You may realize that I have only ranked 22 post players instead of the 24 that would make up two for each ACC team. However, Wake Forest is starting two freshmen post players, so I will not rank them. I don't think comparing their high school exploits or recruiting rankings is an equitable method of comparison. Freshmen often struggle, and this is even more stated in the ACC. So I will wait until there is a year under their belt before including them on this list.
22. Kiel Turpin, Jr., Florida State- The reason Turpin is ranked the lowest of any possible starting post player in the ACC is this: he has not seen one minute of floor time for the Seminoles since his arrival on campus, as he redshirted last year after transferring in from Lincoln College. So, consequently, I have nothing to go off of. While he was rated a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com, and apparently also held an offer from USC, I have a practice of not rating players who I have not seen and for whom I have no reference base to rank them on. In fact, the only reason Turpin is on this list is that he was on the Seminoles' roster a year ago, even though he did not play.
21. KC Caudill/Andrew Van Nest, So./Sr., Boston College- Caudill was a seldom-used player for the Eagles a year ago, but didn't look completely lost in his time on the floor. In the 10 minutes he racked up a game, he averaged 2.2 points and 1.1 rebounds while shooting a .48/.00/.60 line. While his shooting percentages were good for a freshman big, there is one thing that is a concern among those numbers: his rebounding rate. Comparing him on a per-minute basis for post players in the conference, Caudill would've ranked near the bottom. If you multiply his minutes to match up with the conference's leaders in the post, Caudill would stick out like a sore thumb, averaging half the rebounds those players averaged in many cases. I am aware that is an extreme comparison, but I am simply trying to illustrate what he needs to do to improve. At 6'11" and 275 lbs., Caudill is one of the most physically imposing forces in the conference if he puts his mind to it. So for him to jump up this list and to help the Eagles climb out of the ACC basement, he'll need to do a better job in that department.
As for Van Nest, he transferred in from Harvard, where he received less than 10 minutes per game over two years and one game with Crimson, which just so happened to come against Boston College. He's a 6'10" 247 lb. inside-out (with a focus on the out) player, who has taken over half his career shots from behind the arc...in the Ivy League. Tell me there's nothing wrong with that. While I don't mean to diss the Ivy League, it's not the ACC, and seeing that Van Nest was at the end of the bench in that league, I would find it hard to believe that he will usurp Caudill in the starting lineup. But, this is Boston College we're talking about; a team that has produced several perimeter bigs recently, so it is possible that Van Nest could make a splash with the Eagles if he were a perfect fit for their system. I wish him well, but as of now, I don't have anything that shows me he should be higher on this list.
20. Desmond Hubert, So., North Carolina- Hubert, a highly-ranked prospect in the 2011 class, never saw much of the floor a year ago as a freshman, warming the bench behind NBA Draft picks Tyler Zeller and John Henson, and future 1st rounder James Michael McAdoo. In the 5 minutes per game that he did play though, Hubert averaged 0.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, and well, really inconsequential secondary stats, (so do I have to even go into it? Thanks. 'Preciate it) while shooting a line of .44/.00/.08. He did not attempt a 3-pointer, but yes, the free throw percentage listed in that line is correct (actually it was rounded up from .077, but all these percentages are rounded). Now, you may be wondering, how many free throws would a player have to attempt to be able to hit .077% of them? I mean, that's not a very common percentage. Well, I understand your inquisitiveness, and so I have provided you with that number here: it's 13. Hubert hit 1-of-13 free throws a year ago (and after this article was written, went 0-of-2 from the line in UNC's 2012-13 opener). Now, that is a very bad free throw percentage, as we all know, but it is only 15 career attempts, and generally speaking, younger players suffer from nerves when stepping to the stripe. I know that 15 free throws is too small of a sample size to get any meaningful read on. Heck he could go on to shoot 50-60% from the line career. But, I also do know that nobody who is a good free throw shooter starts their career out that bad, no matter the nerves. So, what I know about Hubert is this: he's a supremely talented player, who apparently has a steep learning curve ahead of him, and makes Arinze Onuaku and collegiate Brandan Wright look like the Ray Allen of big men from the charity stripe. Other than that, I'll get back to you on it. Nobody's seen enough of him to make any kind of substantive analysis.
