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Introducing ... The New Guys

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

December 1, 2003 Take a closer look at the new guys! Deng: Duke's Next Superstar? DURHAM — The first two points of Luol Deng's college career came on a goaltending call against Detroit. At the time, after the first TV timeout, Duke surprisingly trailed the Titans, 12-0. The much-heralded, top-10 Devils needed a bucket … from anyone. Deng simply was following instructions from coach Mike Krzyzewski. He was trying to make an aggressive play, and he did. Deng finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds — both team highs — in Duke's 67-56 victory. When the Blue Devils faced another unexpectedly close game in their Great Alaska Shootout opener against Pacific, Deng delivered again. His 20 points tied Daniel Ewing for scoring honors, he made four of five three-point attempts, and his 10 rebounds were four more than anyone else on either team. “He can do it all,” Duke guard Chris Duhon said. “He plays inside and outside. He can score and rebound and pass. He's very, very smart. The sky's the limit.” Indeed, just a few weeks into his rookie season, Deng made a few things crystal-clear. First, this McDonald's All-American is the real deal. There are no Chris Burgess stories waiting to unfold here. There is not the slightest hint of awkwardness in Deng's game or his personality. He's sharp, skilled, quick, smooth, confident and productive. Already. Another thing also was all but certain by the end of November: Deng will end this season as the most-interviewed ACC freshman ever. He got off to a big start, with lengthy feature stories on him appearing in several North Carolina newspapers in the preseason. On a team that includes an official player of the year candidate in Duhon, sophomore sharpshooter J.J. Redick and the most interviewed regional prep player ever in sophomore forward Shavlik Randolph, there have been more requests to speak with Deng than for the rest of the team combined. At many schools, freshmen are sheltered from the media and fans. Not at Duke. On the school's website, officials posted an exhaustive question-and-answer session with Deng — “so all the Duke fans can get to know him a little better,” the release said — several weeks before he had played his first regular-season game. Coach K even went out on a limb by declaring, as his team was preparing to begin practice, that the 6-8 Deng not only might be the best player on his highly ranked squad, which has numerous Big Macs, but that he would be one of the best in the nation. “He's that good,” Krzyzewski said. “Why try to hide it?” Here's another thing about Deng we know for sure: He's the first ACC player to speak fluently in Dinka and Arabic as well as English. He is, Duke insiders insist, the most talented player the Blue Devils have signed since Grant Hill. And it is not surprising that Hill has long been Deng's hero. Luol even wore Grant's No. 33 while at Blair Academy in New Jersey. Deng began this season in Duke's starting lineup. Even though he has numerous perimeter skills, he was the second-tallest Blue Devil on the floor, next to center Shelden Williams. But on occasions when Coach K uses Williams and Randolph together, Deng still will be playing. Krzyzewski detests the use of position labels, and Deng is a perfect reason why. Like Hill, who as a point forward led an under-talented team to the NCAA final after being on a championship squad as a freshman and sophomore, Luol can play just about anywhere. In the Blue-White game, he guarded Redick efficiently, limiting the sophomore sharpshooter to no three-pointers until late in the scrimmage, when Deng was sidelined by cramps. This far, that has been his main detriment. The Duke health team is studying why Deng tends to cramp, as he did against Detroit. Nevertheless, he averaged 33 minutes through the Devils' first two games. Deng, who has a seven-foot wingspan, won't turn 19 until April 16, or in the Duke wish book, 11 days after the NCAA final in San Antonio. But he's already among the more mature players on the team. “I think what I've gone through has helped me mature,” he said. Already, many fans are familiar with his background, which included escaping from his native Sudan after a political coup, living along with eight siblings in a three-room apartment in Egypt, and later moving to London. He played three years at Blair, where a teammate was 6-1 guard Patrick Davidson, a freshman walk-on at Duke. Deng generally was considered the top prep player in the nation not named LeBron James. He's already been projected as a high NBA lottery pick. He was the preseason choice by many as the nation's top freshman. But Deng is an outstanding student, and education is important in his family. “We certainly don't know,” a Duke source said, “but we're counting on him being here next year.” Considering how uncertain college basketball is these days, Duke fans would be well-advised to enjoy Deng while he's in Durham. He appears likely to live up to all the accolades. Maryland Finds Early Surprises COLLEGE PARK — Gary Williams has said many times that a recruiting class shouldn't be judged until after the players' sophomore seasons, if not later. The coach firmly believes that