Two of the best freshmen in the country will meet today to help determine who is the ACC's best.
North Carolina State 6-foot-9 freshman center J.J. Hickson could find himself guarding Wake Forest 6-8 freshman power forward James Johnson at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
Wake Forest and Johnson are off to a 13-6 start, while Hickson and the Wolfpack are 13-7. The game time is noon and will be televised on Raycom.
Hickson leads NC State with 15.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He is shooting a blistering 62.1 percent from the field and 68.5 from the line.
Hickson's numbers are slightly down in the ACC through six games. The Marietta, Ga., native is averaging 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds, but is shooting 46.7 percent from the field and 60.0 from the line.
Johnson, who is from Cheyenne, Wyo., is averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and has blocked 25 shots and gotten 31 steals in 19 games. He is shooting 48.7 percent from the field, 25.0 percent on 3-pointers and 69.0 percent from the free-throw line.
Johnson has improved his scoring statistics in the ACC, averaging 16.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, shooting an impressive 52.5 percent from the field, including hitting seven 3-pointesr. However, he has struggled from the foul line, shooting just 53.8 in the ACC.
Johnson torched Florida State for 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting (4 of 5 on 3-pointers), and added nine rebounds and three steals in the 74-57 win Jan. 20. His season-high in rebounds is 14 against Charlotte on Nov. 29, and he had four blocks in a loss at Maryland on Jan. 15.
Johnson leads all conference freshmen in rebounding, minutes played and offensive boards.
Hickson is in the middle of a three-game stretch against some of the ACC's best freshman. He played against Duke forward Kyle Singler on Thursday, and NC State hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday, with the Hokies features freshmen post players Jeff Allen and J.T. Thompson.
Wake Forest preview
ACC — Wake Forest (13-6, 3-3 ACC) at North Carolina State (13-7, 2-4 ACC)
Game time: Sunday, Feb. 3, Noon — RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
PG — 13 Marques Johnson (6-5, Soph., 2.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SG — 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, Jr., 10.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF — 11 Gavin Grant (6-8, Sr., 13.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg)
PF — 34 Ben McCauley (6-10, Jr., 5.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.5 apg)
C — 1 J.J. Hickson (6-9, Fr., 15.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
PG — 10 Ishmael Smith (6-0, Soph., 8.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.5 spg)
SG — 0 Jeff Teague (6-2, Fr., 11.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.4 spg)
G — 4 Harvey Hale (6-2, Jr., 9.3 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.1 apg)
PF — 23 James Johnson (6-8, Fr., 14.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
C — 13 Chas McFarland (7-0, Soph., 7.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
Scouting Wake Forest
Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Nickname: Demon Deacons
2006-2007 record: 15-16 overall, 5-11 ACC
2007 postseason: None
Coach: Dino Gaudio is 13-6 in his first year at Wake Forest, and 81-130 overall in eight years
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 129-96
Last meeting: NC State won 73-66 on Feb. 28 at the RBC Center in Raleigh
Wake Forest: Point guard Smith is almost shooting better from 3-point land than he is from the free-throw line. Smith is shooting an abysmal 37.1 percent from the foul line, yet a respectable 34.9 percent on 3-pointers. The Concord (N.C.) Central Cabarrus High product shot 46.2 percent last year. Smith is 7 for 13 from the line in ACC action this year ... Third leading scorer L.D. Williams is out with a fractured right hand, which he suffered against Clemson on Jan. 22. The sophomore from Yadkinville, N.C. is averaging 10.1 points per game. Hale is starting in his place ... Smith and Williams are two of five North Carolina natives, joining Cameron Stanley of Raleigh Millbrook High, Jamie Skeen of Charlotte North Mecklenburg High and David Weaver of Black Mountain Owen High.
NC State: Freshman point guard Javier Gonzalez played perhaps his best game of the season in the 92-72 loss to Duke on Thursday. Gonzalez logged 28 minutes, scoring five points with three assists and rebounds, and three turnovers, making his two shot attempts ... Grant scored a season-high 26 points and it marked the sixth time he has scored 20 points or more. The senior shot 9 of 11 from the field and 3 of 3 from 3-point land against the Blue Devils ... NC State swept the season series last year against Wake Forest and last lost a home game to the Demon Deacons, a 55-53 defeat during the 2004-2005 season.