By survey, Moses Wright strong favorite for ACC player of the year

If the input of 15 percent of voters for All-ACC awards is any indication, Georgia Tech forward Moses Wright will be named the league’s player of the year on Monday morning.

In a survey of 11 voters who submitted ballots, 10 voted for Wright for player of the year, with Pittsburgh’s Justin Champagnie receiving the other. There are 75 voters total for the all-conference team and individual awards given out by the conference, made up of 60 members and the league’s 15 coaches. The honors are scheduled be revealed on the ACC Network’s “Packer and Durham” show Monday morning. (The Associated Press also names its own team, which is expected to be released Tuesday.)

Of 10 voters who offered their picks for defensive player of the year, seven voted for Tech guard Jose Alvarado, an indication that he is also a strong contender for that award. (Virginia’s Jay Huff received the other three votes.) Coach Josh Pastner was named on three of 11 ballots for coach of the year after Virginia Tech’s Mike Young with six votes.

At the end of the regular season, Wright was third in the league in scoring (18.0 points per game), rebounding (8.1 rebounds per game) and field-goal percentage (54.4%), sixth in blocked shots (1.7 blocks per game), tied for eighth in steals (1.5 steals per game) and fifth in minutes (35.8 minutes per game). He also averages 2.3 assists.

While he has put up the numbers in what is generally considered a down year for the conference, it is a truly superior compilation. According to sports-reference.com, there have been seven power-conference players beginning with the 1992-93 season who have met the following per-game thresholds that Wright has hit thus far this season — 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal and 50% field-goal percentage.

All seven went on to be first-round draft picks, three were first overall picks (Chris Webber, Blake Griffin and Zion Williamson) and a fourth was picked third (Jerry Stackhouse).

“Moses has been a stud all year long,” Pastner said. “I’m really proud of Moses. He’s obviously continued to get better since he got here to where he is today. The development and his improvement have just been off the charts.”

Prior to Tech’s game against Duke on March 2, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Wright was “arguably playing as well or better than anybody in our conference. He’s been sensational.” Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes called him “a great player.” Said Young of Virginia Tech, “He is really good. I mean, he is such a talented person.”

All three coaches’ teams were steamrolled by Wright in a fearsome closing stretch as he led the Jackets to six consecutive wins that appear to have sewn up Tech’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2010. In those six games, Wright averaged 23.5 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and 1.3 blocks.

Wright would be just the third Jackets player to be named the ACC player of the year in the school’s 42 years in the conference, following two of Tech’s all-time greats – Mark Price (1985) and Dennis Scott (1990).

It would be a crowning moment of a most unlikely career. A late bloomer, Wright was not ranked by the major recruiting sites such as Rivals and 247Sports at the time he committed to Tech, an extreme rarity for an ACC-level recruit. (Pastner likes to call him a “zero-star recruit.”) While playing at Enloe High in Raleigh, N.C., a few miles from N.C. State, his other Division I scholarship offers were from Kansas State and Charlotte (which, coincidentally, was coached at the time by Price).

As a freshman at Tech, Wright was so ineffective that Pastner put him on a plan midway through the season to focus on skill development and weight training over actually playing. His commitment to effort and preparation was sometimes dubious. But, working primarily with assistant coach Eric Reveno, Wright made a big leap as a junior, nearly doubling his scoring and rebounding averages.

Georgia Tech forward Moses Wright in the Yellow Jackets' 75-64 win over Nebraska Dec. 9, 2020 in Lincoln, Neb.

Credit: Scott Bruhn

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Credit: Scott Bruhn

This season, he has been an anchor in Tech’s development into a likely NCAA tournament team, scoring in double figures in all but three of Tech’s 23 games and recording seven doubles, tied for second most in the ACC.

Alvarado became a leading candidate for defensive player of the year by leading the ACC in steals (2.87 steals per game) for the second season in a row, becoming the first player to do that since Chris Paul at Wake Forest (2004-05).

Beyond that, Alvarado was a sticky defender who has relished taking on players taller than him. A highlight was his defense of Virginia’s leading scorer Sam Hauser, who was held to a season-low eight points and limited to seven shots (tied for his season low) in the Cavaliers’ win over the Jackets on Feb. 10 despite having an eight-inch and 39-pound advantage on Alvarado.

Virginia forward Jay Huff, who is second in the ACC in blocks (2.5 blocks per game) and sixth in defensive rebounds per game (5.4 per game) and is the anchor of arguably the best defense in the league, received three votes to Alvarado’s seven of the voters surveyed.

If Alvarado were to win, he would be Tech’s second defensive player of the year, following center Ben Lammers in 2017 in Pastner’s first season.

“I think Jose’s defensive player of the year, there’s no question in my book,” Pastner said. “I think Huff’s really good defensively, too, but Jose’s just been stellar all year long defensively.”

Young’s consideration for coach of the year is based on the Hokies finishing third in his second season after being picked to finish 11th before the season began. Georgia Tech was projected to finish ninth and moved up to fourth while facing a decidedly more difficult schedule than Virginia Tech.

In the polling for the other awards, Florida State’s Scottie Barnes was a runaway favorite for freshman and sixth man of the year. For most improved player, Pittsburgh’s Champagnie had three votes to two for Duke’s Matthew Hurt and Miami’s Isaiah Wong.