few freshmen are capable of contributing immediately, and most need time to adjust to all aspects of college basketball. Williams occasionally ridicules those who turn recruiting rankings into sturdy predictions of how the prospects' careers will unfold in college, and Maryland's freshman class is providing more ammunition for his point of view. In the opening weeks of the season, some presumptions about the Terrapins' five recruits proved inaccurate. Those who expected McDonald's All-American guard Mike Jones to start and be an immediate-impact player, for example, were disappointed in November. Jones was easily Maryland's highest-rated recruit, with some services listing him as the nation's second-best shooting guard behind LeBron James. Jones showed his skills at the McDonald's All-American game, winning the three-point shooting contest and scoring13 points on a mixture of dunks and jumpers. Yet pure talent isn't enough to guarantee playing time in one of the nation's finest programs. Jones averaged 25 points per game as a prep senior, thriving in an offense that ran through him and allowed for plenty of one-on-one play. But he has been lost in Maryland's flex, which requires constant movement, setting picks for others and getting shots in the flow of the offense. His halfcourt defense also has left a lot to be desired. In a recent game against George Mason, Jones played only two minutes. “I'm just trying to learn every day in practice and show the coach that I will always compete,” Jones said. “I've been a little tentative at times, because I'm still somewhat unsure of what I'm supposed to be doing.” There is no question Jones has the athletic ability and skills to be a big-time player. He has speed, quickness and tremendous leaping ability. He possesses a textbook jumper, with quick release and high-arcing trajectory, and has the potential to be the team's best three-point shooter. For now, though, the muscular 200-pounder is most comfortable in open-court situations. Meanwhile, less-heralded freshman D.J. Strawberry has jumped ahead of Jones in the perimeter rotation. The sinewy Californian has displayed a variety of skills and an ability to contribute in a number of ways. A 6-5, 183-pounder, Strawberry is skinny but wiry strong. He also is very athletic, showing speed, quickness and leaping ability similar to Jones, and he plays bigger than his height because of his extremely long arms. Those appendages help make the fresh-faced youngster an outstanding defender and rebounder. Strawberry proved a stat-box stuffer early on, piling up nine points, four rebounds, four steals, four assists and two blocks in 18 minutes of action against George Mason. He had seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes versus American. Williams, who loves the energy level Strawberry brings, credited the caliber of the program Strawberry played in (at Mater Dei High) for preparing him for Division I. “D.J. was in a good offensive system that spread the ball around. I think Mater Dei had four players in double figures, so he knew how to move and find the open man,” Willliams said. “He also learned how to play college-level defense.” Strawberry came to Maryland as part of a package deal, designed to land his friend and AAU teammate Ekene Ibekwe. In fact, there was some trepidation about taking Strawberry, with Williams even floating the prospect of having him spend a year at prep school. Now the son of former major league baseball player Darryl Strawberry looks to be the latest in a long line of underrated prospects to shine for the Terps. Meanwhile, all signs are that Ibekwe is the big-time talent he was projected to be. The 6-9 product of Carson High in California is a multi-talented forward who can shoot, rebound and block shots. A second-team Parade All-American, Ibekwe has been the first frontcourt player off the bench for Maryland, providing solid play in all areas. He had nine points, three blocks and two steals against American, with four points and five rebounds against GMU. The 211-pounder needs to add strength to compete in the ACC, but he has shown a willingness to mix it up underneath and play post defense. Offensively, the Nigeria native has displayed an ability to play with his back to the basket, a valuable commodity on this Maryland team. He also can face the basket, with a consistent jumper out to about 15 feet. “Right now I know Coach Williams wants me to focus on defense and rebounding when I'm in the game,” Ibekwe said, “but eventually people will see that I have an all-around game.” Maryland's two other freshmen figure to see spot duty when needed, as both Will Bowers and Hassan Fofana are developing centers. Williams disputes that both are projects, but the reality is that neither is ready to contribute many minutes. Bowers, who some analysts likened to former Maryland center Mike Mardesich, is a little further along than Fofana both skill-wise and in terms of understanding Maryland's system. Williams shocked many by starting Bowers in an exhibition game, but the seven-footer responded by draining a three-pointer early. An in-state product of Archbishop Spalding High, Bowers has a big frame that easily carries 245 pounds, but he must get stronger in order to become a more effective rebounder and inside finisher. Fofana, a 