We're 7 games into the season, so we have enough of a sample size to see some trends in the basketball season. Of course, adjustments get made and everything changes in ACC play, but we have various impressions of the Demon Deacons. And one such impression is the play of freshmen C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart...
15.6 Min, 8.6 Points, 3.3 rebounds
.48 FG%, .5 FT%, .476 3PT%
.611 effective FG%, 108.3 offensive rating
Stewart's explosion in the Gonzaga game was eye-opening. There was no doubt that Ari would light it up, but it was just a question of when. He was expected to make a big impact and we thought all along that he'd be starting by the end of the year. His combination of ball-handling, shooting and size makes him an ideal SF and although Al-Farouq Aminu wants to play the 3, if he shifts down to the 4, he can use his quickness to provide a mismatch and also get him down where he can grab rebounds and get garbage buckets.
Even if Aminu sticks at the 3, Wake can play a smaller lineup and put Ari at the 4 but play a similar game to what the Orlando Magic do with Rashard Lewis. Lewis is not a prototypical PF at all, but he spreads the perimeter and creates space for Dwight Howard. If Wake decided to do this, it would free up the middle, allowing the bigs--McFarland, Weaver and Woods--to get touches down in the post. They have not had consistent post opportunities because the middle has been clogged, but if the congestion is cut down, whomever of the three is in will be able to post up and get scoring opportunities.
Regardless of where Ari plays, the 3 or the 4, his increased minutes will hopefully be a source of scoring for the Deacs. If Stewart is able to focus on defense instead of playing as loose as he has, it will only help the Demon Deacons more. With his length and quickness, Stewart should be able to guard anybody as long as he shows a commitment to D in practice.
25.7 min, 13.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists
.542 FG%, .829 FT%, .524 3PT%
.727 effective FG%, 134.8 offensive rating
Easily the biggest surprise of the early season has been the breakout play by Mount Tabor's C.J. Harris. Harris, an unheralded player coming in, has shown a complete game, both offensively and defensively. On offense, Harris has shown that he can slash to the hoop, finish and get to the foul line. He is easily the Deacs best FT shooter this year and made clutch foul shots at the end of the Gonzaga game.
Plain and simple, Harris does not play like a freshman. He wants the ball in his hands and is not gunshy in the slightest. His outside shot has been a welcome addition as there were questions about just how good a shooter C.J. was coming in. Obviously, those numbers will probably come down as the season wears on and Harris may hit the freshman wall, but he has earned a starting spot. He is 38th in the country in offensive efficiency, 11th in effective FG% and first in true shooting% (From John Hollinger: TS%=True Shooting Percentage calculates what a team’s shooting percentage would be if we accounted for free throws and 3-pointers. True Shooting Percentage = (Total points x 50) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44)])
Harris's ability to play the point effectively should give Ishmael Smith a breather, keeping him from staying on the floor the entire game. When he shifts over, the Deacs have a number of different options. Although it is not likely to happen, Wake could play big and move Ari over to the 2, keeping Aminu at the 3 and still maintaining the two big men that Dino Gaudio used early in the season. Or Harris could be complimented by LD Williams in the backcourt giving the Deacs an explosive 6th man who is known for his defense. Another option is using the recently healthy Gary Clark at SG, giving the Demon Deacons extra firepower on the perimeter.
Regardless of where he is playing, Harris has shown that he is a focal point of this offense and has taken some of the sting away from the loss of Jeff Teague. He may not be as quick as Jeff, but Harris gets to the rack and can shoot, two things this team definitely needs. If he keeps his PPG around 10, the Deacs should have a lot of success.