Player of the Week
Justin Jackson – North Carolina (F, So., 6-8, 200, Spring, TX)
What a difference a week makes for the Texas native. After a poor showing shooting the ball in the Tar Heel’s first three games, Jackson caught fire in their last three games. The sophomore forward has begun to show why he was so highly regarded as a key piece to a deep North Carolina team looking to win a national championship. This week, he averaged 22.6 points on 58 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc to go along with 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest. He helped lead the Tar Heels to a 2-1 record and managed to put to rest some of the criticism surrounding his assertiveness.
North Carolina began the week with a 71-67 upset loss at Northern Iowa on Nov. 21. The trip to Northern Iowa was supposed to be a homecoming for Tar Heels injured point guard Marcus Paige. But Jackson ended up making headlines by scoring a career-high 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting despite the loss. It marked the first time this season he’s reached the 20-point plateau and foreshadowed what was to come later in the week. He also shot 42 percent from the 3-point line and added four rebounds, three assists and one block against the Panthers.
On Nov. 23, Jackson led a balanced effort by the Tar Heels in their 80-69 victory over Northwestern in their opening game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic tournament. He led the team in both scoring (21) and rebounding (13) and made 53 percent of his field goal attempts. A day later, he helped pushed the Tar Heels to an 80-70 win against Kansas State in the CBE Hall of Fame championship game. He finished with 22 points and six assists, both team-highs, five rebounds and one steal. Jackson was voted MVP of the tournament.
Grayson Allen – Duke (G, So., 6-5, 205, Jacksonville, FL)
Has there been any player in the country more impressive than Grayson Allen through the season’s first two weeks? Through Duke’s three games this week, all wins, the sophomore guard has averaged 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.3 steals. Allen bounced back from a tough 2-for-11 shooting night against Kentucky and recorded 30 points, six rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes off the bench in a 79-71 victory over VCU in the opening round of the 2K Classic. He was 9-for-15 from the field, including matching his career high with four 3-pointers. He was the key to Duke’s 17-3 run that turned VCU’s last lead of the game, 54-53, into a comfortable 70-58 lead with 5:43 to play. Allen then netted a career-high 32 points while leading the Blue Devils to the 2k Classic title in an 86-84 win over Georgetown. Allen went 5-for-6 from 3-point range and 9-for-9 at the free-throw line. He also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals. After consecutive 30-point games, Allen took a bit of a step back in Duke’s 80-61 victory over Yale at home. He went for 14 points on 4-for-10 from the field and 6-for-6 at the line.
Damion Lee – Louisville (G, Sr., 6-6, 200, Baltimore, MD)
Louisville went 2-0 this week behind the solid play of graduate transfer (Drexel) Damion Lee. Lee went for 24 points, a career best with Louisville, seven rebounds and three assists in the Cardinals 89-61 victory over North Florida on Nov. 21. He shot 10-for-16 overall from the field, 2-for-4 from the 3-point line and sank both of his free throw attempts. On Nov. 24, Lee led the Cardinals to a dominant 85-49 win over St. Francis (BKN). He notched 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. He was 8-for-12 from the field. Lee helped get the Cardinals off to a quick start. Lousiville got off to an 11-0 run with Lee scoring seven points, which helped put the Cardinals up 14-4 after four minutes. He scored 15 points in the first half.
Michael Gbinije – Syracuse (F, Sr., 6-7, 200, Richmond, VA)
Gbinije averaged 19.6 points on 61 percent shooting, including 69 percent from long range, 4.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.6 steals during the Orange’s first three games (3-0) of the Battle 4 Atlantic tournament. Those games included wins over Elon, Charlotte and No. 18 Connecticut. The senior forward displayed some clutch and timely shooting from the 3-point line, often extending leads and giving the Orange large cushions to work with. Aside from his shooting, he was able to affect the game in a lot go different ways and set up his teammates for easy scores.
Joel Berry II – North Carolina (G, So., 6-0, 195, Apopka, FL)
Berry has been starting in place for Marcus Paige. He’s been solid in the first five games but had a few off shooting night this past week. In the past three games, he’s shot just 32 percent from the floor and has six turnovers. He’s also shooting just 22 percent from long range.