6-10, 290-pound widebody, is not nearly as far along. The Guinea native, who played only soccer up until high school, is still learning all aspects of the game and refining his skills. He wears a size 19 shoe, though, and his soccer background has given him excellent quickness, agility and footwork. The coaching staff also has noticed an aggressive streak that bodes well for the future. Three Rookies Lifting Virginia CHARLOTTESVILLE — For a team that has spoken openly of an interest in playing only one post man this season, the most significant development in Virginia's opening game was the performance of two freshmen. A nine-rebound night by 6-6 Gary Forbes showed that the Cavaliers might have enough board strength to make coach Pete Gillen's “four-quick” scheme work. On the other hand, if Virginia decides it needs two post players, 6-7, 244-pound Donte Minter might be the extra man. “We've got two pretty good inside guys,” Gillen said. “I'll take those two (Minter and junior Elton Brown) against a lot of people in the country.” Minter, who had 33 points in 33 minutes in UVa's two preseason games, had a tidy, 12-point, seven-rebound contribution in the Cavaliers'
80-71 victory over Mount St. Mary's. In his 18 minutes, he had another basket nullified after Todd Billet was called for a charge. Minter, who signed with Appalachian State in the fall of his senior year (2001-02) at West Rowan High in North Carolina, initially failed to meet NCAA eligibility guidelines. He enrolled last year at Fork Union Military Academy, 35 minutes from the UVa campus, where he emerged as a high-major prospect. He has trimmed down from his West Rowan days and is more athletic than originally billed. “He doesn't run real fast, he doesn't jump real high,” Gillen said. “He just glides, and he's left-handed.” Forbes, who had a team-high 21 points in the opener, became a starter in the preseason only after junior swingman Devin Smith started having trouble with his back. But Forbes, the highest-rated (consensus top 50) of UVa's recruits, was projected to have an immediate impact anyway. A product of Gillen's hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., Forbes was listed at 6-5 by most recruiting services and thought to be as short as 6-4 by some skeptics, but he is an honest 6-6, with leaping ability and good hands. A lineup that includes Forbes, 6-7 sophomore Derrick Byars and Smith (6-5, 239) should be able to help primary post man Elton Brown in the rebounding department. “(Brown) always tells me I'm the sparkplug of the team,” Forbes said. “I get everybody fired up. … Coach Gillen always tells us he doesn't want us to play like freshmen.” Forbes was joined in the starting lineup by 6-2 guard J.R. Reynolds from Roanoke, Va., by way of Oak Hill Academy. Reynolds, who spent four years at Roanoke Catholic (starting in the eighth grade) before coming to Virginia, already has displayed uncommon composure but did not shoot well in three games, counting the two exhibitions. Part of that may be fallout from a late-September operation on his left (non-shooting) thumb for torn ligaments. Gillen correctly pointed out that Reynolds once made an Oak Hill-record 13 three-point field goals in one game, but if there is one question about the recruits, it is their dependability from long range. Reynolds hit his first three-point attempt against Mount St. Mary's, but he and Forbes were a combined one-for-nine from behind the arc. Forbes, Minter and Reynolds accounted for 40 of Virginia's 80 points against Mount St. Mary's. That shouldn't be a regular occurrence after Smith returns, but all three rookies are natural scorers. Less likely to have an immediate impact are a pair of late signees, 5-10 T.J. Bannister from Jacksonville, Fla., and 6-9 Jason Cain from Philadelphia. The Cavaliers are really high on Cain because of his perimeter skills and athletic ability, but he and Bannister played two minutes and one minute, respectively, in the opener. Bannister is in line for more playing time next year, when Billet and Majestic Mapp will be gone. Seminoles Getting Lots Of Help TALLAHASSEE — Leonard Hamilton's heralded signing class came up one short when junior college swingman Antonio Griffin failed to qualify, but the Seminoles also were forced to play without Argentinian big man Diego Romero in November. The NCAA is looking into the amateur status of Romero, a juco product with international experience, and a decision could be rendered any day. “For the most part, you can just assume that we've always been very thorough about how we go about conducting our business, and we've been more than thorough here,” said Hamilton, who privately is livid that his much-needed 6-10 transfer hasn't been cleared. “I think we have a clear understanding of what the process is, and now we just have to let it play itself out.” Fortunately for the Seminoles, they didn't have to wait long to see what they had in power forward Alexander Johnson and shooting guard Von Wafer. Through the first three games of the season, Johnson was as good as advertised, averaging 11 points and four rebounds while providing an interior toughness that has been missing from the program for the past five seasons. Johnson is still playing himself into shape after undergoing surgery on both ankles over the