19. Darion Atkins, So., Virginia- SB Nation's UVA blog Streaking The Lawn described Atkins as an unrefined offensive player, a shot blocker who can finish above the rim, with the ability to hit from mid-range. While he may not be Mike Scott, Atkins presents opponents with a challenge on the defensive side of the ball. He's lengthy at 6'8" 222 lbs., and gets off the floor to contest shots. A year ago he averaged 0.7 blocks in only 10 minutes per game. Yes, as Streaking The Lawn and State Of The U both said, he needs to generate offense by developing an offensive game, but that will come. With the way Tony Bennett's recent UVA teams play, defense takes precedence anyway. Atkins also averaged 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds a year ago, while shooting a .58/.00/.58 line, a tremendous number for a freshmen. He also took care of the ball, committing only 5 turnovers in 275 minutes. So there is a lot to like about Atkins, and obviously as his minutes increase, we will know a lot more about him.
18. C.J. Barksdale, So., Virginia Tech- Barksdale is a talented sophomore who despite playing in all but one of the Hokies' games a year ago, received the least minutes per game of any player in the rotation. With the transfer of Dorian Finney-Smith, the starter at the 4 (or second small forward) a year ago, Barksdale has been thrust into the starting lineup. In his 12 minutes per game a year ago, Barksdale posted averages of 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds, while shooting a .42/.00/.75 line. Barksdale has a high basketball IQ, and a nice mid-range game for a big. But a combination of playing time and an inability to get his shot off in the post against taller players has limited his effectiveness. He showed signs of being a good defender a year ago, but often as freshmen do, allowed his matchup to post deep in the lane, thereby limiting his chances of stopping the player. As the Hokies only have eight scholarship eligible players this year, expect to see Barksdale's minutes nearly triple, and consequently, he should shoot up the rankings for next year.
17. Akil Mitchell, Jr., Virginia- Mitchell will now be the elder statesman down low for the Cavaliers, but may be more comfortable in that role due to extended playing time he received a year ago when he took over for the injured Assane Sene midway through the season. Mitchell is more of an all around player for the Cavaliers than his post compatriot Atkins. In 22 minutes per game a year ago, Mitchell posted averages of 4.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks, while shooting a .51/.00/.51 line. Mitchell posted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, a phenomenal accomplishment for a big, and hit a 3-pointer in 2010-11 (although he did not take one in 2011-12). So he is certainly a more versatile player offensively. With extended playing time and an extended focus on offense, Mitchell could easily double most of those totals above in 2012-13. But he must improve his foul shooting and limit fouls of his own if he wants to stay on the court long enough to make an impact for a Cavs team trying to replace the best player in the ACC a year ago.
16. Cadarian Raines, Jr., Virginia Tech- 2011-12 was the first full season for Cadarian Raines at Virginia Tech it being his third year on campus. Raines missed 41 games over his first two seasons (the second resulting in a redshirt year) to a litany of different injuries. Raines was a model of health a year ago though, playing in all 33 games and logging the fifth most minutes on the team. He was simply an average backup big until 3-year starter Victor Davila went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury 25 games into the season. Up until that point, Raines posted averages of 4.6 points and and 3.7 rebounds. But after he was inserted into the starting lineup, Raines posted averages of 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game over the last eight games of the season, bringing his season average to 5.9 points and 3.9 boards. But those stats don't really tell the story of the player he was in those eight games. Given the first truly significant minutes of his career, Raines was the Hokies' second-best player down the stretch to Erick Green. He is still raw offensively, but it was clear he had worked on his previously non-existent post moves last year, as he was able to out-position players in the post, and even threw in some set-up moves and fakes. He still needs to work on his offensive game, primarily his finishing. Even though he shot a career-high .52/.00/.52 line a year ago, Raines is under a .50% shooter for his career, a low figure for a back-to-the-basket post-up big. But he showed his explosiveness, throwing home monster highlight reel jams on several occasions. He also continued his defensive presence, altering shots and not giving up position in the post. He's a willing banger, and can muck it up down there if allowed. But a year ago he was called for 81 fouls (20 off the team lead), a high number for a guy who spent most of the year on the bench. If he can maintain his health (knocking on wood), then Raines will be in the top half of these rankings in a year.
