By Mychal Hunter
To be quite frank, this is one of my favorite players to watch play in the ACC. Coming in at number 13b, Eli Thomas.
Rim protecting big men are the best, aren’t they? Only two of the top 10 shot blockers in the ACC from last year return this season, Thomas and Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu.
Thomas owns fantastic timing on the help side and ability to block his own man one on one without fouling. A trait few big men possess. As a junior, he averaged 10.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He is also a bit foul prone at 3.2 per game, but was only disqualified in two contests in 17-18.
When discussing Clemson’s success last season, mny people will point to Gabe Devoe’s ridiculous shooting. However, it would be a disservice not to mention Thomas. The 6’9 center logged nine double-doubles in 2017-18. Clemson was 7-2 in those games. He also managed fifteen games with three or more blocks. Clemson’s record in those games was 13-2. Coincidentally, both losses in those instances were games that #18 on this list, Shelton Mitchell, missed with a concussion.
Apart from being a statistical power house, Thomas is also the emotional leader of this team. A fiery young man who has no problem being an intimidator while trying to give the Tigers a mental edge.
Eli Thomas will be my selection to win the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. That is the first prediction I have released this offseason and possibly the one I feel most confident in.