Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas headline TJO’s All-ACC Awards

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Rakeem Christmas was selected as an All-ACC First Team performerSy

Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor and Syracuse senior Rakeem Christmas headline The Juice Online’s 2014-15 All-ACC Basketball Team, as voted upon by staffers Brad Bierman, Jim Stechshulte and Jeff Irvine.

Okafor was TJO’s unanimous selection for All-ACC First Team, Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year honors. Christmas, Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant and Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell were also unanimous selections for All-ACC First Team honors, while Virginia head coach Tony Bennett swept the awards for Coach of the Year.

Bierman and Stechschulte break down their reasoning below:

Jim Stechschulte: Selecting the first team was the easiest part of the process.  With three players in the conversation for Player of the Year (Rakeem Christmas, Jerian Grant, and Jahlil Okafor)and a fourth (Montreal Harrell) who lived up to about 95% of his preseason hype as an All-American candidate, the work was mostly done.  As the leading scorer in the ACC by a country mile, Olivier Hanlan of Boston College was an easy fifth choice, especially when he got to his gaudy 21.9 points per game average in conference play on strong shooting (48.3 percent FG, ACC-best 43.6 percent from three) and also handed out four assists per game.

The second and third teams in the conference had much more gray area, especially in light of Virginia’s team being so dominant without having individually dominant players.  If you read my column on Michael Gbinije last week, you know he earned my third-team vote with strong all-around play.  The hardest inclusion was Devin Thomas from Wake Forest, but I could not overlook his 50 percent shooting from the field and rebounding work, which lead to his 14 double-doubles, including eight in ACC play.

Brad Bierman: Voting for all ACC conference honors in the various categories for a league with the quality of its 15 members certainly provides its dilemmas, especially after you get past the first team and list players 6-15, along with the specialized all-league teams. There were so many great players that either fulfilled lofty preseason expectations, came on strong unexpectedly for winning programs, or were undeniable building blocks for teams looking to climb the treacherous ACC steps and get into the conference discussion for an NCAA bid in the next season or two.

SU’s Rakeem Christmas was certainly worthy and an easy choice as a first team All-ACC selection, but it was a really hard decision for most improved player between the Orange graduate student star and Miami’s junior center Tonye Jekiri. Statistically, covering field goal and free throw shooting, rebounding, blocks and points per game, Jekiri’s overall numbers improved year-to-year more than any other player in the league as he finished just ahead of Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste, and Jekiri led two of the categories (rebounding and blocks) while Christmas led in points per game improvement. After some deliberation, through cringing Orange teeth, we gave the edge to Jekiri.

» Related: Syracuse basketball’s season ends with loss to NC State

ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM

Bierman Stechschulte Irvine
Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Malcoln Brogdon, G, Virginia Rakeem Christmas, F, Syracuse Anthony Gill, F, Virginia
Rakeem Christmas, F, Syracuse Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville Rakeem Christmas, F, Syracuse
Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame
Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame Olivier Hanlan, G, Boston College Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville

 ALL-ACC SECOND TEAM

Bierman Stechschulte Irvine
Quinn Cook, G, Duke Terry Rozier, G, Louisville Malcoln Brogdon, G, Virginia
Olivier Hanlan, G, Boston College Malcolm Brogdon, G, Virginia Terry Rozier, G, Louisville
Justin Anderson, G, Virginia Quinn Cook, G, Duke Justin Anderson, G, Virginia
Terry Rozier, G, Louisville Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina Kennedy Meeks, C, North Carolina
Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina Quinn Cook, G, Duke

ALL-ACC THIRD TEAM

Bierman Stechschulte Irvine
Tonye Jekiri, C, Miami Michael Gbinije, F, Syracuse Tyus Jones, G, Duke
Trevor Lacey, G, NC State Pat Connaughton, F, Notre Dame Pat Connaughton, F, Notre Dame
Pat Connaughton, F, Notre Dame Trevor Lacey, G, NC State Michael Young, F, Pittsburgh
Devin Thomas, F, Wake Forest Devin Thomas, F, Wake Forest Trevor Lacey, G, NC State
Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson Codi Miller-McIntyre, G, Wake Forest Olivier Hanlan, G, Boston College

 ACC INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS

Award Bierman Stechschulte Irvine
Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Rookie of the Year Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Defensive Player of the Year Darion Atkins, F, Virginia Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame Darion Atkins, F, Virginia
Most Improved Player of the Year Tonye Jekiri, C, Miami Rakeem Christmas, F, Syracuse Rakeem Christmas, F, Syracuse
Coach of the Year Tony Bennett, Virginia Tony Bennett, Virginia Tony Bennett, Virginia

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The Big Orange was founded in 1992. The publication was one of approximately 50 independent publications devoted to the coverage of its school's athletics programs. The Big Orange was a weekly/bi-weekly print publication until 2002 when it became The Juice, a glossy monthly print magazine which was owned by Fox Sports. The print product ceased publication in June of 2010 and was relaunched as SUJuiceOnline.com in December of 2010.
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