The ACC has no shortage of talented and imposing big men. Miami returns a trio of seniors in Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji, and Julian Gamble that could be as formidable as any in the country. Around the league, UNC's James Michael McAdoo looks to be the Tar Heels next star, the Plumlee Brothers at Duke promise to be tough, and Maryland's Alex Len is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
With out further delay here are my ACC team center/power forward rankings for 2012-13:
The key to the entire season for the talented 'Canes could come down to the health of 6'10 285 pound C Reggie Johnson. When healthy, there is no worse match-up nightmare in the ACC then the big body and soft touch of Johnson. Last season with the exception of a huge game against Duke on Super Bowl Sunday (27 points 12 rebounds), Big Reg did not look 100% (10 ppg & 7.1 rpg for the season).
Fortunately for UM and Coach Jim Larranaga, Johnson appears to be healthy.
"He’s so much better than he was at any point last year," Larranaga said of the 6-10 Johnson.
"Reggie is 50% better a player than he was at any point last season. He's more agile. He's quicker. He has a chance to have a special season."
When Johnson isn't causing nightmares down low, 6'11 Kenny Kadji (11.7 ppg 5.3 rpg 42% 3P%) is a versatile big man who can score on the block or from downtown. The scary part for the rest of the ACC is that Kadji is only getting better.
"He looks like a right handed Chris Bosh," Larranaga said of Kadji.
"He's running the floor incredibly well and he's dropped weight. He's down to 242 from 262."
In addition to Johnson and Kadji, 6'9 sixth year senior Julian Gamble returns from injury. Gamble may not be the type of player to put up big numbers, but his intangibles and leadership should not be undervalued. Raphael Akpejori is a 6'10 junior who provides depth. Overall Miami's big men will be a load for any team in the county, and Johnson and Kadji should be All ACC candidates as individual performers.
Here's a little breakdown on Johnson's game from the ACC Network:
#2 NC State.
When he's on, Calvin Leslie has the ability to dominate a game like no other player in the ACC, and few in the country. Leslie averaged 14.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 1.6 blocks, but amped his game up to even higher levels last season during the Wolfpack's runs in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. The 6'8 Leslie is too strong to be guarded by wing players and too quick and explosive for power forwards. Already an established star, look for Leslie to accomplish tremendous things this year and possibly work his way into the NBA lottery. While not as versatile as Leslie, 6'8 250 pound senior Richard Howell (10.8 ppg 9.2 rpg) is an effective player from 8 feet in, and a monster on the glass. 7'1 Australian junior Jordan Vendenberg who comes off a lost season due to injury, should provide depth in limited doses. Leslie and Howell will rival Johnson and Kadji frontcourt duoas the best in the conference.
Here's a good look of Leslie in action:
#3 North Carolina.
The losses of John Henson and Tyler Zeller would leave nearly any other program in rebuilding mode. The Tar Heels however, simply re-load. No big man in the ACC or the country is poised for a bigger break out season than James Michael McAdoo. McAdoo - averaged 6.1 points, 3.9 boards and 19.0 minutes per game last season, which
projects out to 15.5 points and 9.9 boards over 40 minutes. The numbers could work out to be even better with McAdoo inheriting the go-to role in Chapel Hill. 6'9 Freshman Brice Johnson is a lean, athletic prospect who will need to develop physically to become a force in the ACC. Nonetheless look for Johnson to contribute immediately as a shot blocker and finisher. Another freshman, 6'10 260 pound Joel James should also see the floor early and often, and provide a much needed physical presence for UNC. Desmond Hubert is a 6'10 sophomore who may not play much but has potential.
If the Terps can get consistency out of 7'1 230 pound Alex Len, (6 ppg, 5.4 rpg last season) their front court will be special. Len showed promising ability as an offensive weapon in spurts as a freshman, and is also a deceptively good shot blocker (2.2 per game). This season the Ukraine native should have plenty of help up front in the form of 6'9 275 pound incoming freshman Shaquille Cleare. The big-bodied Cleare comes to Maryland with a polished low post game, including the ability to drop step from either side and a nice baby hook shot. Cleare also plays with the kind of force that makes his first name appropriate. Depth should be no problem as senior James Padgett is a hard working power forward who contributed 8.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg last year, and 6'8 250 pound freshman Charles Mitchell is another bruising presence down low.
Mason Plumlee (11.1 ppg & 9.2 rpg) emerged as a double double machine (12 last year) in 2011-12. The 6'10 235 pound senior may not have a polished offensive game, but he uses brute force and athleticism to produce big numbers. This season he won't have the presence of older brother Miles who graduated, but will have younger brother Marshall on the floor with him. Redshirt freshman Marshall does not have the aptitude for dirty work of Mason, but can score from 12-15 feet out. Joining the Plumlee brothers up front will be 6'11 senior Ryan Kelly. Kelly (11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 41% 3P%) is at his best when he floats around the perimeter and can score in bunches. Josh Hairston is 6'7 junior who adds depth.
