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The Most Indispensible Players

By Jim Johnson, The

Hear ye, hear ye!
Court is back in session and it’s time for part two of my
exciting and informative four-part preview series. This week, I tell
you who is the Most Indispensable Player on each team in the ACC.
The MIP (a CourtMaster original) is not necessarily the best player
on a team’s roster, but he is the player whose absence from a
game would make their fans say, “We’re screwed.”
This was not as easy to do with some teams as in the past. There are
several ACC squads without any obviously indispensable players, but I
dug deep when I had to.

Now, here are the ACC’s
Most Indispensable Players.

Boston College-F
Craig Smith

The Eagles became one
of the favorites to challenge Duke for ACC supremacy this season the
day Smith announced he was returning to college and putting off his
pro basketball career. He is BC’s best all around player.
Smith has great hands for a big man. He is effective on the low
post, clearing out space with his no-longer-wide body, and has
extended his shooting range over his career. He has developed into a
strong rebounder and defensive player. His coach, Al Skinner, told
the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, “He is always going to be a focal
point of our team.”

Clemson-F Akin

With the departure of
Sharrod Ford, the Tigers have no other experienced big man, making
the development of Akingbala critical to the success. He is a senior
who has played well in bursts. At 6’ 9”, 238 pounds,
Akingbala has the physical ability to be a force in both the low-post
offense and as a rebounder and shot-blocker on the defensive end.
The Tigers will need at least a solid 25 minutes a game from him to
have any hope of a strong inside game this season.

Duke-C Shelden

No, I didn’t
forget about J. J. Redick. Obviously Duke would be in deep weeds
without him this season. The weeds would be even taller without
Williams, however. The basis for Coach K’s squads, and usually
for any successful sports team, is defense. Shelden Williams is the
anchor of Duke’s defense. He is arguably the best shot-blocker
and one of the best rebounders in the nation, and has also developed
a solid low-post offensive game. His combination of skill,
toughness, and experience is the most irreplaceable key to the Blue
Devils’ success this season.

Florida State-G Todd

Two things clearly
missing from last year’s Seminole team were chemistry and
leadership. There is no better place to look for that than a veteran
point guard, and Galloway fills that bill. A senior who has led FSU
in assists the past two seasons, Galloway, like so many Seminoles,
will be counted on to lift his game up to a new level. He is a
tenacious defender and accurate three-point shooter who needs to
become more of a floor general and make his teammates better.

Georgia Tech-To be
named later

I have compiled this
list several times over the years, and this was the first time I
honestly couldn’t think of any one player on a team being
indispensable. North Carolina, despite receiving most of the media’s
attention, is not the only ACC team to be gutted by graduation or
early departures. More of Georgia Tech’s was expected,
although Coach Paul Hewitt did not plan on losing point guard recruit
Austin Jackson to pro baseball before he set foot on campus. There
are several talented players who will need to step up, but no
clear-cut leader—yet.

Maryland-G D. J.

Although Strawberry
does not put up impressive numbers, there is clear evidence that his
presence on the court is critical for Maryland’s success. At
the time Strawberry sustained a season-ending knee injury last
January, the Terps had a 10-4 record. Without him, they went 6-8
until winning three straight in the NIT. Even more noteworthy,
Maryland finished last in the ACC in scoring defense. It’s
hard to imagine that happening with a healthy Strawberry bringing his
defensive pressure and on-court intensity to the team.

Miami-G Guillermo

Some high scoring
guards need to work through a series of screens set by him teammates
to get good looks at the basket, but not Diaz. He is the epitome of
a slasher, blessed with the ability to dart through defenses and
score. Diaz also has the knack of playing his best against the
toughest opposition. He averaged 18.6 points per game last season,
but upped that to 22.9 against the Hurricanes’ nine ranked
opponents. If he is able to improve his outside shooting, he could
trail only Redick as the most explosive guard in the ACC.

North Carolina-F
Tyler Hansbrough

Chapel Hill is
generally not a place for freshman to make an impact, much less crack
the starting lineup. Expect Tyler Hansbrough to do both this season.
Hansbrough, listed at 6’9”, 235 pounds, was the star of
an excellent (and desperately needed) recruiting haul for Coach Roy
Williams. He has been compared to a young Christian Laettner,
partially because of his build and partly because of a mean streak on
the court. Williams told the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, “Tyler is
strong when he gets the ball inside…..He’s an aggressive
youngster who is going to do some nice things for us.” He’d
better because David Noel would be the next option inside.

NC State-F Ilian

Few players in the
nation are more suited to their team’s style of play than
Evtimov is to the Wolfpack’s Princeton offense. He is a
forward whose hang time would only be measured by how much he hangs
around the practice gym. Evtimov does possess a sweet jumper, is a
good ball-handler, and knows how to play the game. Not only was
Evtimov on fire from three-point range much of last season, he led NC
State in charges taken and was second in passes deflected. He will
need to take on more of the mantle of leadership for the Pack to have
a successful season.

Virginia-G Sean

The Cavaliers
desperately need someone to step up and be both a playmaker and a
leader to avoid having new coach Dave Leitao’s first season be
a total disaster. Singletary should be up to the challenge. He
showed signs of that last year despite being hindered by a lingering
shoulder injury, and he is 100% healthy going into this season.
There aren’t a lot of other options on the roster, so look for
Singletary to have the ball, and the fate of the team, in his hands a
lot this season.

Virginia Tech-G
Zabian Dowdell

Dowdell was the Hokies’
leading scorer last season and will need to accept an even bigger
load this year with the departure of Carlos Dixon. Coach Seth
Greenberg told the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, “Zabian is a guy that
really has a great ability to create separation and score.”
Dowdell will be Greenberg’s first option at crunch time. His
outstanding athleticism will give him, and his team, a chance to be
successful in those situations.

Wake Forest-G Justin

You don’t often
see a player of Gray’s proven ability be asked to change his
role, but that is the situation he faces this season. After the
early departure of point guard Chris Paul to the NBA following last
season, Gray will be assuming much of the ball-handling and
playmaking duties for this year’s Demon Deacons. He will need
to do that without sacrificing much of his scoring, a challenge he
appears ready to accept. Should he falter in either area, the
Deacons chances of staying near the top of the ACC will take a big

The CourtMaster’s

A few notes from this
week’s exhibition games:

Wake Forest shook off a
88-84 win over Winston-Salem State that felt more like a loss by
hammering Mars Hill. Freshmen Cameron Stanley and Harvey Hale played
particularly well in the Deacons’ big win.

Maryland’s D. J.
Strawberry made a strong case for his MIP designation, dishing out
seven assists and making six steals while running the point in the
Terps’ win over St. Francis Xavier.

Tyler Hansborough also
made me look smart by starting off North Carolina’s win over
Fayetteville State very strong. Hansborough, who apparently has
earned the name “Psycho T,” scored nine points and
blocked two shots in the first four minutes, and the Tar Heels were
off to the races.

Duke, NC State, Miami,
Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech all easily won exhibition
games last week.

The 2005-06 season
officially gets underway Tuesday night with games in the first round
of the Coaches vs. Cancer classic. The ACC swings into action
Thursday night when Virginia Tech hosts Radford in the first round of
the NABC classic and Wake Forest plays visiting Mississippi Valley
State in the first round of the 2k Sports College Hoops Classic,
whatever that is.

That’s what I
think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail
You can check out more of my work (you gotta have more CourtMaster!)
on my blog at

Until next week, court
is adjourned!