ACC Freshmen Ready to Make an Impact

The incoming freshman class of 2004-05 has been highly touted as one of the deepest in nearly a decade, and the proof came in the NBA draft this past June when eight high school prospects from this class were taken in the first round – an all time high.

Now, even though the ACC boasts a tremendous amount of talent and experience returning for this upcoming season, the conference is loaded with talented freshmen that have decided to at least give college ball a try. Sure, this group would've been more impressive with point guard Shaun Livingston (signed with Duke) and shooting guard J.R. Smith (signed with UNC) at the top of the list, but this is still one of the best contingents of newcomers this conference has ever seen. Here, then, is a list of ACC freshmen that will make the most impact this year, and the outlook for their careers.

The Top Seven:
Marvin Williams, 6-8, F, North Carolina

UNC head coach Roy Williams (obviously, no relation) was looking for a prospect with size that could do it all, and Marvin fits that description to a T. The Washington native is a fine combination of athletic ability and basketball skill in the body of a prototypical college power forward. He has good strength to finish down low in traffic, but still can shoot consistently from just inside the three-point line. He's fundamentally sound, and plays defense probably better than any forward on the Tar Heel roster. In fact, Marvin should be able to supplant Jawad Williams (again, no relation) as UNC's starting power forward.

Outlook: Once Williams grabs his spot next to Sean May in the lineup, he will be tough to remove until the next NBA Draft rolls around. He's already projected among the top 20 picks in the 2005 draft, and it will be tough for Roy to keep him around for his sophomore year.

DeMarcus Nelson, 6-3, G, Duke
Easily the most explosive athlete on this list, Nelson is just what the Blue Devils need (besides more depth inside). Coach Mike Krzyzewski will need him to bring energy and scoring off the bench when Sean Dockery and J.J. Redick start to wear down, and he will be ready every time (after his broken hand heals, that is). Nelson is a scorer who can shoot consistently from three-point range, but his biggest asset is his ability to penetrate defenses and drive the lane with aggression. He will need to learn to control his drives, and he may get called for a few player-control fouls, but he will keep opposing defenses honest.

Outlook: He probably won't become a starter until his sophomore year, and he has the skills to go pro after that season, but don't look for him to hit the professional ranks until after his junior year.

Sean Singletary, 5-11, G, Virginia
Cavaliers' head coach Pete Gillen had his prayers answered when this kid signed on with his program last year. Singletary is an aggressive point guard that can take his man off the dribble with ease. He's a crafty passer and he can play ball-hawking defense when needed. He has a decent outside shot, but his leadership role will be the chief contribution on a team that will need direction over the next couple of years more than anything.

Outlook: Singletary will be a staple in the Wahoos' backcourt for at least the next three years. He might take a look at the NBA after his junior season, but don't expect him to go anywhere. That is, unless Gillen goes somewhere first (like the unemployment line).

James Gist, 6-8, F, Maryland
The Terrapins' current roster is a bit crowded for Gist to make any reasonable dent in the rotation, but he can make a name for himself as quickly as last year's freshman sensation Ekene Ibekwe. The Maryland native is a slender, but solid athlete with notable shot-blocking skills. He is a decent ball handler for his size, and is nearly as skilled offensively as he is defensively. Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley will be losing more minutes to Gist as the year progresses because he's just too talented to sit on the bench.

Outlook: Gist has the size and skill that draw the eyes of NBA scouts, but he will need time to develop, and it will be at least his junior year until he is playing enough minutes to get himself noticed as a potential star.

Cedric Simmons, 6-9, F/C, NC State
One thing Herb Sendek's Wolfpack desperately missed last year (besides a penetrating point guard) was an intimidating shot blocker. Simmons isn't quite to the intimidation stage just yet, but he has the timing and ability to be a big-time fly swatter on the college level, and is already a proven rebounder. He may remind Pack fans of Josh Powell in a lot of ways, but his ball skills are far more developed than Powell's were at his age. He can hit the outside jumper, and he will be given plenty of opportunities to show his perimeter range in State's motion offense, but make no mistake – his collegiate future is in the paint, where he will become one of the Pack's all-time shot-blockers.

Outlook: One major difference between Simmons and Powell is that Cedric doesn't think as highly of himself as his predecessor did. Expect Simmons to stick around at least through his junior year until he becomes a more complete offensive player.

Isaiah Swann, 6-1, G, Florida State
If the Seminoles are ever going to break into the ACC's top tier, Swann is the guy that will get them there. He has a wide variety of scoring tools, but he is thought of more as a point guard who can make plays in the clutch. Swann doesn't need to be the top scorer, but he will be counted on to distribute the ball to the weapons around him like Von Wafer and Alexander Johnson. Look for him to push current starting point Todd Galloway for minutes right away.

Outlook: Guards like Swann aren't always in short supply in the NBA, but he is a more complete guard right now than most prospects entering the league this year. He may be tempted to leave after his junior season.

Andrew Brackman, 6-9, F, NC State
While classmate Cedric Simmons is considered the Wolfpack's top freshman prospect this year, Brackman isn't far behind. In fact, if his development continues at its current pace, this kid might end up as the second-best newcomer in the conference, behind Marvin Williams. A fantastic shooter and ball-handler for his size, Brackman appears to be one of the quickest newcomers to grasp Herb Sendek's offensive and defensive schemes. He also displays a maturity that many players his age often lack, which will only help to solidify his spot in an eight-man rotation for the Pack.

Outlook: As impressive as his basketball skill and IQ appear, experts consider him to be an even better baseball prospect. But rest assured, he will be playing hoops in Raleigh for at least the next three years. And if he stays for his senior season, he could become one of the Pack's all-time great frontcourt players in the mold of Tom Gugliotta.

The Next Seven:
Quentin Thomas, 6-2, G, North Carolina –
A quality point guard who will be groomed to take over for Raymond Felton when he leaves after this season.

Jason Rich, 6-3, G, Florida State – Another scorer in the DeMarcus Nelson mold, but could be the best three-point shooter in the class.

Marquee Cooke, 6-3, G, Virginia Tech – Not a great shooter, but an athletic and aggressive slasher who can get to the rim in a hurry.

Ra'Sean Dickey, 6-9, C/F, Georgia Tech – The kind of inside presence Paul Hewitt likes to have on his bench, even though he doesn't always bring his best stuff to the court.

Cheyenne Moore, 6-5, G/F, Clemson – The Tigers are shy on scoring power from the wing, but he can bring the goods from anywhere on the floor.

Dave McClure, 6-6, F, Duke – Can and will do just about everything Coach K expects from a sixth man.

Ralph Mims, 6-2, G, Florida State – This athletic guard has proven he can score, and he could be the sleeper of the entire class.

Others to watch:
Zam Fredrick, 6-1, G, Georgia Tech
James Mays, 6-9, F, Clemson
Gavin Grant, 6-6, F, NC State
Jeremis Smith, 6-7, F, Georgia Tech
Sam Perry, 6-6, F, Clemson
Cliff Hammonds, G, Clemson


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