Terance Mann – Florida State (G, Fr., 6-6, 200, Lowell, MA)
Mann has been the weak link in FSU’s talented freshmen class. Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley have solidified starting spots and are producing at a high level while Mann has averaged just 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per contest. In FSU’s three games this week, the freshman guard has averaged just 2.3 points on 25 percent shooting, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 assists. He’s had trouble finding his rhythm shooting the ball and his minutes have fluctuated.
Top 5 Shooting Guards in the ACC
1. Grayson Allen – Duke (G, So., 6-5, 205, Jacksonville, FL)
Allen has carried over his exceptional performance in last season’s NCAA Championship game into this season. Aside from his poor shooting performance against Kentucky early this season, he’s played lights out, and will be a serious candidate for ACC Player of the Year if he can keep up his current averages of 22.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Allen is the Blue Devils go-to scorer and has consistently provided several highlight reel plays that have shown off his athleticism. He’s continually shown all the traits you would want out of your scoring guard, including knocking down perimeter jumpers and slashing to the basket and finishing. He’s taken full advantage of his new role on this team with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook all gone, and is clearly more than your typical one-hit wonder.
2. Damion Lee – Louisville (G, Sr., 6-6, 200, Baltimore, MD)
Through his first four games of the season, Lee has proven that he is capable of putting up big numbers on a high-major team in Louisville after being such as prolific scorer at a losing, small mid-major team in Drexel. With all the firepower the Cardinals lost, they needed Lee to step in and fill a hole, or two. So far, he’s shown that he’s more that equipped to handle the job, with averages of 19.3 points on 56 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Lee is a go-to guy for the Cardinals and scores at an efficient rate. He’s also shown good energy on the defensive end, which is an underrated part of his game despite being named a first-team defensive player in the CAA conference last season. Lee still has to show that he can keep up this level of production on a nightly basis against ACC competition.
3. Dwayne Bacon – Florida State (G, Fr., 6-7, 220, Lakeland, FL)
Through the Seminole’s first five games of the season, Bacon has been able to show the country just how much of a dynamic scorer he is. The freshman is the best prospect at FSU in a long time and there’s very little he can do on the court. His combination of size and athleticism makes him tough to guard for opposing defenses, as evident by his 20.6 points per game average. Bacon is tough to contain when he gets to the rim and in transition, but also handles the ball extremely well and has a reliable jumper from the 3-point line, currently shooting 47 percent from the long distance. Bacon’s physical tools have also allowed him to be a solid defender and rebounder (6.4 rebounds per game). Don’t be surprised if Bacon finishes as ACC Freshmen of the Year.
4. Malcolm Brogdon – Virginia (G, Sr., 6-5, 215, Atlanta, GA)
After the loss of talented players Justin Anderson and Darion Atkins, Brogdon has been one of the keys to Virginia’s good start to the 2015-2016 season. Although he’s known as more of a defensive stopper, Brogdon also does his due diligence on the offensive end as well. He’s not the flashiest player around, but the senior guard is averaging 16.7 points on 47 percent shooting from the field to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He’s shown his ability to knock down open shots and shakes defenders off the dribble better than anyone previously thought he could. No matter how effective he is on the offensive end, though, he’ll continually be counted upon to be the Cavaliers best defender and make anyone he’s guarding uncomfortable on a nightly basis. The level of his play throughout this season will surely impact whether or not Virginia can hang with North Carolina and Duke for the balance of the season and reach 30 wins for the third straight year.
5. Sheldon McClellan – Miami (FL) (G, Sr., 6-5, 205, Houston, TX)
After transferring from Texas in 2013, McClellan put together a terrific first season with the Hurricanes in 2014-2015, averaging 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior guard is a tough cover for his defenders, as he’s effective scoring the ball from all three levels. He’s a great playmaker with the ball in his hands and has the ability to slash to the hoop and finish at the rim over bigger defenders efficiently. He’s a great shooter off the dribble and by spotting up. Along with Allen and Brogdon, McClellan entered the year as one of the 2016 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award Candidates. So far this season, he’s proved his candidacy by averaging a team-high 17.6 points on 61 percent shooting, including 52 percent from the 3-point line, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.