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THE BIG COUNTDOWN: Top 10 Impact Freshman in the ACC

Which frosh are poised to make noise in the conference this year?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Media Day Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the ‘19-’20 basketball season, the ACC is unusually lacking in star power from returning upperclassmen. Virginia’s departing trio of NATIONAL CHAMPIONS are now playing professionally, Zion and all those other non-Zion Duke one-and-dones are...done, and not a single All-ACC first or second team player is still in college.

Luckily, Duke, UNC, Louisville, FSU, and UVa all are bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and the fresh group of stars have plenty of opportunity to make an impact early. As part of our lead up to season’s tipoff, we’re taking a look at the top 10 impact freshmen this year in the ACC.

1. Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina

Anthony is the son of former NBA player and TV analyst Greg Anthony and the highest rated recruit coming into the ACC this year. Tabbed as the No. 4 player in the country by 247sports, Anthony has already been named to the Cousy Award watch list and will look to continue UNC’s history of success as point guard. He was also voted Preseason ACC Freshman of the Year - which, for some insane reason, is an award that exists.

Anthony won MVP honors of the McDonald’s All-American game and Jordan Brand Classic game and is seen as both a dynamic scorer as well as strong passer/leader of the offense. He is extremely quick, a great finisher at the rim, and already possesses the media savvy of a veteran player. The Oak Hill (VA) product should be an NBA lottery pick next year and the Heels will go as far as he can take them this season. Anthony should be an immediate national star and one of the best players in the country this season.

2. Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke

Coming out of University School (great name) in Florida, Carey is Duke’s highest rated recruit for 2019 and the No. 6 overall recruit in the country. He’s a big body checking in at 6’10, 275 pounds and should be an imposing force for the Blue Devils in the paint. Like Cole Anthony, Carey’s father was also a pro athlete, but Vernon Sr. played pro football as a lineman for the Miami Dolphins. Carey’s presence and potential star power should help fill some of the void left by Zion’s departure - though I don’t think we’ll see Zion-level of buzz from anyone for quite a while.

Really, Carey’s commitment to Duke meant that Jack White and Javin DeLaurier won’t necessarily have to...carry...the whole weight of the front court responsibilities - though the freshman is a fairly different type of player than both. Carey’s more of a bruiser than either (or more notably, some of Duke’s more recent star freshman centers like Marvin Bagley or Harry Giles). Perhaps the most apt comparison is Jahlil Okafor (a Duke one-and-done who actually won a title), who was a little taller than Vernon coming in but possessed a similar physical style, strong hands, and touch around the basket.

3. Matthew Hurt, F, Duke

You’re probably asking: “Ok, so we’ve got the new Duke star center...but we’re really missing the Duke antagonist...someone who we dislike the moment we see him for no good reason other than ‘Duke’ and ‘looks punchable’.” Well, look no further, friends, than Matthew Hurt:

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Hurt is a 6’9 sharpshooting forward out of Rochester, Minnesota and ranked by 247sports as the No. 12 overall recruit in the country. Yet another ACC McDonald’s All-American, Hurt is pegged as one of the best shooters in the 2019 class. He’s also skilled at creating off the dribble and is a decent passer as well. Certainly, he’ll want to add some strength to compete more completely against ACC players, but he comes into the conference immediately as one of the more difficult players to defend and match up against.

4. Samuell Williamson, F, Louisville

The highest-ranked of Louisville’s six incoming freshmen, Williamson is another McDonald’s All-American, the No. 19 overall recruit in the class, and probably the most likely frosh to make an impact for this year’s Cardinals. He averaged 25 points last year at Rockwall High School in Texas and brings strong athleticism and size to the wing position. If he can contribute early, Williamson will help Coach Mack spell Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton much more than he was last season.

Williamson’s got a solid mid-range shot, rebounds well, and should be able to contribute well on defense against anyone on the wing. The biggest need in his game is probably a consistent outside shot, but early reports in Louisville suggest that he’ll be in good shape as a shooter sooner than later.

5. Patrick Williams, F, Florida State

The first of Leonard Hamilton’s squad on our list is the 6’6 Williams out of Charlotte, North Carolina. The combo forward has good size and shooting ability and was recently tabbed as a potential first round NBA pick by ESPN. Williams was the No. 26 overall recruit in 247’s composite rankings and fits right into FSU’s recent trend of rostering a ton of scoring ability. He’s a strong shooter, finishes well in the lane, and has a nice mid-range touch on his shot as well. It’s easy to see why FSU fans are stoked for him when you check out some of his many highlights:

Williams certainly possesses an ACC-ready body and could play basically any position on the wing for the Noles. He’s big enough to battle for rebounds, shoots well from deep, and (due to a late growth spurt), has spent most of his basketball career as a point guard. Is there a weakness in his game? Not really, though his athleticism is described by scouts as “not overly explosive”...which is sort of the standard we usually expect in Tallahassee, so there.