summer to clear up a chronic problem, but as his fitness level improves he will provide a huge lift. Offensively, in the low post, Johnson has been virtually unstoppable, displaying a variety of post moves. Defensively, he plays with a chip on his shoulder and defends around the basket like a hockey goalie, willing to take on all comers and unafraid to dish out hard fouls. At the same time, he's still adjusting to Hamilton's system. “Our defense, that's what really gets me,” Johnson said. “It's more like a football team on defense. Everybody's got to work together.” Wafer, a McDonald's All-American and the most heralded signee, missed the season opener after banging his knee while “horsing around” away from the court. He debuted with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists in game two, then followed up with 11 points in his second outing, displaying the long-range stroke that will be critical as teams focus their attention on senior guard Tim Pickett. Hamilton, however, has made it clear that Wafer has much to learn in terms of how hard he has to play at the defensive end. In each of his first two games, Wafer was lifted after being slow to recover after repeated mistakes — he had eight turnovers — and tutored on the sideline. Still, Hamilton has made it a point to get him back into the game, and Wafer has responded with improved efforts. “The biggest adjustment (from high school) is the speed of the game,” Wafer said. “Everything goes a lot faster here, especially on defense.” Perhaps the biggest surprise among the newcomers, largely because he was such an unknown, has been the energy freshman Al Thornton has brought to the floor. A January 2002 enrollee who essentially redshirted in the spring, the 6-7 forward clearly benefited from last season's practice time. Though not as polished as either Johnson or Wafer, the late-blooming Georgia product averaged 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds through three games. Aggressive around the basket, he also handled the ball surprisingly well on the perimeter (two turnovers in 36 minutes) and even drilled a three-pointer. FSU's soft non-conference schedule provided Hamilton ample time to integrate the trio into the rotation with limited pressure. Johnson figures to have the easiest path to the starting lineup, and he should be there by the time the Seminoles open ACC play. Wafer most likely will continue to come off the bench in his on-the-job training, a luxury Hamilton is afforded because Pickett and Anthony Richardson are playing so well from the wing spots. While Hamilton judiciously distributed minutes in the early going, it will be important to get Romero into the action quickly, assuming he's cleared by the NCAA. His passing from the post — low and high — is something the Seminoles desperately need in order to fully realize the potential of their solid perimeter players. With all the other parts in place, it will be important to lessen the minutes of veteran post players Mike Mathews and Adam Waleskowski, who don't possess the all-around tools on either end that Hamilton desires. “I imagine it's going to take us a little longer to get that chemistry, that rhythm we'll need later on in the year,” Hamilton said. “But the only way we're going to accomplish that is to get these (new) guys in.” Wake Spotlight Shines On Paul WINSTON-SALEM — From the moment Wake Forest signed Chris Paul, one of the nation's top prep point guards, people around the program began to wonder: Would coach Skip Prosser bench incumbent Taron Downey for Paul? Would he play those two alongside shooting guard Justin Gray in a small lineup? The speculation grew after Paul provided key stretch baskets in the Demon Deacons' final exhibition game. But as it turned out, nobody will ever know for sure what Prosser would have done to start the season. Downey removed all the suspense by having an appendectomy right before the first game. Prosser started Paul in Madison Square Garden. Then forward Vytas Danelius hurt his foot, and Prosser went with the three-guard starting lineup in the home opener. So while Prosser eventually will have to decide, he's had a chance to tinker around without having to bruise any egos. Most important, he got a chance to put Paul in charge of the team to see what would happen. So far, Paul hasn't disappointed. In the opener against Memphis, he had 10 points, four rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes as the Deacons won 85-76. In his home debut against Elon, he had six points, four rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes as Wake rolled 97-55. Paul had six assists and two turnovers in the two games. He made only two of nine shots from the field, but he looked comfortable and confident while running the show. “I would much rather have a player who can make plays and really wants to, rather than a wallflower who you have to energize,” Prosser said. “I'm really pleased with (Paul's) progress so far. I prefer to have a player like Chris who you have to throttle down rather than throttle up.” Since Prosser arrived at Wake, he's lamented publicly and privately about the lack of a true point guard in the program. Broderick Hicks was solid but not particularly good at anything, and Prosser sometimes questioned Downey's leadership and his