As basketball season inches closer (eep, only 21 days!!), we took a look at some of the most notable new faces joining the ACC. Many of these players are already projected to go in the first round of next year’s NBA draft, meaning they might not be around for too long, but they’ll definitely make their presence known when Virginia is playing them. Others will help rebuilding ACC teams or star as sixth men. Regardless, these freshman will be making a name for themselves throughout the conference. We’re sure Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers have these young guys on their radar, and now you can too.
Let’s get started.
R.J. BARRETT (Duke Blue Devils)
R.J. Barrett is the crown jewel of Coach K historic (sigh) crew and the consensus No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018. The talented two-three averaged a casual 31 points, six rebounds and five assists in Duke’s summer showing and will be a huge threat to any ACC defender as a flexible and formidable wing. At 6’7”, 202-pounds with impressive athleticism, Barrett will transition between the small forward and shooting guard spots as needed for the Blue Devils. He’s a threat all across the floor with his expanding scoring repertoire.
CAM REDDISH (Duke)
Cam Reddish is really good. Like really, really good. Some even say he might actually be better than Barrett. Reddish is a standout shooter with a natural knack for finding the basket. With Reddish playing alongside Barrett, Duke will have a wildly talented duo on the wing of point guard Tre Jones. Reddish played point guard in high school which has helped him become adept at distributing with ease, creating offense effortlessly. He’s another versatile asset for Coach K to play around with but his biggest strength is his ability to balance — Reddish’s sky high basketball IQ gives him an edge when it comes to deciding between when to score and when to facilitate.
NASSIR LITTLE (North Carolina Tar Heels)
Another talented wing within the ACC, Nassir Little will be an immediate scorer for Coach Williams. Williams is used to having veteran talent on the floor, but without Joel Berry II or Theo Pinson, he needs players who can produce. Little may be the natural fit to step into the lineup to replace Pinson, but his versatility affords him the ability to contribute in more of a combo role if needed. He can dunk, he’s incredible in transition and he’s an additional threat from the three for the Tar Heels. Add in the fact that he’s a tremendous perimeter defender and BOOM, Carolina’s got one heck of a new face in Nassir Little.
ZION WILLIAMSON (Duke)
Zion Williamson is basically a bucket machine for the Blue Devils. Known for his monster-dunks-gone-viral, expect highlight reel moments from this freshman from the second he steps on the court. He’s also literally massive, so there’s that. Surprisingly, for someone listed at 6’7” and 285-pound, Williamson can handle the ball well enough to give him point-forward potential. He’s still most dominant at the rim (on both ends), but has an ever-improving floater that will help Duke offensively (not like they’ll really need it).
TRE JONES (Duke)
Sound familiar? That’s because Tre Jones is the younger brother of Tyus Jones, Duke’s beloved point guard who led them to the 2015 National Championship as a freshman. Jones will be the Blue Devils primary point guard this year and is a phenomenal floor general. He’s a pass-first kinda guy who can help Duke maximize the potential of his other top-ranked teammates. Despite the fact that Barrett, Reddish and Williamson often overshadow Jones, he shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s incredibly talented and his efficiency is a huge threat to any opponent.
JAYLEN HOARD (Wake Forest Demon Deacons)
Jaylen Hoard is a do-it-all guy for the Demon Deacons. He can shoot, he can score, he can create plays and make passes. At 6’8”, the lengthy power forward has both a soft outside shooting touch and the height to play inside. He’ll get buckets for a rebuilding Wake Forest team and help out on the defensive side of things. Wake will need Hoard’s to make big time contributions across the board if they want to improve on last year’s disappointing 11-20 season.
COBY WHITE (UNC)
Coby White is a North Carolina native, a shooting guard and a highly heralded scorer. Whether playing as a true point guard or more of a two, he’ll be a dynamic asset offensively. He’s an explosive combo-guard with NBA-potential. White will have to work his way into the starting lineup with a crowded backcourt in Chapel Hill, but once he earns Williams trust and finds his fit, you’ll be hearing his name plenty.
MICHAEL DEVOE (Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets)
Michael Devoe is the four-star floor general that Georgia Tech desperately needs. As the Yellow Jackets try to turn things around down in Atlanta, they’ll look to the young point guard as their primary facilitator. A toe injury might have him sidelined for the first few weeks of the 2018 season, but once he’s back Devoe will be expected to help replace the hole left behind from first-round pick Josh Okogie.
LANDERS NOLLEY (Virginia Tech Hokies)
The small forward from Georgia decommitted from the Bulldogs to play for Virginia Tech. Tech returns talented starters but Landers Nolley is one of the best pure shooters in the class, giving one of the country’s most efficient offenses another weapon in the arsenal. His all-around game has slowly improved and still needs some work, but expect Buzz Williams to pay lots of attention to Nolley and harness his talent accordingly.
Honorable mentions: Joey Baker (Duke, PF), Rechon ‘Leaky’ Black (UNC, SF) Jalen Carey (Syracuse, PG), Nate Laszewski (Notre Dame, PF)