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Really (Really) Big Men In The ACC

Zion Williamson is just in the lower end.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Washington DC
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after being called for a foul in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Back at the start of this century, when Duke students didn’t follow cheat sheets to coordinate cheers and commentary, Florida State had a huge player named Nigel Dixon.

The good-natured Orlando product stood 6-10 and across his FSU career from the 2000 through 2002 seasons he worked hard to drop his weight from a gargantuan 350 pounds to a slightly more svelte 340.

A late bloomer as a basketball player, Dixon transferred to Western Kentucky and finished his career in 2004. Then it was on to a modest pro career, mostly in Greece and the G-League.

Dixon was nicknamed “Big Jelly”, presumably for the way his poundage jiggled. When he came to Durham, Cameron Crazies were waiting with a half-mocking, half- teasing salute.

“Please don’t eat me!” they chanted as a distraction as Dixon shot a free throw during the first half of a Duke win.

More recently, over the past decade six 300-pounders had an impact in the ACC, led by the Wolfpack’s Chukwunonso Nduka “Beejay” Anya at 320 pounds. Anya used an exceptional reach to set the modern Wolfpack record with 243 career blocks. Undrafted by the NBA in 2017, he played sporadically in Europe, at last report weighing 325.

Shortly after Anya left the ACC stage observers were dazzled by one Zion Williamson, an incredibly nimble, mobile, skilled 285-pound Blue Devil freshman. Williamson went from the Cameron court to the top pick in the 2019 draft, a marvel unlikely to be duplicated.

Along with serenading Big Jelly, Crazies once entertained by helpfully greeting Tar Heel guard Steve Hale, recovering from a partially collapsed lung, with responsive cross-court chants of “Inhale” and “Exhale”. Earlier, riffing on the name of an NC State player during Norman Sloan’s tenure as head coach (1967-80), they went with “Mrs. Sloan loves Norm’s Tiny Pender”.

Current students bring as much energy and devotion as ever to cheering, but their creativity is a bit lacking. They’re now apt to accept spoon-fed, unimaginative printed directives urging, for instance, “When an opposing player receives his fourth foul: Wave four fingers at the player and yell ‘Four’”. Clever.

Maybe the Cameron crowd can break out of its sarcasm slump when the conference season rolls around. They’ll have a chance to offer greetings to a pair of 260-pound ACC wonders, the heftiest entries on preseason rosters, and a 270-pounder not on a roster when the 2021-22 season began.

Wake brings literal big man Tariq Ingraham, a 6-9 sophomore. Virginia Tech boasts 6-8 Jalen Haynes. Louisville, with similarly-sized Sydney Curry, will host Duke.

Incidentally Wake Forest’s roster listed 6-6 Damari Monsanto prior to the season, but he’s gone. Chemistry wasn’t right, apparently.

BEHEMOTHS OF THE HARDWOOD
Heaviest Players in ACC Since 2012
(Five Years Include Redshirt Seasons)
Player, School Top Weight Height Previous Progression
Beejay Anya, NCS 320 (2017) 6-9 290 (2016), 295 (2015), 275 (2014)
Michael Ojo, FS 304 (2017) 7-1 294 (2016), 292 (2015), 290 (2014), 290 (2013)
Rozelle Nix, UP 300 (2017) 6-11 300 (2016)
KC Caudill, BC 300 (2015) 6-11 269 (2014), 275 (2013), 287 (2012)
Zion Williamson, D 285 (2019) 6-7 Freshman
Joel James, NC 280 (2016) 6-11 280 (2015), 280 (2014), 260 (2013)
Dejuan Coleman, SU 280 (2014) 6-9 258 (2017), 255 (2016), 255 (2015)