The ACC is hands down the best basketball conference in the country. The teams, coaches and players that make up the conference are some of the most talented in college basketball. With the likes of Jordan Nwora from Louisville, Cole Anthony from North Carolina, Duke’s Vernon Carey, and so many more, it is difficult to decide which player is the best of the best. The ACC Player of the Year conversation has plenty of great candidates, including Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes.
He may not be the first guy that comes to mind, but Hughes absolutely deserves to be in contention for the award. Sure, the Orange are a little over a third of the way through their season and are not having the best year. SU is just 7-5, which is the same start as 2016 when they only made it to the NIT. So, yes, his team is struggling, but Hughes is still putting up serious numbers.
The redshirt junior is averaging 19.8 points per game, which is second in the ACC and in the top-40 in the country. He is ranked tenth in the conference in assists per game with 4.3, which is the most of any forward. Hughes also is a top-15 player in the ACC in both blocks per game with 1.08 and three-point percentage with 42.3%. Those are just the basic statistics too.
The more in-depth stats help his case as well, like this one– Hughes is the only major conference player in the country with at least 200 points, 40 rebounds, 40 assists, 10 blocks, and 10 steals. Are you convinced yet? Well here’s another– Hughes is one of only three players in the past 25 years, to average 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block, and the other two are future hall of famer Dwyane Wade and number 1 pick Markelle Fultz.
If those numbers aren’t convincing enough (they should be though), then watch a Syracuse basketball game and imagine Hughes not on the court. What would the Orange do without his ability to score the ball? Who would facilitate the offense and keep the ball moving? How would the zone look without him and his blocking ability? Who would be the leader of the team?
Hughes is the engine that makes Syracuse run on both sides of the court. He is carrying his team and is the reason why the Orange aren’t 0-12 right now. That is a true testament to being worthy of the Player of the Year award. If a team would be considerably affected by the loss of a certain player, then that player is pretty special and deserves to be in the award conversation.
Being realistic, there are plenty of other great candidates in the ACC. The presumed front runner is Nwora, who leads the conference is scoring. Carey, the big man from Duke who is at the top in points, rebounds, and blocks, is also a threat for the award. UNC’s Anthony was in the conversation, but isn’t now due to a knee injury that has sent him to the sideline indefinitely.
That leaves Nwora, Carey, and Hughes as the favorites for player of the year. If Hughes continues to play the way that he has, especially if he can be special when he plays Nwora and Carey, he will absolutely have a shot at the award. Numbers don’t lie and the eye-test confirms that Syracuse’s candidate should be in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year.