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October 3, 2006

ACC preview: Shooting Guards

Monday, we broke down the ACC's best point guards. Today, the attention turns to the shooting guards.

The ACC's crop of two guards this year features an interesting mix of top tier shooters and super athletes, with very little separation in talent level from top to bottom.

Here's our breakdown:

1) J.R. Reynolds (Virginia): The Cavaliers have a lot to be excited about in the backcourt with Reynolds joining point guard Sean Singletary. The senior poured in nearly 18 points per game in ACC competition last year despite having minimal help from his frontcourt teammates. Virginia should be a little more balanced offensively this season, which may mean even more scoring opportunities for Reynolds. He needs to show improved ball handling and decision making, but that should come in his final year.

2) Anthony Morrow (Georgia Tech): Despite an offseason back problem, Morrow is expected back at full strength right around the start of the season. With a powerful inside presence developing with Ra'Sean Dickey and a pair of terrific freshmen joining the Yellow Jackets, Morrow should find himself a bit more free on the offensive end. Last year, Morrow averaged 16 points per game.

3) Wayne Ellington (North Carolina): One of the best incoming freshman talents in the nation, Ellington is a sensational athlete with a refined game that will thrive in Roy Williams' system. The 6-4 Pennsylvania product was the nation's eighth ranked player in the class of 2006. Bobby Frasor also deserves a mention when discussing the Tar Heel backcourt. Ellington has more of a wow factor, but Frasor's freshman year proved his value at the ACC level.

4) Tyrese Rice (Boston College): The returning sophomore earned All-Rookie honors in the ACC last year and was a key figure in Boston College's run to the Sweet 16. He averaged just a shade under double figures in his first season but that production is sure to increase this year. He's more than just a shooter, evidenced by his 91 assists last season. He makes his living shooting the basketball though, and he specializes in making big shots when his team most needs them.

5) Jason Rich (Florida State): The Seminole star gets overshadowed by teammate Al Thornton, but Rich had a breakout year of his own last season, including a terrific performance in a near upset of Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He averaged just 10 points for the season, but he showed plenty of talent and versatility to expect a big season from him as a more seasoned junior. Rich excels on both ends of the floor and should be a key figure in returning the Seminoles to the NCAA Tournament this season.

6) Gerald Henderson (Duke): Arguably the purest athlete to enter the ACC this season, Henderson will battle for an immediate impact role in the Duke backcourt. He really developed his game in his final year of high school to vault him up to five star status. He certainly has more to work on before he can be a true superstar for the Blue Devils, but those skills should come with time as Henderson combines his athleticism with intelligence and work ethic. At the very least, he will give Duke a dimension it didn't have on the perimeter last season.

7) Zabian Dowdell (Virginia Tech): Don't sleep on this guy. A reliable scorer in the Hokie backcourt, Dowdell is a solid presence on both ends of the floor. He drained three pointers at a 36 percent clip last season and should continue to benefit from a balanced lineup that includes a good point guard and consistent post play. Dowdell could very well have the Hokies playing in the Big Dance in March.

8) D.J. Strawberry (Maryland): Strawberry deserves plenty of recognition for his all around good play and unselfishness. He's had to play out of position at times for the Terrapins, but if all goes well this season his time at point guard should be significantly diminished. He can pass the ball, score, and defend reliably, but he has yet to have the type of season where everything comes together at once. This could be that year if he does in fact get to play more of his natural position on the court. He was the only Terrapin to start every game of last season.

9) Cliff Hammonds (Clemson): Hammonds has gotten his Clemson career off to a solid start through two seasons, but there is certainly another level he can reach as he begins his junior season. He's the Tigers' top perimeter defender and he has averaged double figure scoring each of his first two years. His biggest liability is his outside shooting and free throw shooting. If he can improve those two areas, his value will skyrocket.

10) Jack McClinton (Miami): The Hurricanes will be counting heavily on this impact transfer to help replace the scoring punch that left with Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite. Coach Frank Haith is high on the Siena transfer's ability and thinks he can be a solid player in this league. Sophomore guard Denis Clemente will also figure into the Hurricane backcourt formula, but McClinton is a more natural off guard than Clemente.

Others: Wake Forest guard Harvey Hale was a solid role player for the Demon Deacons last year but hit a bit of a freshman wall in the final weeks. His role will be greatly expanded this year with Justin Gray gone. NC State desperately needs sophomore two guard Courtney Fells to take a big step forward this year. His athleticism should help the backcourt, but he played sparingly last year so experience is a concern.


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