#6 Georgia Tech.
6'11 Daniel Miller (8.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 blocks) is an underrated post player with a nice finesse game, who should get more touches this season for the Yellow Jackets. Kammeon Holsey (9.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg, 59% from the floor) is a high percentage shooter ,who at 6'8 forms a nice compliment to Miller. Incoming freshman Robert Carter is a 6'9 245 athlete who has nice power game and good shooting range. Julian Royal is a 6'7 role player who adds depth. Carter's presence and the continued development of Miller and Holsley might make GT's inside players the most improved in the ACC this season.
#7 Florida State
Replacing Bernard James will be no easy task for the Seminoles. James' leadership skills, defensive presence, and experience will be sorely missed. FSU is hoping that 6'8 Terrance Shannon (8.3 ppg in 7 games) can return from injury and provide the same toughness he was known for before dislocating his left shoulder. Joining Shannon will be a slew of newcomers, headlined by JUCO transfer Robert Gilchrist. Gilchrist is a 6'9 shot blocking force, who is originally from London. Nigerian born 7'1 Michael Ojo and 7'2 230 pound Boris Bojanovsky of the Slovak Republic appear to be long term projects. Coach Leonard Hamilton's ability to get the most out of any squad can never be underestimated, but he will have his work cut out for him with this inexperienced group. Good thing for Florida State they have a deep and talented back court.
Perhaps no player is more irreplaceable in the ACC than Mike Scott is to the Hoos. Scott was my pick for ACC player of the year last season, and UVA will have a hard time replacing his production. Akil Mitchell (4.1 ppg & 4.4 rpg) and Darion Atkins (2.3 ppg & 2.3 rpg) can defend, but aren't particularly skilled with the ball. The most likely option to pick up some of the slack down low will be 6'10 freshman center Mike Tobey. Tobey is a well developed big with good hands who can score in traffic. Still, it may take him time to adjust to the rigors of ACC play.
Devin Booker (10.5 ppg and 7.0 rpg) has the ability to hang with any player in the conference down low. Too often though Booker had off nights shooting, and seemed to get discouraged. The Tigers have very little other experience up front, so amongst the freshman group of Josh Smith, Jaron Blossomgame, and Larry Nnoko, someone will need to emerge. A more consistent and motivated Booker would be a huge help as well.
#10 Wake Forest.
7'0 250 Pound junior Carson Desrosiers (4.8 ppg & 4.4 rpg) had yet to establish himself as a presence down low. before transferring. His loss will open up minutes for 6'10 Sophomore Daniel Green, who also did not light it up last year. Fortunately for the Demon Deacs, an abundance of freshman big men arrive this year. Devin Thomas and/or Tyler Cavanaugh could man the four spot early on. 6'10 Andre Washington is freshman with good back to the basket skills who could play immediately as well.
#11 Boston College.
Dennis Clifford (8.9 ppg & 4.7 rpg) proved to be a skilled but athletically challenged 7 footer as freshman. BC would benefit from getting him more touches as he looks like he can be effective, even if awkward. 6'10 275 pound KC Caudill is similar to Clifford albeit less talented. Together Clifford and Caudill give the Eagles above average size. They will need to become better players however, for Boston College to become a better team.
#12 Virginia Tech.
No team has more question marks down low than the Virginia Tech Hokies. 6'9 Cadarian Raines (5.9 ppg and 3.9 rpg) & 6'8 C.J. Barksdale (2.7 ppg and 2.7 rpg) return. 6'8 Freshman Marshall Wood should also see time. Erick Green will likely not receive much help from this group.
Projected ALL ACC C/PFs:
1st Team: Reggie Johnson Miami & Calvin Leslie NC State.
2nd Team: Kenny Kadji Miami & James Michael McAdoo UNC.
3rd Team: Mason Plumlee Duke & Richard Howell NC State.
Best of the Rest:
Best Scorer: Calvin Leslie, NC State.
Best Rebounder: Mason Plumlee, Duke or Reggie Johnson, Miami.
Best Shooter: Kenny Kadji, Miami or Ryan Kelly, Duke.
Best Defender: Daniel Miller, GT.
Best Freshman: Shaquille Cleare, Maryland.
Previously in the Series:
This wraps up our 2012 ACC positional breakdown. Please be sure to leave lots of feedback. I will do an overview of the series as a whole, including responses I receive, in the coming days.