By Mychal Hunter
So far, the 2018-19 season has been…unpredictable for some teams in the ACC. There are teams that are underachieving and there are surprises everywhere.
Some of the most interesting surprises are individual players who are surpassing expectations by a wide margin. Today, I want to take a look at five of them.
- Xavier Johnson-Pitt: Anyone familiar with my thoughts this season knew this was the most obvious choice. Just 15 months ago Xavier was ranked 406th in his class. Today, he is averaging 17 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game for Jeff Capel in the ACC. While Pitt’s competition has been fairly underwhelming, you cannot argue with numbers. Johnson is the biggest surprise in the 2018 freshman class.
- Wynston Tabbs-BC: This guy has an argument to be the biggest shock of the league this year as well. The 6’2 combo guard out of Maryland ranked 297th in the 2018 class according to 247’s final recruiting rankings. In his last six contests he is averaging 36.7 minutes per game. He is making the most of his opportunity as well scoring 19.3 points while getting 4.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds and 2 steals. He trails Ky Bowman by 35 points on the season, but has 10 fewer turnovers and as many win shares (1.7) as the All-American. Jim Christian can flat out coach guards.
- James Banks III-Georgia Tech: Deemed eligible for this season a few games after it started, Banks has been awesome for the rambling wreck. After totaling less than 500 minutes and averaging 1.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in two seasons at Texas, the Georgia native returned home and has been a linchpin for Josh Pastner. In 10 games this year the former top 50 recruit is averaging 9.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
- Jack White-Duke: I like to say: when talent and opportunity meet, good things tend to happen. This is what we are seeing with Mr. White. During his two previous seasons in Durham, White never averaged better than 6.1 minutes per game. This season he is receiving 24.8 minutes of run and showing he deserves it. The 6’7 Aussie is averaging 7.2 points and 6.8 rebounds for the #1 team in the country. He is shooting a career high 38% from deep and is even providing a rim protecting presence with 1.3 blocks per game.
- Christen Cunningham-Louisville: A player that I literally knew nothing about coming into the season, Cunningham has emerged as the best point guard in Chris Mack’s stable. He has also seemingly found his stroke hiding in Louisville as the career 29% three points shooter is connecting at a 38.5% rate so far this season. With Darius Perry’s inconsistency and Kwhan Fore being more of a defensive stopper, Cunningham should receive most of the run for the Cardinals at the point guard spot the rest of the season. If Louisville is going to continue to surprise this season he will have to be a bit more consistent in the scoring department, but for now that 2:1 A/TO will work just fine.