occasional shoot-first attitude. But Paul, a rare McDonald's All-American for Wake Forest, appears to be everything Prosser could want. Paul's first instinct is to set his team up and distribute the ball. He rarely looks for his shot, which can be seen as a drawback in today's game, but it's a coach's dream. Paul does have the ability to score, although not to the level of a Raymond Felton, and he'll grow more comfortable in where to find his shots. “I know how to score. I was a scorer in high school,” Paul said. “But I like to look for my teammates also. We have so many good shooters.” Wake struggled last season with a stagnant halfcourt offense and its inability to get the ball into the post. So far, Paul has demonstrated great court vision, better than any Wake guard in recent memory. He's strong enough to get his teammates organized on offense, then creative enough to deliver the ball to them in ways they aren't used to. Part of that also has to do with Paul's familiarity with his teammates. As a local product, from nearby West Forsyth High, he's actually been around most of the Wake players for a year or more now. He played some of his biggest prep games in Joel Coliseum. “I think that helps out a lot,” Paul said. “Through summer school and being around here so much with the fellas, I just feel comfortable.” Wake also brought in guard Jeremy Ingram, a solidly built athlete. He has shown range as a shooter and has used his strength to get to the boards. Because he'll be a better defender than Richard Joyce, he'll see more action in the long run, although he's behind a talented trio. “He's really overly concerned about what I think of him,” Prosser said. “He needs to understand that I'm going to fuss at him — listen to what I say, not how I say it. He's very athletic and can score. He's going to become a very good defender. Right now, he's just thinking too much.” Wake's other newcomers are big men Todd Hendley (6-9, 213) and Kyle Visser (6-11, 224). Both will be key reserves in the early going, especially considering Chris Ellis' broken foot, Danelius' injury problems and Eric Williams' foul troubles. Hendley and Visser both need to build strength, and neither really has the ability to create a shot, though Hendley has the better handle and range. Though neither has made an impact early, each has thrown himself into the action. Visser averaged a rebound every three minutes in the first two games. “They're going to err, but they play hard,” Prosser said. “They're only going to get better with playing time.” Wolfpack Welcomes Role Players RALEIGH — One of the biggest early surprises around the ACC was that unheralded N.C. State freshman Mike O'Donnell earned a starting position for the Wolfpack. Granted, State coach Herb Sendek had an opening with the departure of last year's only senior, Clifford Crawford, and O'Donnell had been earning the respect of his teammates ever since he showed up from Largo, Fla., in the late summer. But at 5-11 and 155 pounds (perhaps only when his copious mop of hair is soaking wet), O'Donnell isn't expected to step in and become a star for the Pack. He's expected to come in and play without making many mistakes. That's exactly what he did in November, when he averaged two points, 1.5 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 0.5 turn-overs and 24.5 minutes of action through two games. In that way, O'Donnell is a little bit like former starting point guard Justin Gainey, a player of limited skills who worked hard enough to get the most out of his potential. He's not someone who will win many games in his career by putting the team on his shoulders and carrying it, but he probably also won't over-reach and try to do things he's not physically capable of doing. O'Donnell was lightly recruited out of high school, getting offers from Butler and Holy Cross. Florida showed serious interest, but the Gators wanted to sign O'Donnell only if he was willing to attend prep school for a year and then possibly redshirt. He wasn't, and now he's a starter in the ACC. “I like his spunkiness,” Sendek said. “I like the way he takes care of the basketball. The thing I like about him is that he just has a real feel for the value of a simple play. To the casual observer, that could easily go unnoticed. But he has been instrumental in establishing rhythm and helping us have flow.” Sendek has two more freshmen to call on, both of whom are still pretty much big mysteries, in shooting guard Engin Atsur and center Adam Simons. Atsur, a native of Turkey, is one of the more intriguing newcomers in the conference this year, although his early reviews from teammates were rather stiff. Atsur couldn't make his college debut until the Wolfpack's game at Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. He sat out his team's first three games as punishment from the NCAA for playing against professional competition during the summer of 2002. Known as a deadly shooter for the Turkish Junior National Team, Atsur is considered a potential starter for the Wolfpack. Clemson, Georgia Tech, Siena and Texas all wanted him on the recruiting trail, but he chose to play for the Pack because of Sendek's system. Unfortunately, thanks in part to a language barrier, Atsur has had some difficulty understanding Sendek's schemes. The explanations