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October 18, 2006

Preseason ACC hoops superlatives

Who's the best in the ACC? We've already gone over our preaseason All-League teams, but who wins the preseason skill specific superlatives?

Best Shooter

Anthony Morrow (Georgia Tech)

It's hard to go against the player that led the ACC in three point field goal percentage and shot nearly 90 percent from the foul line. Morrow did that while being essentially the only major downtown threat. The 6-5 junior made more than 50 percent of his team's three point baskets and attempted nearly half of the team's total. His height makes him very difficult to contest on the outside jumper.

Best Perimeter Defender

Vernon Hamilton (Clemson)

With a year of eligibility remaining, Hamilton returns to Clemson for his senior season already holding the school's career and single season record for steals. The six foot guard was named to the All-ACC Defensive Team last year and was named to the All-American Defensive Team by at least one outlet. Hamilton had three or more steals in 19 of his 31 games last season and he will have a great chance to repeat or improve on those numbers this year in Oliver Purnell's up tempo pace.

Best Post Defender

Brandan Wright (North Carolina)

Wright may lack some physical strength right now as a true freshman, but his amazingly long arms and leaping ability make him one of the league's most dangerous shot blockers right away. As his body grows and he learns how to hold his body a little better defensively, he's going to be at an incredible level on the defensive end.

Best Rebounder

Jeremis Smith (Georgia Tech)

With Shelden Williams gone from Duke, Smith becomes the league's most rugged rebounding presence. He stands only 6-8, but his aggressiveness around the rim turned him into one of the league's top rebounders as a sophomore last year. Smith had nine double-doubles last year, including one against Duke when he scored 18 points and ripped 12 rebounds. For the year, Smith averaged more than eight boards a game, with 3.1 offensive rebounds per game.

Best Clutch Shooter

Morrow

We'll take Morrow again simply because of his consistency. He never fell out of the top two in the league last year in three point shooting percentage and had some big games against big opponents despite Georgia Tech's miserable season. In eight games against top 25 teams, Morrow drained more than 42 percent of this three pointers. He scored 22 on the road in a near upset of North Carolina and was basically the only Yellow Jacket to play well in Georgia Tech's first round ACC Tournament blowout loss to Maryland.

Best Ball Handler

Sean Singletary (Virginia)

Singletary gets most of his attention primarily because of his scoring, but he is a whiz with the ball in his hands. He can zip the ball up and down the floor or use his quick first step to slash by defenders in the halfcourt. His turnovers increased last year, but at least part of that is due to him playing significantly increased minutes. If he plays four years at Virginia, he could well surpass 500 assists for his career, a far cry from Bobby Hurley territory, but still a good number for a guy who has to be a major scorer for his team as well.

Best Passer

Greg Paulus (Duke)

Paulus has terrific court vision and really developed as Duke's point guard last season. He averaged 5.2 assists per game as a freshman and showed the type of ability that can make everyone around him better. He can thread any needle with a pass and assuming he has no significant injury troubles this season, he may very well improve last year's numbers as Coach K has said he wants his team to play quicker this year and get into the open floor more.

Best Interior Offense

Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina)

Hansbrough was unstoppable as a true freshman in the paint. A workhorse in the paint, he can score with his post moves or straight up power. Even if he misses on an attempt, he is relentless at pursuing the offensive board and putback opportunity. His body is so big and strong that he can't be uprooted if he establishes firm post position on the block.

Best Freshman

Tywon Lawson (North Carolina)

Lawson is going to thrive in Chapel Hill because of his ability to push the ball in the open floor in addition to his deft ability to change speeds with the dribble. His upper body strength makes him a real threat to get to the rim off the dribble but he has displayed a dangerous outside shot that must also be respected. He is first and foremost a point guard though, and with all the talent surrounding him at UNC, Lawson will have plenty of available options around him to be a playmaker with the ball.

Best Senior

Al Thornton (Florida State)

Thornton could easily be drawing a nice paycheck right now, but he returned to Florida State and will likely be a nightmare for Seminoles' opponents this season. A fifth year senior, Thornton proved last year he can take a game over with his inside/outside versatility. If he gets FSU to the big stage of the NCAA Tournament this season, Thornton is the type of player that can carry a team on his back a long way.


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