Maryland's Joe Smith took a significant step toward being named the Atlantic Coast Conference's Player of the Year yesterday, as the 6-foot-10 sophomore was the leading vote-getter of the Atlantic Coast Sports Writers Association's all-conference team.
Smith was named to the first team on all but two of the 114 ballots cast. Joining Smith on the first team were three other sophomores -- Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace of North Carolina and Tim Duncan of Wake Forest -- along with senior guard Randolph Childress of Wake Forest.
Maryland junior guard Johnny Rhodes was named third-team All-ACC.
Georgia Tech guard Travis Best narrowly missed first-team honors, leading the second-team balloting. Joining Best were Florida State guard Bob Sura, a first-team selection as a junior last year, as well as forward/center Cherokee Parks of Duke, guard Harold Deane of Virginia and center Todd Fuller of North Carolina State.
In addition to Rhodes, the other third-team selections were Virginia's Junior Burrough, Georgia Tech's James Forrest, North Carolina's Jeff McInnis and Florida State's James Collins. Three other Maryland players (Duane Simpkins, Exree Hipp and Keith Booth) received honorable mention.
The ACC Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year will be announced after this week's ACC tournament. Smith and Stackhouse are considered the two favorites for Player of the Year, and Maryland's Gary Williams is among several being mentioned for Coach of the Year.
"I think Joe proved through the entire year that he was the best player," Maryland interim coach Billy Hahn said last night. "The other night against Duke [when Smith had a career-high 40, including the tip-in for a 94-92 win] might have sealed it. I think he would be very deserving."
Smith becomes the second player in ACC history to be named to the first team during his freshman and sophomore years. Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson did it in 1990 and 1991. (Anderson turned pro after his sophomore year.)
Smith led the ACC in scoring (20.9 ppg) and was second in rebounding (10.2) and field-goal percentage (.594). He was third in blocked shots (2.8). He also ranked in the top 10 in free-throw percentage and steals.
Rhodes led the ACC in steals (2.7) and was fourth in field-goal percentage (.545) while averaging 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Rhodes' improved shooting -- up from 41.9 his first two years -- was the biggest difference in his game this season.
"I'm very, very happy for Johnny Rhodes," said Hahn, who has been credited with improving the 6-foot-4 guard's shooting. "Sometimes the basketball purist can appreciate some of the things Johnny Rhodes does, but the average basketball fan can't."
There are a number of voters who don't appreciate what Smith and Stackhouse do. Though Smith's receiving two second-team votes is odd, Stackhouse's getting 11 is downright bizarre since he was named Sports Illustrated's National Player of the Year last week.