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We begin our look at the new faces that will define each conference race
The ACC will be defined by new faces more than most: Primarily the arrival of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame for 2013-14.
Beyond the arrival of one basketball power and two consistent Big East programs, the ACC will have a handful of key new players who could determine the league race in the upcoming season.
Freshmen, transfers, redshirted players and key guys returning from injury can define a season. Today, we start our series highlighting the impact new faces for each league, starting with the ACC.
Fans didn’t see a much from these players this past season, if they saw anything at all. In 2013-14, they could define a season.
Rodney Hood, Duke
Mississippi State transfer
Hood will be one of two forwards asked to fill a handful of spots on the court. The 6-8 sophomore displayed his versatility as a freshman at Mississippi State, where he averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists before the coaching change. Hood suffered an Achilles injury before the World University Games, but he’s expected to be healthy enough to contribute at shooting guard and both forward spots when he’s back.
Jabari Parker and Semi Ojeleye, Duke
Duke signed an outstanding freshman duo that will keep the Blue Devils in national title contention. Parker is a 6-8 forward who will be one of the top freshmen in the ACC. He’s unselfish, versatile and will be a good complement for the lankier Hood in the frontcourt. Ojeleye is a good defender and rebounder.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
With Michael Carter-Williams gone, Ennis is one of two point guards on the roster, both freshmen. That’s a tough proposition for a Syracuse team heading into its first season in the ACC, but Ennis was the leading scorer for Canada in the Under-19 World Championships.
Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
North Carolina didn’t start to put its season together until the Tar Heels went to a four-guard lineup into ACC play. After the frontcourt struggled last season, North Carolina added the league’s top freshman power forward (Hicks) and center (Meeks). Adding the 6-9 Hicks and 6-10 Meeks could enable James Michael McAdoo to play in a comfort zone on the perimeter. In other words, don’t expect North Carolina to rely on the small lineup anymore: With Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland gone and P.J. Hairston’s status uncertain, North Carolina will have six players at 6-8 or taller.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
Rathan-Mayes is a friend of super freshman Andrew Wiggins, but that wasn’t enough to lure Wiggins to Florida State. Still, expect Rathan-Mayes to play a major role as a rookie. Michael Snaer is gone, so Florida State is looking for the scoring lift Rathan-Mayes can provide.
Anthony Gill, Virginia
South Carolina transfer
Gill averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman at South Carolina before leaving when Frank Martin took over. He had his fair share of suitors when he transferred, and the year away from game action has appeared to give Gill a chance to refine his skills. Virginia just missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago, so adding the 6-8, 231-pound forward to the top five returning scorers from this past season should put the Cavs in the top half of the ACC.
Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Kansas State transfer (pending NCAA waiver)
Miami loses nearly every key player from last year’s ACC championship season, not least of which was point guard Shane Larkin. Rodriguez will help to fill the void — if he is granted immediate eligibility —after his transfer from Kansas State. Rodriguez went to high school in Miami and wanted to be closer to ailing family members in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists for a Wildcats team that tied for the Big 12 lead this past season.
Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
Gbinije’s had a little trouble finding a home. He started at Duke, where the Blue Devils experimented with him at small forward. And at Syracuse during his redshirt year, he tinkered with playing point guard. Practicing at those positions has given him versatility, but he’s probably going to find a home at shooting guard in a new starting backcourt for the Orange.
Mike Young and Detrick Mostella, Pittsburgh
Picking even highly rated freshmen to make major impacts as rookies at Pittsburgh is a tricky proposition (see: Adams, Steve). Young, the top signee in the class, will step in for Adams in the interior. Mostella was a late addition to the class who could end up being a big-time outside shooter.
Cat Barber, NC State
Mark Gottfried has signed McDonald’s All-Americans before, but that (along with a Sweet 16 appearance) only raised expectations the Wolfpack failed to meet. Projections for Barber will be more tempered as he tries to take over the point guard spot.
Roddy Peters, Maryland
The Terrapins’ point guard rotation of Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard produced meager results last year. Maryland ranked 10th in the ACC for assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games last season. Howard is gone, meaning Allen and Peters will man the point, but the freshman missed the second half of his senior year at District Heights (Md.) Suitland with a shoulder injury.
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Brad Brownell’s top signee last season missed all of his freshman year due to a slow recovery from compound leg fracture in May. The 6-7 forward has had two procedures on his leg, so his progress will be watched closely.
Adam Smith, Virginia Tech
UNC Wilmington transfer
A 6-1 guard, Smith averaged 13.7 points per game at UNC Wilmington in 2011-12. Virginia Tech is counting on him to be one of their top scorers, which is probably an indication of how things are going to go for the Hokies this season.
Andre Dawkins, Duke
Dawkins will give Duke a perimeter presence after averaging 8.2 points per game and shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore and junior. He also came of the bench for the 2010 title team. Dawkins, whose sister died in a car accident in 2009, announced in April he is ready to rejoin the team.
Ralston Turner, NC State
Turner averaged 11.2 points per game in two seasons at LSU and will be expected to provide outside shooting on a rebuilding NC State team. Turner, however, shot 36.9 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from 3-point range with the Tigers.
Evan Smotrycz, Maryland
As one would expect from a Michigan signee under John Beilein, Smotrycz is a 6-9 forward who can stretch the floor.
Coron Williams, Wake Forest
Robert Morris transfer
Wake Forest did enough with a 6-12 ACC season to show progress under Jeff Bzdelik, but the heat is still on. Williams is a sharp-shooting 3-point specialist who joins a team that returns the bulk of its key players.
Trae Golden, Georgia Tech
Tennessee transfer (pending NCAA waiver)
Golden announced Saturday he’d return home to Atlanta be closer to his ailing father. He’s seeking an NCAA hardship waiver to play immediately, which would be a boon to Georgia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Yellow Jackets already return Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter in the frontcourt. Golden was a streaky player last season, who averaged 12.1 points per game.