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October 4, 2006

ACC Preview: Wing Forwards

Devils Illustrated continues its breakdown of the ACC position-by-position by looking at the league's top wing forwards.

A mix of very accomplished upperclassmen combined with an influx of young talent make this an intriguing list.

Experience rules at the top though with a standout senior from Boston College.

1) Jared Dudley (Boston College): A model of consistency since arriving at BC, he has already racked up more than 1,500 career points and has started every game in his college career. He's a fixture at the top of multiple statistical categories in the ACC, ranking in the top 12 in scoring, rebounding, assist-to-turnover ratio, offensive rebounding, and others. Dudley can step outside and shoot the three pointer just as effectively as he can pound the glass.

2) Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech): Young is a walking mismatch for Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who can utilize his freshman 6-8 super athlete at multiple spots on the court. He can handle the ball in the open court and has plenty of competitive fire that should make him a quick learner in the ACC.

3) Al Thornton (Florida State): The Seminoles hopes of making the NCAA Tournament depend on Thornton having another outstanding season similar to last year. At 6-8, 210 pounds, Thornton may very well have the best perimeter offensive skills of any player his size in college basketball. If he performs well on the big stage again, like he did last year in two meetings with Duke, All-America honors probably won't be out of the question for Thornton in his senior year.

4) Reyshawn Terry (North Carolina): Terry emerged last year to become UNC's second leading scorer. He shot the ball consistently and was a factor on the boards. The 6-8 senior still showed occasional mental lapses last season that Roy Williams has little patience for, but as a senior those should disappear. Playing on a team with so much talent should help Terry's game as well as test his leadership skills as an upperclassmen.

5) James Gist (Maryland): Terrapin coach Gary Williams is expecting a big year from the 6-8, 223 pound junior. Gist has all the athletic ability in the world and can be really dangerous in transition. He is a valuable rebounder down low and has enough size to defend big players, but he also has enough quickness to hassle smaller players. He'll have tremendous company around him, with the 6-5 Mike Jones on the perimeter and freshman forward Landon Milbourne also expected to contribute.

6) Gavin Grant (NC State): Grant will have to be one of the early Wolfpack cornerstones for new coach Sidney Lowe. The 6-7, 212 pound junior finished last year on a very strong note by averaging more than 16 points in the season's final four games. He has versatility and toughness to his game. That toughness showed when he broke his nose early in a game against Wake Forest last year and returned to score 21 points following the injury. He only averaged eight points per game last year but that will go up this year with the Wolfpack having to replace a lot of scoring.

7) Deron Washington (Virginia Tech): Duke fans will remember Washington more for his kick to the face of Lee Melchionni in last year's Duke win at Blacksburg, but the 6-7 junior is a solid player that adds a lot to the Hokies. He was the fourth leading scorer and third leading rebounder for Virginia Tech last season, and he's an effective physical defender as well. He has plenty of experience having started all but one game last year.

8) Lawrence Gilbert (Miami): A key freshman to keep an eye on this season, Gilbert could very well make a sizable first year impact for the Hurricanes. Gilbert can create his own shot well with his 6-6 frame and he has really impressed Miami coach Frank Haith with his passing ability. With the Hurricanes having to replace a lot of scoring punch, Gilbert will have plenty of opportunities to shine as a freshman.

9) K.C. Rivers (Clemson): It's hard to pick just one player from Clemson to highlight for this position because Oliver Purnell loves to stock his team with long athletes that can play multiple positions. Rivers is deserving of special mention, even though he is a little smaller than most on this list at 6-5, 210 pounds. Rivers will be counted on to fill some scoring gaps created by the loss of outside shooter Shawan Robinson. He averaged 7.1 points last year as a freshman but is expected to be more assertive this year. Rivers is a strong and intelligent player. He's also the best returning free throw shooter on a team that was dreadful from the line last year.

10) David McClure (Duke): Duke doesn't have a player that jumps off the roster to fit this discussion, but McClure provides the best combination of skill and experience to be highlighted in this group. He's going to be a bit of an X-factor after missing last year due to offseason knee surgery. If he proves healthy and can provide a consistent veteran presence, it's possible he could be a pleasant surprise. Of course he'll have company pushing him for his minutes. Jamal Boykin and Lance Thomas certainly want playing time as well, not to mention DeMarcus Nelson, who has shown he can be effective at several different spots on the floor.

Others: Virginia's Adrian Joseph emerged toward the end of last season as a viable player in the ACC, but watch out for freshman Jamil Tucker to make a push for playing time. Wake Forest's Cameron Stanley is a redshirt sophomore who should see a major increase in his role after getting his feet wet last year. Other young players on the Demon Deacon roster will compete with Stanley for the starting job.


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