the guard gets from his coaches don't always make sense to him, even with sophomore forward Ilian Evtimov (a native of Bulgaria who speaks several languages) helping with the process. Atsur speaks four languages fluently — Turkish, German, French and English — but lots of terms used in the gym don't have simple translations and aren't included in the abridged version of Webster's Dictionary. The American college game also is vastly different in its speed and its physical play, something Atsur is still adjusting to in practice. Teammates said they saw a marked improvement in Atsur's understanding of his responsibilities in the last two weeks of November, when he practiced at both guard spots but looked more comfortable on the wing, and they're anxious to see what he does once he gets into a real game. Simons, a seven-footer from nearby Burlington, sat out last year as a redshirt in an attempt to get stronger and add some bulk. The son of former Elon coach Mark Simons and the stepson of Duke women's basketball coach Gail Goestenkors, he knows the game and has a nice outside shooting touch. But what the Wolfpack really needs is a physical presence inside, since every player on the team is more interested in shooting from beyond the arc instead of finding good rebounding position inside of it. In his first game, Simons had a nice jump hook in the middle of the lane, but he also had a poorly selected three-point attempt. He also made a long shot in his second game, much to the delight of the RBC Center crowd. But if he wants to become a real contributor for Sendek's height-impaired team, he'll need to get more competitive in rebounding. Sendek has one other newcomer this season. Guard Chris McCoy, a walk-on from Louisville who is attending N.C. State on an academic scholarship, got some mop-up duty in the team's first couple of games. Tech Newcomers A Mixed Bag ATLANTA — Georgia Tech's wish list was small and specific during last year's recruiting. “We wanted to get the best combo guard that would help us with scoring,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said, “because at the time that's all we thought we needed.” The Yellow Jackets ultimately found their man in 6-0 Arizona transfer Will Bynum, a player they originally recruited during the 2000-01 academic year. A fiery and quick scorer, he played in 31 games as a freshman and eight as a sophomore for the Wildcats before deciding to transfer last December. He'll become eligible for the Jackets on Dec. 13, after Tech's fall semester, and immediately will step in as the team's No. 2 point guard. That's a role junior wing guard B.J. Elder handled last season, but when he shifts to the point it often disrupts the Tech offense. Bynum, who also will play alongside starting point guard Jarrett Jack at times, brings a level of toughness to the Yellow Jackets that they lacked at times in the past. As a prep senior in Chicago, Bynum was the player of the year in that city's ultra-competitive Public League. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, their recruiting wish list changed after last season, at a time when it was too late to do anything about it. The departures of Chris Bosh (NBA) and Ed Nelson (Connecticut) left a huge void on the inside. Fortunately, the return of forward Clarence Moore has helped fill it some. Moore, who played 66 games (including 34 starts) during his first three seasons at Tech, sat out last season for personal reasons following the death of his mother. A 6-5, 215-pounder, he's an elder statesman on the Yellow Jackets and someone all the players look up to and respect. Moore thought about returning to the team midway through last year but eventually opted to join it after the season. Meanwhile, he made every offseason workout and proved to the coaches and players he was serious about coming back. “He gives us a lot of energy, a lot of leadership and he can play,” Hewitt said. “Even if he wasn't the significant contributor we think he's going to be, given his personality and how much respect the players have for him, I would have accepted him back.” Moore's all-around game — he can score, rebound, defend and collect steals — gives the Yellow Jackets another versatile performer, but his leadership might have the biggest impact on the team. He displayed that in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, chewing out a few teammates for a lackadaisical end to the first half. On a team with quiet seniors Marvin Lewis and Robert Brooks, Moore's outspoken leadership will be needed. Mario West, a redshirt freshman, also will get some playing time for the Yellow Jackets this season. A 6-4, 208-pounder, he's another one of the interchangeable parts Hewitt likes to have on his roster. West's offensive game lacks polish, but he plays with incredible energy and can provide a defensive spark from time to time. “Mario just plays hard, which is a trait that any coach can fall in love with,” Hewitt said. “He's an energy guy, a defensive guy, just does whatever we need him to do on the defensive end of the floor, running down loose balls, keeping balls alive on the glass. I just love the energy he brings to the floor.” Because of its unusual recruiting campaign last year, Tech has no true freshmen on scholarship this season. Keith Jones, a 6-2 guard