15. Dennis Clifford, So., Boston College- Clifford finished third on the team in scoring a year ago, and fourth in minutes for the teenage flavor Eagles. He posted averages of 8.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, nearly a block and half a steal per game, while shooting a .52/.20/.66 line in 27 minutes of action per game. Clifford was one of the most ready players to step on the court a year ago for the Eagles, but still was raw, as was to be expected. The 7-footer struggled with turnovers (2.5 per game) and foul trouble (2.8 per game). He also put up a low rebounding total for a 7-footer given the number of minutes that he played. Nevertheless, he proved to be a competent ACC post player, who can even step out and make a shot from range (Boston College fans are going crazy over that), although I wouldn't recommend it, as he hit 2-of-10 a year ago. Certainly there's some maturation yet to be done, but he was a cerebral player who knows how to play smart basketball, even if he hasn't learned how to dominate the competition physically with his size yet. He was effective in spurts a year ago, often playing several good games in a row, followed by several bad ones. If he improves and finds that consistency in 2012-13, he'll be one of the conference's best centers the next few years.
14. James Padgett, Sr., Maryland- A solid if unspectacular player that brings experience to a Maryland team looking to contend in an up-for-grabs more than usual ACC. He improved his production dramatically a year ago when his minutes tripled. He posted averages of 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting a .52/.00/.56 line in 24 minutes per game. Those numbers should improve this year with a more seasoned Alex Len on the opposite side of the paint receiving most of teams' attention down low. But forget about Padgett at your own peril, as he is a hard-worker and a guy who isn't afraid to mix it up. In fact, as he did by tripling almost every other statistic, Padgett more than doubled and almost tripled his free throw attempts as well.
13. Kammeon Holsey, Jr., Georgia Tech- Finally a Georgia Tech player who's not ranked towards the bottom, right? Well, the truth is, with the possible exception of Mfon Udofia, the Yellow Jackets' strength is down low, with guys like Holsey, Miller and Royal. Holsey averaged 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks a year ago in 24 minutes a game while shooting a .59/.00/.52 line. He did however also struggle with fouls (2.9 a game) and turnovers (2.2 a game). He also could stand to rebound and shoot the ball better from the free throw line (a continuous concern based on his career numbers). But he did shoot a terrific 59%, and that can't be overlooked. The number of players that shoot that well in college basketball are few. If he continues to improve the way he did between 2010-11 and 2011-12, I think Holsey could be making a case for an all-conference team.
12. Milton Jennings, Sr., Clemson- Jennings, more of a stretch-4, is being included on this list as the Tigers are likely to start him in that capacity. Jennings has the athleticism to play on the perimeter, but the height and length to play down low. In 2011-12, Jennings averaged 9.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals in 26 minutes a game while shooting a .44/.33/.59 line. He did however post an egregiously-poor over 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio for a wing player, averaging a whopping 2.4 turnovers a game and a high 2.8 fouls per game as well. He has shown that players can sometimes outmuscle him, so if he is going to play in the post, he must work on his positioning and upper-body strength, especially given that behind him and Devin Booker, Clemson will field an almost exclusively freshman frontcourt. He has also exhibited an ability to hit from long range, though he is not extremely proficient in that regard. He also could improve his driving ability, as he doesn't go to the line as much as you'd like to see. But, he is a matchup nightmare who is explosive, and can provide Clemson with an element that few other teams have. Good play from him would be a steadying force for a young Clemson team looking for playmakers.
