ESPN’s Robbi Pickeral posted her 5 ACC freshmen to watch list on Monday. It was a fairly standard list in that it contained all consensus top-50 players, and three of the five players were from the Triangle. Here are five more who will be worth following:
Codi Miller-McIntyre, Wake Forest: Raise your hand if you can name five current Wake Forest basketball players. With a rash of players leaving the program under Coach Bzdelik it’s no surprise that their recruiting class features seven freshmen. The first of those seven to commit was Codi Miller-McIntyre, and if you watch the Demon Deacons this season then prepare to see plenty of Miller-McIntyre. Last year’s point guard – Tony Chennault – has left for Villanova. His backup was theoretically Anthony Fields, and it’s safe to say that he struggled as a freshman – but it doesn’t matter because he transferred as well (to Bradley). That leaves Miller-McIntyre to run the point. Playing on a bad team, he’ll struggle, but the consensus top-100 recruit has all the tools to be a modern point guard.
Aaron Thomas, Florida State: Not many freshman will turn 21 during this season, but not many freshman are like Aaron Thomas. Had schools thought he would qualify he would have been a more highly rated recruit. And as other schools backed off, Coach Hamilton stayed on him. He ended up going from a tough part of Cincinnati to the Brewster Academy in New Hampshire where his scholarship was more valuable than his current one at Florida State. At Brewster he was supposed to be a complimentary piece on a loaded team, and instead he starred, leading them to three wins over the Nerlens Noel and the Tilton School, and a National Title. He adds a tough, slashing presence to the perimeter, complimenting the smoother play of Michael Snaer and Ian Miller.
Marshall Plumlee, Duke: With the graduation of Miles Plumlee, the Blue Devils are a bit thin in the post. Marshall, who redshirted last season, will get plenty of opportunity for minutes in the Duke rotation. He has a year under his belt, is explosive like his brothers, and carries the reputation of being the most offensively gifted of the Plumlees. He finished 2nd in the dunk contest at the McDonald’s All American game. Duke has three players over 6-9: Mason Plumlee, Marshall Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly, and Kelly spends most of his time on the outside.
Shaquille Cleare, Maryland: We’ve officially entered the era where Shaquille will be a common name. Enter Shaquille O’Neal Cleare who now heads to Maryland to be the centerpiece of Mark Turgeon’s rebuilding project. Cleare didn’t grow up like most American stars. His youth was in the Bahamas. He ended up in Houston, where the late bloomer flew up the recruiting charts. His job as a freshman will be to fill up space in the middle and learn how to be a 4/5 in college. Don’t be surprised if he struggles early. His learning curve will be steep, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t be a completely different player at season’s end.
Bishop Daniels, Miami: Daniels was a highly recruited 2-guard who was going to battle for minutes in Miami’s loaded back court last season. But he broke his ankle and missed the entire year. From John Wall’s high school, Daniels is an athletic freak who was rated by Rivals as the No. 4 dunker in the class of 2011 (yes, that’s a thing). This year will be Durand Scott’s going away party, but Daniels should still be in the mix for plenty of minutes. The most intriguing thing will be when he’s mixed in with sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, as fans will get to see what might be the ACC’s most exciting back court of the future. With Larkin’s speed and Daniels’ explosiveness, expect some pyrotechnics.