UNCs Jackson named ACC Player of the Year, States Smith takes top rookie honor

Wake Forests John Collins is the leagues Most Improved Player while Georgia Techs Josh Pastner was selected as the ACCs Coach of the Year

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
North Carolina forward Justin Jackson (44) passes around Virginia Tech guard Justin Bibbs (10) during the first half of the NCAA college basketball game at the Smith Center Thursday

The North Carolina basketball team needed someone to raise his game and help fill the void left by the graduation of leading scorers Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige this season and Justin Jackson answered the call. The junior forward made the transformation from role player to star by leading the Tar Heels in scoring and 3-pointers. Saturday, one day after helping his team wrap up the outright ACC regular season championship with a win against rival Duke, Jackson was named the league’s 2017 Player of the Year. The 6-foot-8 native of Tomball, Tex., received 24 votes from the limited voting panel of coaches, broadcasters and selected media members, easily outdistancing runnerup John Collins of Wake Forest. Collins earned 15 votes, followed by Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson with eight, Duke’s Luke Kennard with five and Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell with one. The five players that received votes made up the All-ACC first team. NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr. was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year in a landslide over Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Wake Forest’s John Collins was chosen as the ACC’s Most Improved Player while Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner beat out UNC’s Roy Williams for Coach of the Year honors. The league’s two other major awards, Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year went to Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers and Virginia Tech’s Sean Allen, respectively. “Justin has been really good from Day One,” Williams said of Jackson, who is averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting a career-best 38.5 percent from 3-point range. “To have the kind of success shooting the ball and making big plays in key situations like he did against Duke is a credit to him and the amount of work he put in to improve his game. “He listened to our coaching staff last spring about how to improve as a player and was determined to get better and stronger, which through his hard work and sweat, he is now reaping the benefits.” Jackson is the 14th Tar Heel to win ACC Player of the Year honors. His selection makes him eligible to have his jersey honored in the Smith Center rafters. Smith, meanwhile, was the lone bright spot in an otherwise lost season for the Wolfpack. The 6-foot-3 point guard from Fayetteville fulfilled his preseason hype by averaging 18.5 points per game — the highest scoring output by a freshman in State history. He also leads the team in assists at 6.2 and steals at 1.9 while also averaging 4.5 rebounds per game. He is the first player in league history to record two triple-doubles in a season. Smith picked up 36 of 52 possible votes in becoming the first Wolfpack to be named Rookie of the Year since Hawkeye Whitney shared the award with Duke’s Mike Gminski in 1977. Duke’s Tatum was second in the balloting with eight votes, followed by Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie and Boston College’s Ky Bowman with three each. Here are the results of the voting for all of the ACC’s major awards and all-conference teams:ALL-ACC(5 points per 1st team vote, 3 points per 2nd team vote, 1 point per 3rd team vote)FIRST TEAM School PointsLuke Kennard Duke *265Justin Jackson North Carolina 256John Collins Wake Forest 255Bonzie Colson Notre Dame 253Donovan Mitchell Louisville 231SECOND TEAM Dwayne Bacon Florida State 141Dennis Smith Jr. NC State 126Ben Lammers Georgia Tech 109Joel Berry II North Carolina 102London Perrantes Virginia 90THIRD TEAM Michael Young Pittsburgh 85Jaron Blossomgame Clemson 67Andrew White III Syracuse 67Davon Reed Miami 66Jayson Tatum Duke 51ALL-HONORABLE MENTION (10-or-more points) Kennedy Meeks North Carolina 34Matt Farrell Notre Dame 25Zach LeDay Virginia Tech 24Jerome Robinson Boston College 23Jonathan Isaac Florida State 20Seth Allen Virginia Tech 18Jamel Artis Pittsburgh 17V.J. Beachem Notre Dame 12Steve Vasturia Notre Dame 11Tyler Lydon Syracuse 10ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM Ben Lammers Georgia Tech 50Isaiah Wilkins Virginia 41Donovan Mitchell Louisville 39Davon Reed Miami 25Xavier Rathan-Mayes Florida State 19Matt Jones Duke 19ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM Dennis Smith NC State 51Jonathan Isaac Florida State 51Jayson Tatum Duke 50Josh Okogie Georgia Tech 49Ky Bowman Boston College 32ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR Justin Jackson North Carolina 24John Collins Wake Forest 15Bonzie Colson Notre Dame 8Luke Kennard Duke 5Donovan Mitchell Louisville 1ACC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR Dennis Smith NC State 36Jayson Tatum Duke 8Josh