We like the term, although we haven't heard it in a while. "Ball hawk" has a ring to it, a sense of swooping in for the kill that is both descriptive and appropriate.
The ACC has several active ball hawks rising through the ranks of career leaders in total steals and steals per game, most prominently Virginia Tech's Jamon Gordon and Clemson's Vernon Hamilton.
Keep in mind that the league did not keep steal records prior to the 1977 season, which means these are modern marks and an incomplete gauge of historic prowess at swiping the ball.
Note, too, that Virginia Tech's Gordon and Zabian Dowdell will not appear among ACC career steal leaders despite gathering more than 200 each in their four years as Hokies. (Dowdell has 196 to date, so we are projecting. Slightly.) Gordon and Dowdell spent their first season at Blacksburg playing in the Big East. The ACC does not count modern statistics compiled in another league, although it did include Southern Conference stats for holdover players when the league was founded.
Gordon projects to finish with 280 career steals at his current rate of 2.4 per game, with 18 regular season games remaining and presumably at least two contests in postseason. (That total would unofficially be fifth-best in ACC annals.) Gordon this season passed Clemson's Vernon Hamilton in career steals (231), and in eight fewer games -- 95 versus 103.
Hamilton, given the same 20 games to go and a 2.2 per-game average, could finish with 270 career steals. That would rank sixth, behind Wake Forest's Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues, who had 275 steals from 1984 through 1987 and just ahead of Duke's Shane Battier (266 from 1998 to 2001).
The official ACC record for steals in a career is 344, set by Maryland's Johnny Rhodes (1993-96). Rhodes also holds the mark for career steals per game at 2.8. Neither standard appears threatened by an active player.
The ACC will count Gordon's 2.43 per-game career steal rate, since only two league seasons are sufficient to qualify and this is his third. Currently the senior from Jacksonville, Florida, ranks seventh on the ACC per-game list, just behind UNC's Walter Davis (2.44 from 1975 through 1977) and ahead of Maryland's Juan Dixon (2.36 from 1999 through 2002).
Hamilton's 83 steals in 2006 led the ACC, a first for a Clemson player. His career average of 2.19 steals per game would place him 15th, between a pair of Dukies, Jim Spanarkel (2.21 from 1976-79) and Jason Williams (2.18 from 2000 to 2002).
Hamilton's steal every 12.64 minutes played is best among active leaders. Virginia's Sean Singletary is fifth in steals per game with 1.68, best among ACC juniors with at least 100 to their credit.
Active Leaders In Career Steals
|Player, School||Steals||Per Game||Minutes Per||Steals Prior To '07 Season|
|Jamon Gordon, VT||231||2.43||13.78||196|
|Vernon Hamilton, C||226||2.19||12.64||201|
|Zabian Dowdell, VT||196||1.96||17.23||170|
|D.J. Strawberry, M||167||1.86||13.81||133|
|Jared Dudley, BC||149||1.35||26.50||134|
|Engin Atsur, NCS||144||1.44||22.06||138|
|Cliff Hammonds, C*||122||1.61||18.57||99|
|Sean Singletary, V*||114||1.68||19.02||102|
- Boston College's Jared Dudley is the only forward in this group. His first two seasons came in Big East play.
- The loss of Engin Atsur has hurt N.C. State in more than the ballhandling category. The Wolfpack, which suffered 32 turnovers in a loss at Cincinnati, also has missed Atsur's
- Even with guards Hamilton and Hammonds, Clemson's steal leader this season is center James Mays. He has 27 in 12 games, compared to 25 and 23, respectively, for his teammates.
- Five of the active steals leaders have first names that end with the letter "n," as in nose for the ball or nuisance to the opposition.