from Austell, Ga., earned a spot on the team as a walk-on through the Yellow Jackets' annual open-court tryout in mid-October. Heels' Top Rookie A Walk-On? CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina is paying room, board and tuition for freshman forward Reyshawn Terry, but it's freebie Justin Bohlander who's producing on the court. UNC's only newcomers this season, Terry and Bohlander played together at Winston-Salem (N.C.) Reynolds last year. Terry, listed at 6-7 and 214 pounds, is an impressive athlete with quickness and size. Bohlander is 6-8 and 200 pounds. He's thin, but he has sound fundamentals, plays aggressively and can run. And while he may not have a lot of rump to throw around, he does have a set of elbows he knows how to use. “Bohlander, he's good,” UNC center Sean May said. “Only thing I say about J.B. is he's really skinny, but he can play. You guys can see it out there. He doesn't care how big you are. He goes at me in practice. The kid's a warrior, and he'll be good in this system. He can guard some (small forwards), he can guard (power forwards) and he can guard (centers).” First-year coach Roy Williams needed one of his two newcomers to provide more help than initially expected, after sophomore forward David Noel underwent surgery for a thumb injury in the preseason and sophomore center Damion Grant remained sidelined with bad knees. With the depth-shy Tar Heels in desperate need of a seventh man in November, Bohlander earned the most minutes. “I thought my role would be just to go to practice and make practice intense and help out my teammates,” Bohlander said. Bohlander impressed his teammates and coaches with tenacity and production from the start. In his debut against Old Dominion, he played 13 minutes, got four rebounds, committed three turnovers, blocked two shots and stole the ball once. Terry played five minutes in that game and scored two points. “I guess I was a little nervous, and I think it showed on the court,” Bohlander said. “But I've got the first one out of the way. Hopefully, I can come back out and do a better job.” Two days later against Davidson, Bohlander's minutes dropped to 10. He had a steal and two points. Terry played five minutes and scored one point. Unfortunately for Terry, he hasn't yet lived up to the top-50 ranking he had coming out of high school. He also has the distinction of being the person involved in the crash that injured Noel. “I ran into Reyshawn Terry,” Noel said. “I'd laid the ball up and was running back on defense and ran into him and hyper-extended it, all the way back.” That was bum luck for both players. Terry's progress as a player will depend on his ability to settle down and learn. Williams has yelled “Reyshawn” many times since practice began. “His big thing is that he has to stop thinking so much and just play,” May said. “He's going to be a great player, but right now he's struggling a little bit. … In practice Coach has gotten on him, and I try to tell him, ‘They expect you to mess up — you're a freshman.'” Clemson Counting On Hamilton CLEMSON — Of Clemson's four newcomers, there's no doubt which one is standing squarely in the spotlight. Vernon Hamilton, a 6-0, 192-pound point guard from Richmond, Va., is trying to help fill the void left by Edward Scott, who was named to the All-ACC first team last season. Hamilton started the season opener against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 21, becoming the first true freshman to start the opening game for the Tigers since Harold Jamison in 1995-96. Hamilton was the first true freshman to start at point guard since Merl Code in 1993-94. As a senior at Richmond (Va.) Benedictine, Hamilton averaged 24.1 points, 7.3 assists, 5.7 rebounds and two steals per game. The Tigers' top-rated signee in 2002-03, he was ranked among the top 125 players in the nation. Also an outstanding receiver in football, he signed with Clemson over Utah, West Virginia, Colorado, Virginia Tech and Richmond. Hamilton scored 25 or more points 13 times as a prep senior, but his main role with the Tigers will not be scoring. Coach Oliver Purnell is looking for a point guard who can help cut down Clemson's turnovers, and it became obvious early that there are no easy answers. In their first two games, the Tigers averaged 21 turnovers. Hamilton has a solid build and good quickness. He also has shown the ability to make an open shot. Facing intense man-to-man pressure against High Point on Nov. 24, he scored 12 points, handed out eight assists and grabbed four steals in 31 minutes. He also had four turnovers. “Hamilton's penetration against their pressure was very good,” Purnell said. “When they press out and up, the point guard has to make them pay. He showed some confidence in his shot. He did a nice job.” The battle to replace Scott has been between Hamilton and sophomore Shawan Robinson. Hamilton handles the ball better than Robinson, but Robinson has better shooting range. Lamar Rice is a junior college transfer from Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. He led Mott, a member of NJCAA Division II, to a two-year record of 65-8. He was named a junior college honorable mention All-American last season, scoring points so quickly that he was nicknamed “Minute.” A 6-7, 215-pound forward who played only