If the season-long trend continues, Miami point-guard Shane Larkin could become one of the biggest surprise winners in the long history of the ACC player of the year award.
A 5-foot-11 sophomore from Orlando, Larkin did make the league’s all-freshman team last season but wasn’t a factor at all in preseason ’12-’13 all-star voting.
In fact, Larkin began the season generally rated no higher than the third or fourth top playmaker in the league – behind N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown and Virginia Tech’s Erick Green and generally in line with Virginia’s Jontel Evans.
Larkin has emerged as the key player in the Hurricanes’ 13-0 league start, but he’s the first to point out that the team’s extensive experience and abundance of talented big men have made it easy for him to find open passing targets and get open shooting attempts.
“Playing the point on this team is a dream job,” Larkin said after the Hurricanes’ 90-63 win over Duke on Jan. 23.
The jockeying for league player of the year will continue through the end of regular season and the field is crowded with Green, Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, N.C. State’s Brown, Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie and Larkin teammate Kenny Kadji all likely to get at least some voting support.
Leslie was the preseason pick by the coaches and media as top player, joining Brown, Plumlee, Florida State’s Michael Snaer, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock as the most popular picks for preseason all-conference.
If Larkin – or Green for that matter – wind up with the top-player award, it’ll probably rate as the biggest surprise since Clemson forward Horace Grant in 1987.
Grant still stands as the only Clemson winner in basketball and did not receive a single preseason vote for all-conference in ‘86-‘87.
In 1966, Duke senior guard Steve Vacendak became a ballot box anom aly when he won the player of the year award but did not get voted to the first team. Eight players, including Blue Devil teammates Jack Marin and Bob Verga, received more all-conference votes but in the player of the year vote, Vacendak won by a landslide over Marin and Carolina’s Bob Lewis. Go figure.
Three years later, 1969, South Carolina guard John Roche pulled another shocker. A sophomore in an era when freshmen were not allowed on varsity teams, Roche was a slender 6-foot-2 New Yorker who was rated as the third best player in a recruit class than included high school All-American center Tom Owens.
Roche repeated in 1970 but was knocked off by Wake Forest guard Charlie Davis in the 1971 top-player vote. Only two players – the Wolfpack’s David Thompson and Virginia center Ralph Sampson – have won the award three straight seasons.
The top player award presented by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association isn’t named in honor of anyone, however. It would be fitting tribute to make it the David Thompson ACC Player of the Year Award.
Do I hear a second?