11. Daniel Miller, Jr., Georgia Tech- Miller, one of the league's biggest players at 6'11" 257 lbs., gives the Jackets a weapon that few in the conference have. Miller averaged 8.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.5 assists and 0.9 steals in 30 minutes per game while shooting a .50/.00/.76 line. That stat line basically defines what an all-around player is. Not only is Miller a shot blocker, a banger and an efficient scorer, but also a willing and gifted passer for a big. He finished third on the team in assists and second in steals, a truly phenomenal accomplishment for a big. Miller is a defensive terror, but offensively he could become a better player (if only his guards/wings would stop chucking the ball up). He has proven with his 2011-12 statistics that when you put the ball in his hands, good things happen, so why not run through him in the post? If Miller improves even incrementally, it could result in him being the top post player in the conference in 2013-14, and provide Georgia Tech with at least some hope of finishing above .500 in conference.
10. Alex Len, So., Maryland- (keep in mind, this was written before the sophomore blew up for 23 and 12 on one of the top teams in the country in Kentucky) Len possesses special ability at 7'1" 225 lbs., the kind of ability that has NBA scouts and draft analysts drooling over his potential. The Ukrainian missed the first 10 games of last season, leaving him ill-prepared for the ACC slate as a freshman. Though he dominated the likes of Albany, Samford, Cornell and N.C. State in his first four games, Len quickly fell back to Earth, struggling through a slump that coincided with more or less the remainder of the ACC schedule. The interesting thing about Len is that he's not your typical back-to-the-basket big. He's a lot more versatile than that. He has a nice mid-range game and a flurry of post moves. Despite his ACC slump, Len finished the season averaging a healthy 6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 21 minutes per game while shooting a .55/.00/.59 line. If Maryland is to compete for an NCAA Tournament spot this year, Len will have to play a big part in it. It will be interesting to watch his development, and to see if he can put all his skills together. If so, regardless of what the Terps do this year, it is likely the last in the collegiate game for Len.
9. Okaro White, Jr., Florida State- Tomahawk Nation seems to think the Seminoles are going to start a three-guard lineup (and based on their exhibition games, they are right), meaning pushing White to the power forward position. Terry Whisnant II, who averaged under 8 minutes a game a year ago is the favorite to start in that third guard position. As there was no natural small forward to rank however, other than White, I did not include Whisnant in my Small Forward rankings. I had White ranked as the conference's No. 4 small forward before moving him here, where he inevitably fell as a result of being a better natural 3 than a 4. While I have concerns about his size (weight, not height), Leonard Hamilton will coach him up, but his move to the post is at least a little bit similar to Tech having to use Dorian Finney-Smith in the post a year ago. Both could be used in a pinch, but ask them to play big minutes down there at your own peril. This was a move out of necessity for the 'Noles, as they tried to get their five (with one exception) most experienced players on the floor. White is one of the only returning players, especially in a barren post, which will be manned by him, Michael Turpin, Terrance Shannon and freshmen/transfers.
As a player, White is explosive, athletic and rangy. Therefore with a move to the post, he does present a mismatch for opposing defenders. With his 2012-13 season so similar to his 2011-12 season in which he averaged six fewer minutes, you have to wonder if White is reaching his ceiling. His move to the post is of even greater concern considering he averaged 3.2 fouls a year ago. He also committed three times as many turnovers as he had assists. Despite all of his shortcomings, he still posted averages of 7.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and around half a block, steal and an assist in 23 minutes while shooting a .48/.33/.75 line. The amount of success the Seminoles have will be directly related to how well White does in the post.
8. Devin Booker, Sr., Clemson- Booker, the younger brother of Washington Wizard and former Clemson Tiger Trevor Booker, is not the same player as his older brother, but has been a solid option on the Tigers' front line for years now. At 6'8" 250 lbs., he is not afraid to bang down low, but does not physically dominate opponents the way his brother did. The Tigers' best player, I often feel like he may be under-utilized. This year should afford him to show his skills. The Tigers would be wise to go to him often, given the team's lack of play-makers and sporting the ACC's worst backcourt (at least coming into the season). In 2011-12, Booker averaged 10.5 points, 7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals in 29 minutes while shooting a .46/.22/.70 line. Though he has occasionally hit from deep, he is not a knockdown shooter from there (He has taken 68 3-pointers in the last two seasons), and anytime Booker is on the perimeter, Clemson's losing something down low. So I'd like to see him either improve dramatically from deep, or to weed that out of his game.