6. Armando Bacot, C, North Carolina

The last of the composite five star freshmen in the ACC is a name that should be pretty familiar to UVa fans: Armando Bacot from Richmond, VA. Before moving to the IMG Academy in Florida for his last season, Bacot played down the road at Trinity Episcopal. The move to the perennial sports factory at IMG set Bacot up well for his time at UNC - as a recent article notes: “Bacot transferred enough credits from Trinity to have what he calls a low-stress academic schedule.”

Like Vernon Carey, Bacot is listed at 6’10 and plays with a physical presence in the front court. However, he also got good touch, very good hands, and can consistently hit mid-range jumpers as well. Growing in strength and conditioning will be a big need for Bacot, but there’s a ton of offensive potential to like in his game. Additionally, there’s a ton of immediate opportunity in the UNC front court for him to play extensively this year.

7. Wendell Moore, F, Duke

Moore is the third Blue Devil on our list, the third McDonald’s All-American Duke enrollee, and definitely could emerge as the most productive of the trio in Durham. Moore is slashing attacker who excels on the defensive wing - thanks in large part to his immense 7-foot wingspan. He can guard practically all 5 positions depending on what matchup Duke will be facing and also fits in well to Duke’s turnover-spurred offense, as he’s a decent athlete with a knack for playing well in transition.

He’s a more versatile player than the other previously-detailed Duke frosh and will see time all over the floor for Coach K. I chose Moore for this list over other star recruit Cassius Stanley for this reason - and you only get three guys on the list, Duke - according to the rules I just made up.

8. Harlond Beverly, G, Miami

Harlond is yet another UVa target on this list who chose to play elsewhere...but the first on the list for the Canes! He’s a 6’4 combo guard from Montverde Academy in Florida - a school that produced RJ Barrett, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons (to name a few). He doesn’t have the recruiting star power of the guys above him on the list - and he’ll be battling to even start for the Canes - but I see him as a potential breakout candidate because of just how young and inexperienced the Miami team is overall. Someone has to help Chris Lykes, right?

Beverly is a plus athlete with solid size for a guard and does well scoring at the rim or off the dribble. He’s a capable ball handler as well and has the size and versatility not only to produce at multiple spots on offense, but guard most perimeter players as well. Like Wendell Moore above him, it’s this ability and the opportunity on the roster that set him up to make an early impact for the Canes.

9. Casey Morsell, G, UVa

Speaking of another strong mix of potential, ability, and lack of backcourt depth: our lone Wahoo on the list is Casey Morsell. Morsell was the first member of the Hoos’ class to commit to Virginia and is the highest rated recruit of the bunch as well. He’s a 6’2 guard from St. John’s in DC and looks, at least physically, ready to contribute early in Charlottesville. You can check some of Casey from last week’s scrimmage here:

Casey could make an immediate impact, particularly on offense, for the Hoos. He’s a strong shooter, uses his body well, and plays with a physical style. He’s no slouch as a defender, for sure - but looking at the departures of Guy, Hunter, and Jerome, the obvious need for UVa will be outside shooting and scoring from guards in general. While JUCO transfer Tomas Woldetensae should bring some of that as well (and returning guard Kody Stattmann is the rumored starter at two guard for now), Morsell is the most likely future-star to compliment Kihei Clark in the UVa backcourt.

10. Brycen Goodine, G, Syracuse

Our final pick for impact frosh has a few others above him in recruiting rankings, but is Syracuse’s highest rated recruit, and could provide an immediate spark for the Orange this season. The 6’4 guard is the top ranked recruit out of Massachusetts and has already begun to bulk up on his relatively slim frame:

Goodine has length, athleticism, and has a quick shot. He does well to get into the lane and finishes well - thanks to a good handle. Certainly if he lacks in physicality right now (though 15 pounds can help), his length will help him hide some of that in Coach Boeheim’s zone defense.

The college basketball season gets underway on November 5th, with the Cavaliers heading to Syracuse on November 6 to open the 2019-20 campaign. Stick with Streaking the Lawn for updates as we get closer!