None ranks among his team’s top two scorers, and each shoots less than 45 percent from the field. But all are posting historically significant numbers that have helped elevate their respective squads in the national polls.
Say hello to Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Virginia’s London Perrantes and Pittsburgh’s James Robinson, underclassman point guards playing with Stockton-like cool and making the expanded ACC a treat to watch.
And they are hardly the league’s only notable lead guards. Count North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins, Clemson’s Rod Hall, Duke’s Quinn Cook and Hampton High graduate Anthony Barber at North Carolina State among the group as well.
But the most conspicuous statistics belong to Ennis, Perrantes and Robinson, who, not coincidentally, play for the ACC’s top three teams. Indeed, for all its changes over the years, college basketball most often is guard-driven, and pity the coach absent a reliable backcourt.
As a kid in the 1970s, I marveled at North Carolina’s Phil Ford, Maryland’s John Lucas, North Carolina State’s Monte Towe and Clemson’s Skip Wise, the latter from my Baltimore stomping ground and the first freshman named first-team All-ACC.
The 1986 foursome of Georgia Tech’s Mark Price, Duke’s Tommy Amaker, North Carolina’s Kenny Smith and Wake Forest’s Muggsy Bogues was equally dynamic, the 1991 group of Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson, N.C. State’s Chris Corchiani, Virginia’s John Crotty and Duke’s Bobby Hurley arguably the best.
If NBA success is part of your criteria, try 2005 and Wake Forest’s Chris Paul, North Carolina’s Raymond Felton and Georgia Tech’s Jarrett Jack. Paul’s a future Hall of Famer, while Felton and Jack remain viable players.
Last season’s crop wasn’t vintage, but Virginia Tech’s Erick Green led the nation in scoring, Shane Larkin guided Miami to improbable ACC regular-season and tournament championships, and N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown made second-team all-conference.
That Green (25 points per game) nearly doubled Larkin’s and Brown’s scoring averages illustrates the position’s irresistible variety. Some point guards are instinctive scorers and/or passers. Some have their roles dictated by systems and/or surrounding personnel.
With teammates such as C.J. Fair, Joe Harris and Lamar Patterson, Ennis, Perrantes and Robinson don’t need to be primary scorers. Rather, they choreograph the offense and distribute the ball, and in the process they’re producing off-the-charts assist-turnover ratios.
North Carolina’s Ty Lawson set the ACC standard in 2009 with a 3.48-1 ratio. He was the league’s player of the year and led the Tar Heels to the national championship. As seasons go, you could do worse.
Robinson (4.74-1), Ennis (3.91-1) may well shatter Lawson’s record, while Perrantes (3.32-1) certainly could surpass it. In conference games, Perrantes heads the class at 4.67, with Robinson on his heels at 4.63.
Perrantes has committed nine turnovers in as many ACC games, and four were against Wake Forest. In the other eight, he has 37 assists and five giveaways, astounding for anyone, unimaginable for a freshman.
Yet as transformative as Perrantes — he only scores 4.4 points per game — has been for 20th-ranked Virginia (17-5, 8-1 ACC), he’s not quite in Ennis territory.
Also a freshman, and the leading scorer among this trio at 12.1 points per game, Ennis has committed more than two turnovers only once. Syracuse (22-0, 9-0) sits atop the national polls and ACC standings, and in the Orange’s overtime classic against Duke on Saturday, Ennis had 14 points — he was 8-of-8 from the foul line — nine assists and two turnovers while playing 40-of-45 minutes.
Blue Devils rookie forward Jabari Parker could be the No. 1 pick of June’s NBA draft, but at this rate, Ennis could nudge him for ACC rookie of the year.
Robinson led the Big East in assist-turnover ratio last season as a freshman (2.83) and is a primary reason Pitt has transtioned so well to the ACC. Pitt (18-4, 6-3) has dropped consecutive games, to Duke and Virginia, and has fallen to 25th in the Associated Press poll, but the former outing was quintessential Robinson: 10 points, five assists, two steals and nary a giveaway.
Panthers coach Jamie Dixon called Robinson’s assist-turnover ratio “amazing” and in describing him outlined Ennis and Perrantes as well.
“He values the possession,” Dixon said. “He values our defense, too. He’s mistake free on the defensive end in most cases, and also on the offensive end. He really has a great understanding of the possession. … It’s something he came here with.”
Adding to the flavor: Their varying backgrounds. Ennis hails from Canada and played high school ball in the shadows of New York City at St. Benedict’s in New Jersey; Perrantes is from Los Angeles, Robinson the renowned DeMatha Catholic in suburban Washington, D.C.
They figure to leave indelible marks in their shared home as well, the ACC.
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