As for his post play, Booker needs to establish more moves instead of relying on his banging to free him up for the shot 100% of the time. That should help to improve his inefficient .46% shooting from the field for a post player. Well, that and ceasing to jack up 3's. Booker has the opportunity to make a statement as a senior. Should he step up and the Tigers catch a couple of breaks, they might be able to sneak in to the NCAA Tournament, but without a miracle like that, they'll likely be sitting at home after the conference tournament.
7. Richard Howell, Sr., N.C. State- Howell, a big, physical player for the Wolfpack had a breakout year in 2011-12 (like most of the N.C. State roster), posting averages of 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 assist and 1 steal in 27 minutes per game while shooting a .49/.00/.64 line. While he benefitted (and will continue to) from the ACC's top post player, C.J. Leslie playing opposite him, his play was good all on its own. Though he did a lot of the things a traditional post player would do, freeing up Leslie to play a little less-conventional 4, Howell struggled taking on that load in that he gave up 3.4 fouls per game, an absurdly high number. If he was fouling that often, it's hard to imagine him staying on the floor for any period of time, therefore disrupting the flow of the group in the game. He also turned the ball over at a higher rate than I'd like to see, a full 2 turnovers per game, and shot the ball worse from the field. Impressively Howell did cut 3-point attempts out of his game, and continued to take more free throws. Howell is the last member of the post players on this list to be just outside the elite group, but provides the Wolfpack with a size and toughness that most other ACC teams can't match. Should he be able to stay on the floor and be more efficient, it's hard to imagine how good/complete the Wolfpack could be.
6. James Michael McAdoo, So., North Carolina- James Michael McAdoo, the son of Bob McAdoo, showed flashes of his potential a season ago as the top backup big for the Tar Heels. He runs the floor extremely well for a player of his size, and knows how to exploit a defense. Is dangerous in transition. Despite only receiving 16 minutes per game in 2011-12, McAdoo averaged 6.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.9 steals, while shooting a .43/.00/.64 line. McAdoo might not have shown us enough to be at the top of the list yet, but it may only take a few games for him to surpass the likes of the Duke and Miami post players above. One thing is certain; after flirting with the draft a year ago, McAdoo, who could've been taken, decided to return. If he stays healthy, and puts up better numbers this year as one of the Tar Heels primary options now, he will probably be making the jump to the pros at the end of the season. So luckily for the other teams on this list, we may not be seeing too much more of him.
5. Ryan Kelly, Sr., Duke- Kelly is a really unique player who doesn't really fit the bill of a typical 3 or 4. He stretches the floor with his shooting ability. He possesses a nice mid-range game, but really makes his money outside the arc, like his pro comparison, Ryan Anderson. Kelly is too slow and deliberate to defend the 3, but not a gifted post defender either. He is out there primarily for his offense. In 2011-12, he was one of the main culprits that set Duke off on a 3-point shooting spree that stagnated their offense for lengthy periods (by Duke's standards) in some games, taking 3.2 of his 7.8 shots from long range. However, he did improve his ability to get to the basket, and as a result, the foul line as well. Kelly shot over four times as many free throws in 2011-12 as he did in 2010-11. All in all he averaged 11.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1 block and 0.8 steals in 26 minutes per game while shooting a .44/.41/.81 line. Obviously his percentages were superb, but he did turn the ball over more than he assisted for the first time in his career, and suffered through occasional foul trouble.
It will be interesting to see what kind of player Kelly evolved into in 2012-13, or if he will continue to just be a reliable behind the arc threat. With his height, seeing him progress in the post, offensively, defensively and from a rebounding standpoint would be crucial for Duke's chances of winning the ACC or having a chance at the national title. For his strengths (which he is very good at), he is a player with quite a few weaknesses, so he'll need to make up for those or improve.
