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Rookie Center Success Stories Few And Far Between

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

By Scott Vogelsberg
March 24, 2005

Faithful reader Ed Balogh of Charlotte wrote in with the following query:

"A couple of years ago, right before Sean May's, Shelden Williams' and Eric Williams' freshmen years, The PooP Sheet ran an article stating that it is dangerous to count on key contributions from freshmen centers in the ACC because historically the stats proved out that just a handful of freshmen centers reached double-figure averages in points or scoring. I believe that perhaps Ralph Sampson and maybe J.R. Reid were the only big men to hit a double-figure average in either category as freshmen. Is it possible for you to tell me which ACC big men since freshmen became eligible again in the '70s have averaged double-figures in either points and/or rebounds?"

Terrific question, Ed, though it expands somewhat when "big men" is substituted for centers. So in order to provide a little more information, let's identify the centers you're looking for, then mention a few of the center/power forward rookies that stood out.

First off, freshmen eligibility for the ACC was instituted for the 1973-74 season, though the conference did not recognize a Rookie of the Year until 1976 -- which excluded such standouts as Skip Brown of Wake Forest, Walter Davis of UNC and Wayne "Tree" Rollins of Clemson in 1974 and Skip Wise of Clemson, Brad Davis of Maryland, Phil Ford of UNC, Rod Griffin of Wake Forest and Kenny Carr of N.C. State in 1975. Perhaps the easiest way to tackle the question is to go team by team throughout the league. Florida State does not have any big men that fit the bill since joining the ACC, and recent conference additions Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College will also be excluded for obvious reasons.

The Tigers' Rollins is one of the few rookie big men in ACC history to average double-digits in both scoring and rebounding, scoring 12.4 points and pulling down 12.2 rebounds per game in 1973-74. Fellow Clemson big man Sharone Wright averaged 12.0 points per contest in 1991-92.

At Duke, Mike Gminski was dominant in 1977, averaging 15.3 points and 10.7 boards as a freshman, sharing ACC Rookie of the Year honors with N.C. State's Charles "Hawkeye" Whitney.

Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech averaged 15.6 points per game in 2003 on his way to conference Rookie of the Year and second-team All-ACC recognition. Center Jim Wood scored 11.1 points per contest in 1974, while power forward Tom Hammonds was good for 12.2 points per game in 1986 for the Yellow Jackets.

Maryland's Buck Williams averaged 10.0 points and 10.8 caroms as the ACC Rookie of the Year in 1979, but those impressive numbers aren't even the best for a freshman in Terrapins annals. Joe Smith posted 19.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game on his way to league Rookie of the Year and first-team all-conference accolades in 1994. Jerrod Mustaf, who played forward and center at 6-10, notched 14.3 points per contest for the Terps in 1989.

N.C. State hasn't had a standout freshmen center since 1974, but forwards Kenny Carr (14.8 points per game in 1975) and Whitney (14.6 in 1977) could both grab a few boards and mix it up on the interior as rookies.

As mentioned above, Reid was a force as a rookie at UNC, averaging 14.7 points per contest in 1987, earning ACC Rookie of the Year and second-team all-league distinction. Sam Perkins scored 14.9 points per game in 1981 playing forward and center, also winning the top rookie honor in the conference. Antawn Jamison just missed the double-double as a freshman in 1996, averaging 15.1 points and 9.7 boards, took home the ACC Rookie of the Year award, and became the first Tar Heels freshman ever to be named first-team all-conference.

Virginia's Sampson was unstoppable even as a freshman, notching 14.9 points and 11.2 caroms per game and winning the ACC Rookie of the Year honor in 1980. Travis Watson played out of position at center as a rookie for the Wahoos, but he still managed to carve out enough space to score 11.4 points per contest in 2000.

Tim Duncan just missed averaging double-digits in both categories as a freshman (9.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 1994), but quintessential power forward Rodney Rogers posted 16.3 points per contest on his way to ACC Rookie of the Year and second-team all-conference recognition in 1991. Big forwards Darius Songaila (12.1 points in 1999), Chris King (14.4 points in 1989), Alvis Rogers (13.5 points in 1975) and Rod Griffin (13.9 points in 1975) are also worth mentioning as double-digit scorers as freshmen for the Demon Deacons.

For context, the top freshman scorers in ACC history both played the point at Georgia Tech: Kenny Anderson (20.6 points per gam in 1990) and Mark Price (20.3 in 1983). Rollins and Sampson are the leading rookie rebounders in the league, while Perkins (.626) and Jamison (.624) led the way in field-goal percentage. Duke's J.J. Redick (.919 in 2003) and Price (.877) are the finest freshman free-throw shooters in league history, and Anderson (8.1 per contest) and the Blue Devils' Bobby Hurley (7.6 in 1990) are the best rookie assist men. For steals, Wake Forest's Chris Paul (2.7 per game in 2004) and Maryland's Johnny Rhodes (2.5 in 1993) pace the freshmen, while Sampson (4.6) and Georgia Tech's Alvin Jones (4.3 in 1998) are the leading rejectors among rookies in the conference record books.

This year's Rookie of the Year, Marvin Williams of UNC, averaged 11.2 points, and was joined in double-digit scoring by classmates Sean Singletary of Virginia (10.5) and Cliff Hammonds of Clemson (10.1).

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