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With more and more teams going to three guard line-ups, the small forward position has become something of a commodity in College Basketball. Nonetheless some outstanding players remain at the three spot. Miami has a plethora of players who can man the wing.
Both Rion Brown and Trey McKinney Jones will be asked to play some at the two, but both are long and talented enough to guard SFs as well. Around the conference, despite the loss of UNC's premier SF Harrison Barnes, the ACC will have plenty of skilled and athletic wings.
With out further delay here are my ACC team small forward rankings for 2012-13:
(Author's note: Because of the abundance of three guard line-ups in the conference, some team rankings may seem slightly redundant to our shooting guard rankings.)
#1 NC State.
The Wolfpack return perhaps the premier shooter in the conference in Scott Wood. Wood averaged 12.9 ppg, shot 41% from deep and 90% from the charity stripe last year. Despite having talent all over the floor, NC State's success mirrored Wood's play on the floor (The Pack were just 4-7 in games where Wood failed to reach double figures). If Wood tires, NC State has the luxury of calling on 6'8 freshman T.J. Warren (ranked as high as the #4 SF in the country coming out of high school). Warren is a pure shooter who won't wow you with athleticism, but does have a very nice medium game. Overall, like nearly every other position on the floor, NC State has an abundance of talent at the three. Here's a closer look of what Warren can do:
#2 Wake Forest.
No team in the conference has a more traditional small forward than Wake Forest in Travis McKie. The 6'7 junior averaged 16.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, and knocked down 48% of his shots from the floor last season. McKie is not only an excellent shooter and finisher, but a force on the boards on both ends of the court. 6'6 bruiser Arnaud Adala Moto should contribute as both SG & SF immediately. Aaron Rountree is a 6'7 freshman the Demon Deacons will develop behind McKie as well.
# 3 Miami.
The 'Canes have the luxury of two players in Rion Brown and Trey McKinney Jones who can score,shoot, pass, dribble, and most importantly defend. On any given night, either can score in double digits. And while both may be better suited to play SG, they have the size (both 6'6) and versatility to man the 3. Brown's explosive finishes may have become a signature, but his defensive prowess (perhaps the best perimeter defender this side of Michael Snaer) is highly underrated. McKinney Jones was at times, Miami's most consistent performer last season. UM also returns Garrius Adams from a knee injury. Adams has the skill set to play either guard spot as well as small forward. Erik Swoope is an undersized yet tenacious competitor who adds depth.
#4 North Carolina.
6'7 Reggie Bullock has the size and versatility to hang with any SF in the conference. Expect Bullock to improve on 8.8 ppg and score in double digits on a regular basis. P.J. Hairston can also man both the 2/3 positions with aplomb, but is it Bullock who has the highest upside as a natural 3. Incoming freshman JP Tokoto has the look of a future slam dunk contest winner. While the rest of his game rounds into shape, the Tar Heels will still have the luxury of plenty of production on the wing in Hairston and Bullock. If Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland are healthy and productive at the 2 spot, and freshman PG Marcus Paige develops quickly, UNC's 3's have a chance to put up some big numbers.
# 5 Duke.
While Duke may be short on experience at the three, they are long on talent. 6'8 Alex Murphy is a redshirt freshman who's game is remarkable similar to former Blue Devil stand out Kyle Singler. If Murphy can produce the way Singler did, Coach K will be one happy man. Duke fans will also get their first look at 6'8 Amile Jefferson. Jefferson's future would appear to be at PF, but while he grows more into his frame expect Jefferson to provide major contributions on the wing. His game should develop and mirror that of former UK standout Terrence Jones. Here are some highlights of Jefferson in action:
# 6 Florida State.
FSU is still waiting for 6'8 junior Okaro White (7.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg last season) to fulfill his lofty potential. White can give the Seminoles anywhere from next to nothing to dropping 20 on a given night. If White's inconsistency remains an issue, look for Coach Leonard Hamilton to turn to 6'6 incoming freshman Montay Brandon. Brandon is an extremely versatile player who is equally adept at passing, handling, and scoring. Brandon's immediate future may be on the wing, but long term he could star at any one of three positions for Florida State.
Like Miami, the Hoos SG and SF positions are mostly interchangeable. Both 6'6 Joe Harris and 6'5 Malcolm Brogdon can man either spot adroitly. The X factor for this team however, could come in the form of a more classic small forward. Enter freshman Evan Nolte, a 6'8 shooter/scorer who has range out to 25 feet and a very polished game overall. If Nolte assimilates to the ACC quickly, this unit could be even higher on the list by season's end.
Freshman Jake Layman can play either forward spot, but will likely start at the 3. His prowess from three point range (at one point during his senior season in H.S. he went 8-8 in a game) makes him dangerous on the perimeter, and his 7 foot wingspan makes him effective inside. Like UVA's Nolte, and NC State's Warren, Layman has a chance to be very good immediately. Sophomore SG Nick Faust can also slide over to SF as well and provide punch when needed.
#9 Virginia Tech.
Junior Jarrell Eddie is an underrated 6'7 player, who has a chance to distinguish himself as the Hokies second best player this season behind Erick Green. Last year he tallied 9.1 ppg and more impressively knocked down 44% of his three pointers. Look for a more explosive version of Eddie this season. The transfer of 6'7 225 prospect Montrezl Harrell to will hurt depth.
#10 Boston College.
Ryan Anderson led BC in scoring last season at 11.2 ppg, but shot just 27% from distance. Anderson's potential, especially as a scorer and rebounder, is impressive. BC will need his all around game to improve this season. Sophomore Eddie Odio would appear to be the next option at the 3, but looks to be a role player at best.
The strength of the rebuilding Tigers this season could be on the wing. 6'9 senior Milton Jennings (9.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.1 apg) shows flashes of star ability but needs to be more consistent. Sophomore K.J. McDaniels will also be counted on for more production this season. Both are exceptional athletes who should provide Clemson with a lot of highlights, even if the team struggles for wins.
#12 Georgia Tech.
6'5 Junior Jason Morris will be counted on to improve on 7.8 ppg and 35% from the floor this season. Like Morris, 6'4 Stacy Poole Jr. is a scoring threat at both the 2/3 positions. This group will get a definite boost if 4 star recruit Marcus Hunt can contribute immediately. All in all, the Yellow Jackets have a chance to climb up the rankings at wing, especially if Morris' game improves.
Projected ALL ACC SFs:
1st Team: Travis McKie, Wake.
2nd Team: Scott Wood, NC State.
3rd Team: Reggie Bullock, UNC.
Best of the Rest:
Best Shooter: Scott Wood, NC State.
Best Pure Scorer: Travis McKie, Wake.
Best Rebounder: Ryan Anderson, BC.
Best Freshman: T.J. Warren, NC State.
Best Defender: Rion Brown, Miami.
Underrated: Jarrell Eddie, Va Tech & Trey McKinney Jones, Miami.
And with that, we conclude our look at the position of small forward in the ACC this season. Keep a look out for our next installment in the series, when we break down big men in the ACC in the upcoming days.