CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As one half of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top returning scoring backcourt, Miami's Malcolm Grant thinks he and teammate Durand Scott have earned at least a little respect.
So, when Grant's phone rang recently and a family member told him he and Scott weren't included in a ranking of the nation's top backcourts headed into the coming season by a certain "world-wide leader" in sports broadcasting, Grant was spitting angry.
Grant and Scott represent the only returning backcourt duo in the ACC to prove its collective scoring prowess last season. Among the ACC's top 13 scorers last season, eight of the players were guards.
Six of those guards – Duke's Nolan Smith (the ACC's leading scorer with 20.6 points per game last season), Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (18.7), Boston College's Reggie Jackson (18.2) Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert (17.3), Clemson's Demontez Stitt (14.5) and Virginia's Mustapha Farrakhan (13.5) – have departed the conference.
Only Grant and Scott, who was 12th in the ACC last season with 13.6 points per game, remain from those top eight guards.
Virginia Tech's Erick Green (23rd in ACC last season with 11.6 points per game) and Dorenzo Hudson have also shown their scoring chops, but Hudson played just nine games last season before sitting out and taking a redshirt year due to foot surgery. Hudson averaged 10.4 points per game last season, and was 10th in the ACC in the 2009-10 season with 15.2 points per game.
Despite the absence of a plethora of proven backcourt scorers, several guards in the ACC that have yet to break out as scorers have the potential to emerge this season. North Carolina State guard Lorenzo Brown saw it happen last season.
"You never really know," said Brown, who averaged 9.3 points per game last season as a freshman starter. "Last year, I'd never really heard of Reggie Jackson before. Then, he just took off like a rocket."
Jackson, who averaged seven points as a freshman and 12.9 points as a sophomore, developed into one of the ACC's most dangerous offensive threats last season as a junior. He left BC after last season and was selected 24th overall in June by Oklahoma City in the National Basketball Association draft.
"I think guys are developing well around the whole league," said Clemson senior guard Andre Young, who finished 25th in the ACC last season with 11.1 points per game. "I don't think you can underestimate anyone really. You're in the ACC for a reason. These guys are great basketball players."
Georgia Tech's Glen Rice (18th in the ACC last season with 12.8 points per game), Maryland's Terrell Stoglin (24th in the ACC last season with 11.4 points per game), U.Va.'s Joe Harris (10.4 points per game last season) and Wake Forest's C.J. Harris (10.3 points per game last season) took big strides last season toward becoming dependable backcourt scoring threats.
As usual, North Carolina and Duke are loaded with that kind of guard talent.
UNC junior Dexter Strickland (7.5 points per game last season), sophomore Kendall Marshall (6.2 points per game last season) and freshman P.J. Hairston, plus Duke juniors Seth Curry (nine points per game last season) and Andre Dawkins (8.1 points per game last season) and freshmen Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook all could step up this season.
"North Carolina still has the same group of talent that they've had," said Florida State guard Michael Snaer, a 6-5 sophomore who has developed a reputation as one of the ACC's best defenders while playing for a team that led the nation last season in field goal percentage defense (36.3). "Duke is always going to have a good recruiting class. You have a lot of guys who are coming in that are talented, and some guys that haven't been able to show it yet.
"It's a good situation for some guys. Some teams have new coaches or new systems, or are trying to get it right with old systems they've had. It makes a huge difference going from a role player to a go-to guy in those systems."