Freshmen Talent On Full Display In Early #ACCTourney Action, But The Best Is Yet To Come

Special to the ACC.com by ACCDN Guest Reporter Jacob Dennis

In 2013, Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan set the ACC Tournament freshman scoring record for a single game by pouring in 41 points on Georgia Tech in an 84-64 Eagles win.  At the time, the record seemed untouchable.  But through two days at the 2015 New York Life ACC Tournament, Hanlan’s record has been tested.  Virginia Tech freshman Jalen Hudson scored 32 points in the Hokies’ 81-80 upset win over Wake Forest Tuesday night, hitting a jumper with 11.7 seconds left to advance his team to a second round matchup with Miami.  Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes followed Hudson’s lead on Wednesday, going off for 30 points to help the ‘Noles survive a late second-half Clemson run.  Hudson and Rathan-Mayes have provided evidence of a fact that will be further proven later in the week: the ACC has the best freshmen in the country.

Hudson’s Tuesday night performance affirmed Buzz Williams’ notion that the freshman is his team’s most talented player, as the 32 points, the most ever by a Hokie in the ACC Tournament, earned him Tuesday’s #ACCStar Twitter award. The 6’5” guard from Richmond, Virginia, has been inconsistent at times this season, but he has stepped up on big stages.  He scored 23 points in a February 25 overtime loss to Duke, and contributed 18 in the Hokies’ near upset of Syracuse on February 3 in the Carrier Dome.  Hudson has had a couple of the best offensive performances of any freshman in the league this season, but here is the scary part: he wasn’t even on the ACC All-Freshman team.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes was, however, named to that team, and his 30 point outburst in FSU’s win over Clemson was his third such performance of the season.  Rathan-Mayes has the scoring ability to keep Florida State, a team who struggles offensively at times, in games with teams who are perhaps more talented.  FSU’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament have all but diminished, but Rathan-Mayes and company have a great chance to disrupt things this week in Greensboro.  Florida State will face top-seeded Virginia, the nation’s best defensive team, in the quarterfinals Thursday.  In order for the ‘Noles to keep the 2015 season alive, their outstanding freshman must turn in another strong offensive performance.

While freshman stars like Hudson and Rathan-Mayes have already made headlines, the conference’s top first-year players have yet to make their tournament debuts.  Duke, who opens its ACC Tournament campaign against NC State, rosters three members of the All-Freshman team in Jahlil Okafor, who is also the ACC Player of the Year, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.

Duke’s freshmen trio averages 41.8 points per game, led by Okafor, who leads the team with a scoring average just shy of 18 points.  So while this year’s ACC Tournament has already seen some incredible performances from young players, the best is likely yet to come.

Fans can vote for the top performer of each day on Twitter using #ACCStar.  So far, Hudson and NC State sophomore “Cat Barber” have earned the honors.

Most Points Scored by a Freshman in an ACC Tournament Game

41: Olivier Hanlan, Boston College vs. Georgia Tech 2013 FR

40: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina vs. Clemson 2011 SF

33: Mark Price, Georgia Tech vs. Virginia 1983 SF

31: Chris King, Wake Forest vs. Duke 1989 QF