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November 25, 2008

Tar Heels top the ACC again

MORE: Conf. recruiting breakdown | VOTE: ACC's top class? | No. 1 Big 12 | Up next: No. 3 Big East

Some things never change.

North Carolina seems to sit atop any poll that has any relevance to college basketball these days. The Tar Heels, the current No. 1 team in the nation, won the early recruiting period battle in the class of 2009 thanks to the signing of five players all ranked within the top 70.

Roy Williams and his staff reeled in a class with great balance, star power, long-term help and overall depth.

John Henson, the top-ranked player coming to the ACC next year, gives the Tar Heels another long and lean body to throw inside the paint. Henson's ability, however, isn't necessarily confined to the paint. He can also step out and knock down shots on the perimeter. His length is clearly felt on the defensive end of the floor. He will enter the league as the top shot blocker among newcomers.

Guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald give the backcourt balance and maturity, while California twins David Wear and Travis Wear continue the California-to-Carolina pipeline Williams has developed in recruiting.

Georgia Tech cracked the top 10 with a solid four-man class with a heavy dose of in-state recruits. Duke also stayed local, picking up pledges from a pair of in-state prospects that rank within the top 50. NC State is two behind Duke at No. 16 overall in the team rankings.

Biggest recruiting coup

Long before Michael Snaer became a speed dial option on the cell phones of college coaches from across the country, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard was the top priority for Florida State. How long before the likes of UCLA, Kansas and other elite high-majors jumped into the picture? Try a year.

Best of the ACC
Best perimeter scorer: Michael Snaer, Florida State
Best low post scorer: Richard Howell, NC State
Best passer: Dexter Strickland, North Carolina
Best shooter: Michael Snaer, Florida State
Best rebounder: Richard Howell, NC State
Best shot-blocker: John Henson, North Carolina
Best defender: Jontel Evans, Virginia
Most versatile: Glen Rice, Georgia Tech
Best in the clutch: Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech
Best basketball IQ: Dexter Strickland, North Carolina
Best pro prospect: John Henson, North Carolina
Best upside: John Henson, North Carolina
Best speed: Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech
Best motor: Terrance Shannon, Florida State
Best strength: Terrance Shannon, Florida State
Best leaper: Ari Stewart, Wake Forest
Best leader: Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech
Impact player: Milton Jennings, Clemson
Biggest sleeper: Cadarian Raines, Virginia Tech
Sleeper class: Miami
Florida State identified Snaer, then an under-the-radar top-100 prospect, as a major target in 2009. Assistant Andy Enfield made the cross-country flight (and oftentimes red-eye trips) from Tallahassee, Fla., to Atlanta to Los Angeles as many times as he legally could to help seal the deal with Snaer.

The summer proved to be the big stage that Snaer always wanted to shine in, and did he ever. He emerged as one of the top players at his position. Every major school in need of an elite scorer threw a hat into the race, but Florida State won out thanks to the school's ability to identify him early and stick with him for the ride. Snaer should start from Day One and has the tools to be one of the top scorers in the ACC during his college career.

Budding rivalry

There are eight Georgia natives entering the ACC next fall, and the Peach State natives are certainly familiar with each other.

Four of the incoming players all suited up with the Worldwide Renegades AAU program. Georgia Tech-bound point guard Mfon Udofia, NC State forward Richard Howell and guard Lorenzo Brown and Wake Forest-bound wing Ari Stewart all played together on the grassroots circuit.

Udofia and Brown are considered the top two point guards in Georgia's senior class. Howell and Stewart are high school teammates at Wheeler. Georgia Tech recruit Glen Rice will play Howell and Stewart twice in region play this season as well as Brown and his Centennial teammates.

The familiarity will be there because there isn't a group of incoming players in the ACC who knew each other better than the group from the Peach State.

Biggest miss

ACC: Inside the Numbers
4 Teams ranked in the top 25
24 Rivals150 prospects coming to the ACC
5 5-star prospects coming to the ACC
12 4-star prospects coming to the ACC
7 3-star prospects coming to the ACC
10 Non-ranked players coming to the ACC
8 Number of players from Georgia who signed with an ACC school, the most of any state
Duke put the full-court press on for Kenny Boynton, one of the elite scorers in the nation. Coach Mike Krzyzewski made several trips to Florida to see Boynton in his own setting. The five-star guard made two visits to the school.

When Boynton exploded for his famous 61-point game at last year's City of Palms Classic, Duke assistant Chris Collins was one of the 30 people who woke up early to see the performance.

All signs looked good for Duke. But as time went on, Florida gained momentum and ultimately signed the in-state star.

Best storyline

Perhaps the biggest story line regarding the ACC has yet to occur. There are a number of elite high-major players still looking at schools in the ACC. Three players ranked within the top 10 have schools in the ACC on their short list.

John Wall has NC State high on his long list of schools. The Raleigh, N.C., product has been to NC State's nearby campus several times, and the Wolfpack have stayed in the forefront of his recruitment for quite some time.

Wall has expressed interest in being close to his mother, who has had health ailments this year. The Wolfpack clearly have an advantage to that regard and have done a fine job of using the school's location to its advantage.

South Atlanta big man Derrick Favors is also considering NC State. The nation's top power forward visited NC State officially in the fall and Wall joined him for the weekend. Even with a visit to NC State behind him, Georgia Tech and Georgia remain deep in the mix for the five-star forward.

Favors claims he still doesn't know where he is going to college and those close to him stress that is truly the case. Both schools will renew their season tickets for South Atlanta games and post up for another go-around of seeing and being seen with Favors during the high school season.

Los Angeles Fairfax big man Renardo Sidney made a surprise trip to Virginia with his family last weekend, catching the entire college basketball recruiting world by surprise.

Sidney never mentioned the Cavaliers throughout the recruiting process. A sudden trip across the country with his family, however, will make people notice. Consider UVa a contender for the five-star forward.




 

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