We missed it.
We recognized the accomplishment when Moses Wright, the lightly recruited Georgia Tech big man, emerged to earn senior-year recognition as 2021 ACC player of the year. What we failed to do, however, was to place Wright with other seeming overachievers who wound up commanding recognition as a season’s premier player.
That miss became germane when Alondes Williams followed Wright in winning 2022 POY honors, having slipped into the ACC following two years in junior college and two at Oklahoma. Williams’s JC career was stellar; his turn with the Sooners not so much. Then he transferred to Wake for a fifth year and was deemed best in the ACC, a first for a grad transfer student.
We won’t get into whether the POY denotes the league’s most important player or its most valuable or its best, or some other parsed value associated with the achievement. Suffice it to say, we regard the POY as the player deemed the best in the league based on personal performance and team impact.
We got to thinking about this when we came across a name from the past that marked the arrival of Virginia’s basketball program as a legitimate ACC force.
Guard Barry Parkhill lifted the Cavs to a 21-7 record in 1972, their first 20-win mark in their first 19 seasons of league membership. UVa finished tied with a talented Maryland team for second in ’72, when “BP For President” signs heralded Parkhill’s popularity at Charlottesville as he led the conference in scoring (21.6). He eventually commanding unanimous selection as first-team All-ACC.
The next year, as a senior Parkhill led Virginia to a 13-12 record, the first time the program notched consecutive winning seasons from 1954 until the late 1970s under coach Terry Holland. As in 1971, he made second team All-ACC.
In truth, over the 50 years starting with Parkhill’s breakout junior season there were a few other ACC players who barely registered on recruiters’ radar, only to emerge as standouts in college.
Maryland big man Joe Smith was for a long time almost as anonymous in prep circles as his name. Unknown Tim Duncan, brought to coach Dave Odom’s attention by Chris King, a former Demon Deacon player on a playing tour of the Caribbean, was considered the third-best prospect in his 1993-94 Wake recruiting class.
Little-sought Erick Green, the nation’s 269th-best prospect according to 247 Sports, led the league in scoring in 2013 and became the only POY to play for an ACC team with a losing record.
Then there was Wake’s unheralded Alondes Williams (18.5), a Wisconsin product who slipped from Trinity College in Illinois to Oklahoma to Wake Forest for a single, fifth college season in 2022.
Keep this history in mind before getting sucked into accepting contemporary ratings of prospects.