On the Prowl

Player of the Week

Marcquise Reed, Clemson Tigers

Marcquise ReedMarcquise ReedThe Tigers earned their 10th win of the season against Lipscomb—a pesky team that defeated TCU and nearly knocked off Louisville. Senior guard Marcquise Reed lifted his team to a fourth straight victory to close out non-conference play. Reed’s 26 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals were more than enough in the 17-point blowout. The Bisons opened the second-half with a 16-4 run, which cut the deficit to nine. The early second-half surge was not enough to stop Reed, who played a significant role in Clemson’s 10-0 run with several pull-up jumpers and steals to put Lipscomb away. The standout shooting guard was 9 of 17 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.

After returning from a knee sprain that prevented the senior from competing for three games, Reed has recorded back-to-back 20-point performances. The senior never hesitates to drive to the basket and has evolved into an aggressive defensive player. Reed ranks third in the conference in scoring, averaging 19.8 points per game. He was named to the preseason All-ACC team and has been playing as if he deserves to be on it. A healthy Reed is the best sign for the Tigers heading into ACC play next weekend. For Clemson’s first conference game, Reed and his team travel to Durham to take on the Blue Devils.

Who’s Hot

Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech Hokies

After winning six straight games and assembling an 11-1 non-conference record, the Hokies have secured their first top ten ranking since the 1995-96 season. A huge part of the team’s early season success can be attributed to junior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. He is averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in the Hokies’ win streak. Alongside Blackshear Jr. is Tech’s star point guard, Justin Robinson, who leads the ACC with 5.9 assists per game. Robinson has dished out five or more assists in five of the Hokies’ past six wins, one of which includes his season-high 13 assists against Central Connecticut several weeks ago.

Trey McGowens, Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh has put together a 10-3 non-conference record, already surpassing last year’s total number of wins—a team that compiled a horrendous 8-24 record. Granted, the Panthers have had a very easy schedule, but head coach Jeff Capel has a bright future ahead with a talented group of freshman, one being guard Trey McGowens. In Pittsburgh’s past two games against New Orleans and Colgate, the 6-foot-3 frosh has led the team in scoring with 24 and 16 points, respectively. McGowens has improved tremendously in the early season and is playing with increased confidence and decisiveness. He is also a solid on-ball defender, averaging two steals per game. After a winless 0-18 ACC record last season, there is now a spark of hope for the Panthers with a new head coach and a core group of freshmen. This team has a legitimate chance to pick up several conference wins.

Who’s Not

Coby White, North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina’s point guard has not looked himself in the Tar Heels’ past two games facing Kentucky and Davidson. The freshman is in the midst of a shooting slump. In an eight-point loss to Kentucky last week, White went 3 of 10 from the field and turned the ball over four times. On Saturday, the Tar Heels hosted the Davidson Wildcats, a game in which White shot 14% and tallied three turnovers. In those two games, the 185-pound guard went 2-for-9 from the three-point line (22%), which is uncharacteristic of the sharp shooter. If North Carolina wants to reach its potential, White will need to find his shooting stroke with ACC games right around the corner.

Top Five Erasers

The conference’s best shot blockers to keep an eye on:

1. Juwan Durham, Notre Dame

After sitting out the 2017-18 season due to the NCAA transfer rule, forward Juwan Durham has made an immediate impact at Notre Dame. Durham is playing just under 15 minutes per game and still leads the ACC in blocks per game (3.25). The athletic 6-foot-11 transfer is averaging 9.02 blocks per 40 minutes. He provides athleticism and rim protection the moment he steps foot on the court.

2. James Banks III, Georgia Tech

Junior forward James Banks III joins Georgia Tech this season after spending his two previous years at Texas. He was granted immediate eligibility to play and has been a terrific rim protector for the Yellow Jackets so far, having six games this season with three or more blocks. In addition to 26 blocks in Tech’s first 12 games, Banks has emerged into an reliable rebounder. The 6’8’’ 243-pound junior is snatching 8.8 rebounds per contest, good enough for sixth best in the conference.

3. Marques Bolden, Duke

The 6’11’’ Desoto, Texas native has seen his minutes dramatically increase from his previous two years with the Blue Devils. After failing to score and contribute at all in Duke’s preseason three-game Canada tour, Bolden is playing with a newfound defensive energy in the Blue Devils’ non-conference stretch. Bolden recorded a career-high seven blocks against a then top ten Auburn team in the Maui Invitational and is averaging 2.3 blocks per contest—ranked third in the ACC.

4. Ebuka Izundu, Miami

The one player who has been consistent for the Hurricanes this season—even in the midst of Miami’s four-game losing skid—is center Ebuka Izundu. His production level has improved on both ends of the court from his junior year. The 6-foot-10 senior has posted five games with three or more blocks along with six games with 9 or more rebounds. Averaging 2.08 blocks per game, Izundu already has recorded more total blocks in Miami’s first 11 games this year (25) than he did in the 2017-18 season (20).

5. Zion Williamson, Duke

One of the five-star freshman’s major strengths come as a shot blocker. The 285-pound forward has an excellent sense of timing for the ball. Williamson is blocking nearly two shots in his 26.2 minutes of playing time per game. The 6-foot-7 freshman crushes blocks like a player six inches taller; his career-high six blocks came against Army earlier this season.

Honorable mention: Christ Koumadje, Florida State

Although he ranks just outside of the top five in number of blocked shots this season, the 7-foot-4 senior center deserves some recognition. In the Seminoles’ first 12 games, the towering senior is averaging 1.7 blocks in under 18 minutes per game. Koumadje is the 16th player in Florida State’s history to block 100 or more shots. Christ Koumadje looks to be one of the best rim protectors in ACC play this season.