one year of high school basketball, he picked Clemson over Purdue, Xavier and Houston. Rice may find it difficult to get significant playing time this season, thanks to the dramatic improvement made by Clemson's inside players during the offseason. In the early going, it looked as if his role on the team will be limited. Jimmy Hudson, a 6-4, 190-pound wing guard from Eustis, Fla., averaged 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists and shot 42 percent from behind the arc as a senior in high school. A top-200 recruit, he scored 10 points in the Georgia-Florida All-Star game. His playing time also is likely to be limited this season. Reed Long, a walk-on from nearby Piedmont, S.C., is a 6-5, 210-pound forward who figures to play only mop-up minutes during his Clemson career. Hokies Getting Baptism By Fire BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg performed an unusual gesture when he met with his team prior to the first preseason practice in October: He told his players he loved them. In the grand scheme of things, it was as close to a group hug as a coach will ever come. But with the majority of his team barely old enough to shave, Greenberg knew it would be wise to start things off on the sensitive side. With three freshmen poised to play big minutes for the Hokies this season, it probably won't get any easier. “The expectation needs to be that we're going to compete each and every day,” Greenberg said. “If we don't, they should be disappointed. If we don't, I'm going to be disappointed.” With that thought in mind, Greenberg will look to two freshman guards to spur his backcourt. All eyes will be on Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon.

Dowdell, a 6-2 native of Pahokee, Fla., already has established his desire to compete on the highest level. He immediately stepped in as the Hokies' starting point guard, and he's making an impact. He has the ability to push the ball up the floor, which helps drive Greenberg's up-tempo style. However, Dowdell must be careful to protect the ball and play under control, considering that one of Tech's biggest problems last season was committing too many turnovers. If Dowdell can handle the responsibility of playing 30-35 minutes per game as a floor general, the Hokies won't have to worry quite as much about one of their main concerns coming into the season, but he suffered from information overload in November. “He's freezing right now. He's got to re-start. We have to … plug him back in and reboot him,” Greenberg said. “He's got so much going through his brain right now, he's fried.” A development in late November insured that Gordon, from Jacksonville, Fla., would have to play similar minutes to Dowdell. Carlos Dixon, Tech's third-leading scorer last season and one of its most experienced players, will be forced to redshirt his senior season because of a broken left foot. With Dixon out of the mix and the Hokies down to six healthy scholarship players for the first few weeks of the season, Gordon also was thrust into a starting role. Despite excellent shooting mechanics, he struggled in the preseason to find his touch. He will need to step up in a hurry if the Hokies plan on having a reliable complement to senior wing Bryant Matthews' scoring ability. “Gordon's probably the most mature (freshman) physically,” Greenberg said. “He's got the most toughness of the three. He's pretty fearless.” In Tech's season-opening 79-49 win over New Hampshire, Dowdell and Gordon combined for 10 assists, four turnovers and 35 points on 14-of-25 shooting. They also knocked down seven of 14 three-point attempts. In a 61-59 victory over Western Carolina, the pair came back to reality a bit, combining for 21 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, four assists and six turnovers. They converted two of eight three-pointers. “(New Hampshire) sat back (in a zone) and let us do what we wanted,” Greenberg said, “but what I was encouraged with was 18 assists on 30 field goals. And I was really pleased with the two freshmen.” In the frontcourt, the Hokies will have to wait a while longer to get a glimpse of their future. Coleman Collins, a 6-8 forward from Stone Mountain, Ga., has star potential written all over him. But he recently fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the same injury that has plagued Dixon since February, and he could be unavailable until mid-January. Collins, only 17, has a massive wingspan. If he is able to return and get into the flow in a hurry, he could become a force on both ends of the floor. If he's healthy, he even could challenge for a starting spot by the end of the season. “Coleman's upside is exciting,” Greenberg said. “He has a chance to do a lot of special things, but to get there he's got to learn how to work all the time.” Also providing depth for Tech this season will be freshman walk-ons Mykhael Lattimore, a 6-4 guard, Davis Stubbs, a 6-1 guard, and Chris Tucker, a 6-7 forward. The early season injury bug helped Lattimore, Stubbs and Tucker become far more involved in the rotation than originally expected. Lattimore even scored the winning points on a last-second tip against Western Carolina. “Mykhael's a guy who we know can get up, so it came as no surprise to me,” Dowdell said. “He does that all the time in practice.”