by Mike Potter
It’s a rare preseason ACC all-star team in any sport with not a single player from a North Carolina school on it.
Actually, all five come from two other states. Miami’s preseason player of the year Shenise Johnson — last season’s ACC player of the year - and Riquna Williams, are on the first unit, joined by Florida State center Cierra Brevard and Maryland’s center Lynetta Kizer and forward Alyssa Thomas.
And if the members of that panel are right, the conference is also going to have a first-time champion this season.
Miami earned 30 of 40 first-place votes - with the other 10 going to Duke - to win the ACC title in a vote from the panel of national and local media along with school representatives.
The Hurricanes, coached by Duke alumna Katie Meier, finished tied with Duke for the regular-season crown last season after a 12th-place finish the year before.
Maryland was picked to finish third in the standings, followed in order by Florida State, Georgia Tech, UNC, N.C. State, Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech.
The Triangle was better represented on the “Newcomer Watch List” of the five freshmen deemed most likely to success this season. Duke center Elizabeth Williams and forward Amber Henson were named to that quintet along with UNC guard Brittany Rountree, Clemson wing Natiece Ford from Holly Springs, and Georgia Tech guard Sydney Wallace.
They said it:
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “This is my 20th year as a head coach, and I have never coached a team this young (five sophomores and four freshmen out of 13). I think it’s really interesting. The energy is really high and there’s a light feeling about this team. A very light, excited feeling. As a coach I just need to pay attention to them. They’re interesting. They’ve already learned how to turn to each other. … It’s hard to back off the dominance we’ve had in the league in defense. If you look at the stats we’ve had the past two years in pretty much every category we’ve been first. If you back off on pressure you back off on defense. We’ve got a long history that we like to keep close by as a reminder.”
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “We have a lot of uncertainties with (center) Waltiea (Rolle) having her baby in early December and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt coming off shoulder surgery. They may both be ready by mid-December or they could both redshirt. … We have a lot of question marks. We have those two and we have five freshmen. And the good thing is that all five of our freshmen ended their seasons with a win because they all won state championships. That mentality is big.”
N.C. State coach Kellie Harper: “I think seventh is fair. It’s probably exactly where I thought we would be based not only on last season but on returning players for other teams as well. I think it’s very important that we are better sooner this year. I thought our slow start hurt our record because it took us a while to get things figured out. In this league, you need to have some quality wins before you get to conference play. And with our schedule, we have an opportunity to find out where we are before we head into conference play.”
Up next (season openers)
N.C. State vs. Southeast Missouri State, noon, Nov. 11
Duke at Brigham Young, 9 p.m., Nov. 11
UNC vs. Gardner-Webb, 1 p.m., Nov. 12