League's guards make good points

Gilchrist, Felton just two of many solid point guards playing this season in ACC

ACC notebook

January 16, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

To watch John Gilchrist and Raymond Felton go at it for two hours on Wednesday night during Maryland's 90-84 victory over No. 9 North Carolina was to watch a splendid one-on-one matchup within a game dominated by first-rate athletes.

Then again, on any given night in the Atlantic Coast Conference, chances are viewers will witness a high level of point guard play.

Look at what's ahead for Gilchrist. Tomorrow, he will tangle with Georgia Tech sophomore Jarrett Jack, a rising player on the national stage. Next up is Duke senior Chris Duhon, who has been part of 104 victories with the Blue Devils. A week later, it's Wake Forest phenom Chris Paul, who figures to be among the leading vote-getters for national Freshman of the Year.

This could be one of the stronger years in recent memory for the ACC. And the same superlatives are worthy when looking at the quarterback position.

"Watching John and Felton get after it the way they did, I don't know if people realize how special that is," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Whether it's Felton or Jack or Duhon or John, there's five or six point guards in the ACC that can compete on the national level. Those guys can play with anyone in the country."

Felton, who could be headed to the NBA after this season, leads the ACC with an average of 8.2 assists and has averaged 21 points in his three conference games. Paul is Wake's third-leading scorer (12.8 ppg), is averaging 5.8 assists and leads the nation with 4.17 steals a game. Jack is second on Tech in scoring (13.1 ppg), is averaging 7.0 assists and has cut down on the turnovers that marred his freshman year.

Oh, did we forget Florida State senior Nate Johnson, who is holding down the fort for sophomore Todd Galloway, one of the bright point guards of the ACC's future? Galloway attended City College before he went Notre Dame Academy in Virginia. All Johnson has done is chalk up an astounding assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.82, more than a full point ahead of Duhon, his nearest competitor in that category.

Romero to sit out

It's official. Florida State junior forward Diego Romero will not play this season. But the news is still good in Tallahassee for the Argentina native, who was reinstated by the NCAA last weekend. It had banned the former junior college player for signing two pro contracts while in Argentina and receiving $2,400 in living expenses.

Romero was entering his second year at Lon Morris (Texas) College when the NCAA's tougher rules went into effect regarding foreign players in August 2002. The NCAA refused to grandfather him in and other junior-college transfers in the same situation. Now, it will hold them to pre-2002 guidelines, which call for a maximum eight-game suspension.

Florida State has decided to grant Romero a redshirt season. He'll sit out the season and will not have to serve any suspension. Romero has missed the Seminoles' first 15 games while appealing to the NCAA. He will get to play for two full seasons.

"I want to play so bad, and I've been practicing with the team," said Romero, who also was recruited by Kentucky and Indiana. "I think to redshirt this year and have two full years is the best thing. I don't think I'm right now in the best shape of my life. I have been through a lot of stuff."

Clemson on rise

The Clemson Tigers are 8-6, which doesn't look too impressive by ACC standards at the moment. But this team does not appear to be a pushover. Not after whipping Boston College recently by 10 points. Not after holding Florida State to 48 points in a recent victory at Littlejohn Coliseum.

First-year coach Oliver Purnell promised the Tigers would be a tough, physical team that will make its living playing defense and hitting the glass - much like Purnell's did for years at Dayton. Clemson is second in the ACC in rebounding margin, behind Maryland. Forwards Sharrod Ford (7.7 rpg) and Chris Hobbs (6.6 rpg), who comprise one of the bulkier tandems in the league, are each ranked in the top 10 in rebounding.

But Clemson also is getting a lift from a another source. Freshman point guard Vernon Hamilton is quietly putting together a solid year.

"Vernon has certainly been up and down. But at the same time, you've got to be pleased with his progress when you put it in perspective," Purnell said. "We know we're going to get five or six rebounds out of him. He's feeling less and less like a freshman and more like a floor leader every day."

Hamilton, who ranks seventh in the ACC with 4.1 assists a game, is one of two freshmen (Paul is the other) to lead his team in assists.

Heels' Williams hurting

North Carolina forward Jawad Williams has experienced a concussion and a broken nose in the past three weeks. The day after breaking his nose while playing Georgia Tech on Sunday, the school took the unusual step of declaring him "very doubtful" for Wednesday's Maryland game, because Williams had post-traumatic headaches.

But after the headaches were determined by team doctors to be related to the nose injury, Williams came off the bench, wearing a protective mask. He scored five points in 12 minutes and was not a factor in Maryland's victory.

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