There are a lot big names returning to the ACC this upcoming season. Yet, there are also new players who are hungry and determined to make a name for themselves and their respective teams. Let’s take some time to review the fresh faces of the conference. These diaper dandies have rising stars written all over them.
Shaqquan Aaron: Forward, Louisville Cardinals
Shaqquan Aaron is a highly recruited forward who has the potential to make a big splash in his freshman campaign. He will be coming into a good situation at Louisville. Head coach Rick Pitino already has key returners this upcoming season. Thus, there won’t be too much pressure placed on Aaron.
At 6-7, Aaron can do a lot with the basketball. His size and length allows him to shot off over smaller defenders at will. Yet his biggest strength is his smooth ball handling. Aaron will be a major staple point in Louisville’s transition offense. Aaron rarely plays out of control; a trait which is hard to find in most collegiate forwards.
In the open court, he can attack defenses and connect with his teammates for easy scores. Pitino would like to keep Aaron on the floor because most teams will focus their defensive efforts on Louisville’s standouts Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier. Aaron should be able to find his spots on the perimeter and make defenses pay. If he is able to crack the starting lineup or receive significant minutes, he is an instant mismatch against his opponents.
Kaleb Joseph: Guard, Syracuse Orange
Jim Boeheim has two stellar freshmen this upcoming season. Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough could play at any given school in the country. McCullough’s ceiling has many NBA executives salivating over his potential. But due to Syracuse’s crowded front court, it’s hard to determine how much of an impact McCullough will have his freshman year.
On the contrary, Syracuse will once again have a new starting point guard. Joseph will bring a different dynamic to the positon than his predecessor. At this point in his collegiate career, he is not a true point guard. He is more of an athletic guard who is explosive off the dribble and can change speed at ease.This position prototype is a trend we are starting to see more and more, especially in the NBA. A lot will be asked of Joseph once he steps on campus.
Not only did Syracuse lose their previous floor general, but they also lost their three top scorers. Joseph will be asked to create shots for his teammates and to look for his own shot. It may require a trial and error period for Joseph’s play to get where it needs to be. But with Boeheim’s coaching, Joseph should be a crowd favorite for the Orange and be a nice surprise to the ACC.
Justin Jackson: Forward, North Carolina Tar Heels
Out of all the freshmen coming to the ACC, Justin Jackson is probably the most skilled offensively. If you saw the past McDonald’s All-American Game, you would have seen the 6-8 forward light up the scoreboard for 23 points (11-14 shooting), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block.
In high school, he averaged 29.4 points and 9.7 rebounds which helped him earn one of the top recruiting grades in ESPN’s national ranks. As Uncle Drew would say, Justin Jackson gets buckets; his scoring instincts and mechanics are well developed. Jackson will have Marcus Paige, probably the best point guard in the conference dropping him dimes on a nightly basis.
The only thing that may concern UNC fans is Jackson’s frame, or lack thereof. He has tremendous size and length but his 185lb built won’t intimidate too many forwards. UNC should have a major turnaround at the perimeter. Production from the perimeter which was a weakness for UNC last season should be a major strength with the arrival of Jackson.
Whether Jackson comes off the bench or starts from day one, he will be a legitimate scoring threat that will give opposing coaches’ nightmares for years to come.
Justise Winslow: Forward, Duke Blue Devils
Despite having early exits in previous NCAA Tournaments the Blue Devils have no trouble recruiting the best talent. It’s been quite some time since Duke has had the No. 1 recruiting class. Most credit Duke’s ranking due to the projected play of Tyus Jones and Jahil Okafor.
Rightfully so, Jones and Okafor will be one of the more dynamic duos in the nation. Their strong play is essential for Duke to have any chance for a title run. However, there is another freshman who is just as important to the team. Justise Winslow is the final piece that will bring the team altogether.
With Duke’s guard firing from the perimeter and Okafor and company controlling the paint, Winslow is the perfect type of player to have on the roster. Winslow can impact a game in so many ways. He is an athletic scorer but at the same time, he is a tremendous rebounder and defender. At 6-6 and great lateral quickness, he can essentially guard any position at the college level.
Winslow will have a similar role Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had for the 2012 National Champions Kentucky Wildcats. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is very fortunate to have glue-guy of Winslow’s caliber.
All four players are projected to have impactful freshmen seasons. There are countless other freshmen coming into the ACC who are capable of being just as productive as the ones discussed. It should be an electrifying season as the basketball world watches these rising stars compete for Rookie of the Year and a ACC Championship.