ACC has growth spurt at '3'

Staff WriterOctober 4, 2009 

  • Seven of the 12 starting small forwards in the ACC this season could be 6 feet 8 or taller, compared to three this past season.

    School, projected starter 2009-10; starter 2008-09

    Boston College: Corey Raji, 6-6; Corey Raji, 6-6

    Clemson: Milton Jennings, 6-9; K.C. Rivers, 6-5

    Duke: Kyle Singler, 6-8; Gerald Henderson, 6-4

    Florida State: Chris Singleton, 6-9; Chris Singleton, 6-9

    Georgia Tech: De'Andre Bell, 6-6; Lewis Clinch, 6-3

    Maryland: Eric Hayes, 6-4; Sean Mosley, 6-4

    Miami: DeQuan Jones, 6-7; Brian Asbury, 6-7

    North Carolina: John Henson, 6-10; Danny Green, 6-6

    N.C. State: Dennis Horner, 6-9; Brandon Costner, 6-8

    Virginia: Tristan Spurlock, 6-8; Mamadi Diane, 6-5

    Virginia Tech: J.T. Thompson, 6-6; A.D. Vassallo, 6-6

    Wake Forest: Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-9; James Johnson, 6-8

At 6 feet 9, Florida State's Chris Singleton stood out as the tallest starting "3" in the ACC last season. Now, he's part of a growing number of players in the league who could make the term "small forward" an oxymoron.

As many as seven conference players 6-8 or taller could start at small forward, up from three (Singleton, Wake Forest's James Johnson and N.C. State's Brandon Costner) in 2008-09. Part of the reason is necessity: Many of the league's perimeter stars are gone, shifting the balance of power to big men.

Another part of the reason: Big men aren't just post players anymore.

"I just think that's where the game is headed ... that you'll see more and more taller guys playing the '3,' and not just in the pros," said Singleton, a sophomore. "Guys have seen in the past couple of years that the more versatile you get, the more things you can do, the better you are in the long run. A lot of guys have discovered that and worked on more versatile skills starting when they were younger."

Singleton, for instance, didn't undergo his 6-inch growth spurt until high school. Until then, he played mostly point guard and shooting guard, enabling him to forge the ballhandling and shooting skills necessary to make a "small" forward a threat inside and out.

"I used to fantasize about being Magic Johnson -- about being able to do it all,'' he said.

And even guys who grow early are less likely to settle for only practicing post moves these days.

"There was an age where coaches didn't want their big guys to go out more than 12 or 14 feet,'' said University of North Carolina radio analyst Eric Montross, who played center for the Tar Heels, and then played in the NBA for eight seasons. "But not many guys want to sit in the post anymore, ... and that comes from watching the big, tall, thin, versatile guys who have made it big in the NBA, like Kevin Garnett."

As players such as Singleton have started to create tall matchup problems on the wing, opposing coaches have begun recruiting more giant, versatile "3s." Three incoming freshmen -- 6-10 John Henson at North Carolina, 6-9 Milton Jennings at Clemson and 6-8 Tristan Spurlock at Virginia -- will be competing to start at small forward at their respective schools (although all could see minutes in the post, as well).

Meanwhile, Duke's Kyle Singler (6-8) and Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9) are expected to move from their post positions to the 3 spot, making for sizable (and formidable) frontcourts. In addition, N.C. State grew so used to a big lineup last season that it wouldn't be surprising to see 6-9 Dennis Horner replace 6-8 Costner. Georgia Tech has plenty of size, too, and although it remains a question who will start at small forward, the Yellow Jackets could have the ability to go big, too, by playing 6-9 Gani Lawal, 6-10 Derrick Favors and 6-8 Zach Peacock at the same time.

And then, of course, there's Singleton, who won't be looking down on so many opposing ACC "small" forwards this season -- but doesn't seem to care.

"I'm just looking forward to facing everybody this season ... no matter their size,'' he said. "I'm just ready to get started."

'Following' your favorites: Don't be surprised if you see North Carolina forward Ed Davis wearing a No. 1 Marcus Ginyard jersey at a football game or two this season. The teammates, according to their Twitter accounts, waged a good-natured bet over the Internet site over how many "followers" each could get by a deadline, and Ginyard apparently won.

The fifth-year senior, as of Friday, had about 2,200 followers; Davis, a sophomore, had 1,990.

Twitter is a social networking site that asks users to answer "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or fewer. A UNC team spokesman said players have permission from coach Roy Williams to tweet, as long as they are responsible with the content they post. Fans can follow Ginyard at "MGINYARD" and Davis at "eddavis32".

Tweeting area ACC players include Duke's Jon Scheyer ("JonScheyer"), UNC's John Henson ("johnhenson31") and UNC's Justin Watts ("MyNameisJWatts")

robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944; on Twitter at bylinerp

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