ACC preseason standout picks highlight a talent-laden league

With five ACC teams ranked in the AP’s preseason top 25 poll, 2022-2023 promises to be a hot year.

With such a large pool of talent, predicting end-of-season awards has proven rather difficult, but we will give it a shot. And regardless of whether the picks pan out, it will be fun to watch players and teams battle it out into March.

Elizabeth Kitley. Virginia Tech Athletics photo.

Player of the Year: Elizabeth Kitley (center, Virginia Tech)

Of course, this is no surprise given that she is the reigning ACC Player of the Year, but given that Kitley was second in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots with 18.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game while shooting 55% from the field, it’s safe to say that there is no reason that she can’t replicate that again.

Rookie of the Year: Ashlon Jackson (guard, Duke)

As the No. 16 overall recruit according to HoopGurlz, Jackson will have very high expectations at a school like Duke. Hopefully, she will prove just as great of a shooter as she was in high school.

Katie Meier. AP stock photo.

Coach of the Year: Katie Meier (head coach, Miami)

While the Hurricanes lost in the round of 32 to the eventual champion South Carolina, there are still high expectations for a team with a 17-year head coach that has only missed the tournament five times during her tenure. She has also proven to be able to get the most out of a team that is not as talented as the top teams, so that should happen again this year.

Defensive Player of the Year: Elizabeth Kitley (center, Virginia Tech)

Yes, we predict that Kitley will not only be the top player overall, but also the top defensive player. Her ability to rim-protect and track down the ball is truly elite, and it allows the Hokies to have a top-five defense and be in the top 10 in rebounding and shot-blocking.

Sixth Player of the Year: Diamond Johnson (guard, NC State)

It is truly impressive what Johnson was able to do in the playing time that she had as in 22 minutes per game, as she’s averaged 10.8 points per game, including 36% from 3-point range. She should take a big step this year coming off of the bench and providing a crucial spark for a team that can make a deep run in the tourney.

Most Improved Player: Nerea Hermosa (center, Georgia Tech)

Hermosa is a fascinating player, because even though her numbers may not be eye-popping with just 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks, she makes the little plays for her team that help them to succeed. With defensive anchor Lorela Cubaj now in the WNBA, we fully expect Hermosa to assert herself more and take on more of a leadership role with the Yellow Jackets.

Dyaisha Fair. Syracuse Athletics photo.

All-ACC First Team: Dyaisha Fair (guard, Syracuse), Hailey Van Lith (guard, Louisville), Jakia Brown-Turner (forward, NC State), Maddy Westbeld (forward, Notre Dame), Elizabeth Kitley (center, Virginia Tech), Deja Kelly (guard, UNC), Ashley Owusu (guard, Virginia Tech), Olivia Miles (guard, Notre Dame)

All-ACC Second Team: Diamond Johnson (guard, NC State), Cameron Swartz (guard, Georgia Tech), Jewel Spear (guard, Wake Forest), Taylor Soule (forward, Virginia Tech)

All-Defensive Team: Elizabeth Kitley (center, Virginia Tech), Maddy Westbeld (forward, Notre Dame), Olivia Miles (guard, Notre Dame), Nerea Hermosa (center, Georgia Tech), Morgan Jones (guard, Louisville)

All-Freshman Team: Ashlon Jackson (guard, Duke), Kyla Oldacre (forward, Miami), Nyla Harris (forward, Louisville), Tonie Morgan (guard, Georgia Tech), Ruby Whitehorn (guard, Clemson), Ta’Niya Latson (guard, Florida State)