work on outside shooting. ‘Cause i’m athletic enough to play the three, I think if I could spread the floor more I could really be good.  I do a lot of ball handling in workouts, because that’s the goal.  I’m trying to make the NBA.  Obviously still think the academics, so I can play anywhere in the country – and I really have to extend my game. Do the repetition so much so that when it comes game time it just comes naturally.  I’m going to work hard, so that once I get to college, I really can cement myself as one of the best bigs in the country.