Teams around the ACC are gearing up for the start of practice in less than two weeks. Devils Illustrated starts its league preview with a look at the conference's best point guards.
1) Sean Singletary (Virginia): An explosive and experienced player, Singletary returns to direct the Cavaliers for a third season. A major threat to score the basketball, Singletary could very well be the spark that helps return Virginia to the NCAA Tournament this year. He averaged nearly 18 points per game last year on a team that had virtually no frontcourt presence to draw major defensive attention. With some added talent around him this year, Singletary could be poised for his best season yet.
2) Greg Paulus (Duke): Even though he is only a sophomore, Paulus is very experienced after playing nearly 40 minutes per game for most of last season. Offseason wrist surgery should have him back at 100 percent for his sophomore campaign. The bad wrist surely had a hand in his declining shooting percentages toward the end of last year. For Duke's system, he's a very good fit with his court vision, leadership, and enthusiasm. He'll rack up the assists this year and make more of his open looks from behind the three point line.
3) Tywon Lawson (North Carolina): It could be argued that Lawson deserves to be higher on this list, and based on talent alone he could be the best point guard in the ACC. However, it wouldn't be wise to put the cart before the horse because he has yet to play a college game, but there is no player in the league with his ability to push the ball in transition and make plays on the break. For what Roy Williams wants to do, he really couldn't design a better player. Lawson will be a major impact player in his first ACC go around.
4) Javaris Crittendon (Georgia Tech): Similar to Lawson, Crittenton is expected to do big things right away for the Yellow Jackets. Crittenton brings size to the position with his 6-4 height and his explosiveness to the rim makes him very tough to defend when he can penetrate with his right hand. He still needs to improve his outside jumper, but this Atlanta native will shine with his playmaking and versatile defense.
5) Jamon Gordon (Virginia Tech): Gordon is a guy that often gets overlooked when discussing high level point guards, but he shouldn't go unnoticed. He led the ACC for much of the year last season in assists and finished the year with nearly 4.5 assists per game. He's a capable scorer despite struggling from behind the three point line. His defense is effective at the point of the Hokies' defense. He's a good distributor for scorers like Zabian Dowdell and Coleman Collins.
6) Vernon Hamilton (Clemson): Hamilton enjoyed his best season a year ago when he vastly improved his shooting and became more aggressive driving the ball to the goal. His best performance came against Duke when he dropped 31 on the Blue Devils at Littlejohn Coliseum. He's a tremendous player at home, and if he can become more consistent on the road this season he can help Clemson make an upward move in the league.
7) Toney Douglas (Florida State): One of the high profile transfers to become eligible this season, Douglas can make a strong case for being a little higher on this list. However, he will first have to prove he can adjust to the higher quality of play in the ACC after spending his first year at Auburn. With some very good athletes on the perimeter and forward Al Thornton drawing a lot of defensive attention, Douglas may be able to get close to his 16 point average he put up at Auburn as a freshman in 2004-05. However, his biggest value to this team should be as a distributor with guys like Thornton and Jason Rich.
8) Anthony Harris (Miami): Harris will have to adjust to life without Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite, but his veteran presence should help make the transition easier for the Hurricanes. He missed the first part of last season with a hairline fracture in his foot but returned to become the team's third leading scorer and average 3.1 assists per game. He needs to trim his turnovers some but that should be improved this year because he has more game experience to fall back on after not having played point guard prior to his sophomore season.
9) Eric Hayes (Maryland): Another true freshman expected to make an immediate impact for his team, Hayes' play will be a big factor in whether or not the Terrapins can return to the NCAA Tournament. He's already drawn comparisons to former Maryland point guard Steve Blake because of his developing body, heady play, and schoolboy looks. Don't be fooled by appearances though, because Hayes has very good upside as both a leader and a playmaker. His long arms help make him a solid defender.
10) Shamaine Dukes (Wake Forest): A very good athlete, Dukes needs to tap into his immense potential as a sophomore. In his first season a year ago, he struggled to make the necessary adjustments to the ACC level and had his playing time cut as the season wore on. He's got to cut down on his turnovers. If he can do that and still maintain the speed and quickness that make him such a promising player, he can be a much more effective point guard this year.
OTHERS: Marquez Haynes will likely step in at Boston College for the departed Louis Hinnant. Haynes is a talented sophomore that will probably prove to be a productive player over time in Al Skinner's system. NC State has some major concerns at point guard. Engin Atsur and Trevor Ferguson will probably have to handle the job by committee.