Abu Pledge Further Propels ACC

Long celebrated as the premier basketball conference, and simultaneously mocked for its football, the ACC recently has struggled on the hardwood.

But the conference's new members have helped breathe life into the entire league's recruiting efforts. The Class of 2014 is shaping up to be banner campaign for the conference, and Abdul-Malik Abu's commitment to N.C. State on Saturday afternoon gave the ACC its 11th top-60 pledge.

Abu will join a stable of blue-chip prospects to make their way to the league's confines in 2014-15. He's a strong, aggressive forward with inside-out skills, and he will help the Wolfpack keep pace with their rivals.

And the story continues to unfurl. At present, UNC-bound wing Justin Jackson is the highest ranked (No. 8) senior committed to an ACC program, but conference schools remain leaders or at least co-leaders for several players atop the class.

For starters, Duke may lead for both Tyus Jones (No. 4) and Jahlil Okafor (No. 1). And defending national champion Louisville — which won't begin ACC play until next season — has its hat squarely in the ring for Trey Lyles (No. 7). Also within the top 15, Justise Winslow (No. 9), Isaiah Whitehead (No. 12), Rashad Vaughn (No. 13) and Kevon Looney (No. 14) all list conference programs very prominently.

Moreover, the league is performing slightly better from top to bottom. Yes, regulars such as UNC (three top-60) commits, Louisville (two) and N.C. State (two) lead the way, but each of these other programs also holds at least one top-60 commitment: Syracuse, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest. Along with the Tar Heels, Cardinals and Wolfpack, that's just about half the league.

Expanded to the full top 100, Virginia and Georgia Tech also hold one pledge each.

Clearly, though, the conference's collective effort will hinge somwhat on the decisions of Okafor and Jones. Because if they don't pick Duke, they'll pick somewhere, and that school and conference will receive more visibility next season as a result.

Additionally, that duo appears to be the league's best chance to ink a top-five signee this year. If the ACC truly is going to become the conference of record on the East Coast and perhaps nationally, it will need to prove it can reel in the very best players in the class.

For perspective, however, consider the ACC's lead over the rest of the nation. The Big Ten holds six top-100 pledges, while the SEC and Pac-12 hold four apiece. Plenty of time remains for the 2014 cycle, obviously, but at this moment the ACC as an entity must be thrilled with its standing.

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