4. Mason Plumlee, Sr., Duke- Mason Plumlee now has the post to himself with his brother Miles gone, although his other brother Marshall has moved in in a reserve capacity. Mason is a good all-around post player who is quick off the floor to contest shots, although he is a little slight. In a breakout season a year ago, Plumlee posted averages of 11.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.8 steals in 28 minutes per game while shooting a .57/.00/.53 line. Among the concerns with his game are his foul shooting, which at .53%, is troubling for a player who went to the line over five times a game a year ago. Also among the concerns were his increased turnovers and excessive personal fouls, perhaps brought on in some degree by the lack of another quality post defender on the floor at the same time with him. He is however, a good passer for a big, which offsets at least some of his turnover problems. But without the ability to stay on the floor, the Blue Devils lose their best post defender and back-to-the-basket player.
It will be interesting to see if teams employ a strategy to take the ball at him to get him into foul trouble to minimize Duke's advantage with him on the floor. He is most likely the most complete post player, offensively and defensively, in the ACC, and provided he is supported by his teammates, he should continue to stymie teams defensively and score efficiently.
3. Kenny Kadji, Sr., Miami- The first of two-consecutive Miami players in the top-3, Kadji, a transfer from Florida, gives the 'Canes possibly the most versatile player in the conference. Kadji, a 6'11" 242 lb. tweener, can play on the wing or in the post comfortably. In 2011-12, he averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds 1.3 blocks and 0.6 steals for the 'Canes in 27 minutes per game, while shooting .49/.42/.64 line. A great athlete, Kadji is explosive and dangerous on the defensive end, making up ground quickly with his speed and long arms. Kadji is an important asset to Miami's success, as he allows Reggie Johnson the ability to post by moving outside, or to provide a second scoring or defensive option down low should he be needed.
His 3-point ability for such a large player is surprising and cannot be overlooked. With the Hurricanes already sporting a group of 3-point aces who are also athletic and can beat you off the dribble, it's a kind of pick your poison defensively. All those shooters and drivers only serve to spread the floor for the next guy on this list:
2. Reggie Johnson, Sr., Miami- The big fella has proven important to Miami's success over the last couple years. The 'Canes are much better with him than without him. At 6'10" and 292 lbs., nobody matches his bulk in the post. He's the most dominating and powerful player in the ACC, who can go off any night, and is a double-double threat every game. As Hurricanes' fans will tell you though, he is also subject to a couple of head-scratchers along the way. The oft-injured and poorly-conditioned Johnson apparently has a clean bill of health, good news for 'Canes fans.
In 2011-12, a non-healthy Johnson averaged 10 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1 block and 0.6 steals, and had an even larger effect than those stats indicate on the Hurricanes' push for an NCAA Tournament bid. He shot a .49/.36/.71 line in 26 minutes per game (yes, the 3-point percentage is correct. Imagine a guy that big knocking down treys). There are however drawbacks to being physical, such as a whopping 3 fouls per game, which had Johnson going to the bench so much, he collected frequent flier miles. The 11 3-point shots (though he made four) are a little concerning as well. I know I speak for some Miami fans when I say, that's cool that you can hit those big guy, but don't get too cute and forget your REAL game. With a healthy and in-shape Reggie Johnson, the 'Canes have several elements that no other team in the conference can touch, including Johnson's mammoth frame and presence down low. So here's to a clean slate of health for the big guy, and best wishes...except for when you play the Hokies.
1. C.J. Leslie, Jr., N.C. State- Well, even the behemoth of a player that Johnson is, he can't touch the class of C.J. Leslie. A tremendous athletic talent and a basketball natural, Leslie looks so comfortable out there it's hard to believe he's exerting any effort. In 2011-12, the year after he was dubbed State's freshman prodigy and Sidney Lowe's savior, Leslie put up 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.1 steals and 1.1 assists in 29 minutes per game, while shooting an impressive .53/.29/.60 line. Leslie is about as complete as any player on the collegiate level, and able to impact every facet.
Leslie, like McAdoo, could've declared for the draft a year ago, and may have been a lottery pick. But his returning to N.C. State stamps them the leading-contenders for an ACC crown and continued NCAA success. Without Leslie's return, they're still a good team, but it just doesn't work the same.
I hope you enjoyed my position rankings here on Gobbler Country. Make sure to stay tuned for a basketball season preview before the Hokies' season tips off and continued basketball coverage throughout the season.