About 10 days into North Carolina's practices, coach Roy Williams said freshman John Henson, a 6-foot-9 small forward, had attempted more 3-pointers than 6-2 point guard Larry Drew II.
Sure, there's a changing of the guard in the ACC this season, with backcourt stars such as Ty Lawson, Gerald Henderson, Toney Douglas and Tyrese Rice all gone. But the shot selection in Chapel Hill is also an example of the changing role of the forwards in the league.
In a previous era, the "big man" role went to back-to-the basket bullies such as UNC's Eric Montross, Duke's Elton Brand or Wake Forest's Tim Duncan, players who specialized in banging bodies, scoring on the block, grabbing rebounds and swatting shots. Today's forwards and centers do everything from run the floor to hit 3-pointers to feed the post, when they're not down there themselves.
"It's hard to define a 'big man' ... you can have one anywhere from 6-6 to 7-2, and he can play inside, outside, everywhere - just look at this league," said Clemson forward Trevor Booker, one of the ACC's premier frontcourt players. "Guys are always trying to change their games, just to make themselves better."
CBS analyst Dan Bonner said he thinks there could be more talented forwards than before in the ACC. Part of the reason is the relative lack of established guards: six of the top eight backcourt scorers from last season are gone.
But another explanation can be traced back to the large number of forwards playing so many variations of the position.
"The days of a high school coach putting a 6-9 guy in the post and leaving him there is gone," Williams said. "Because now, he looks on TV, and 15, 20 years ago he saw Magic Johnson [play point guard], to now seeing LeBron James at 6-8 ... and he plays point guard sometimes.
"Kids at a younger age see that, and they don't want to be shoved into a low post role, so they work at being more well-rounded. And that's what we're seeing."
And seeing a lot.
As many as seven players standing 6-8 or taller - including Henson at UNC, Kyle Singler at Duke and Al-Farouq Aminu at Wake Forest - could start at "small" forward. That inside-out slot used to be reserved for a player in the 6-4 to 6-6 height range.
In addition, UNC's Ed Davis, Clemson's Booker, FSU's Solomon Alabi, Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, and Duke's Mason Plumlee are all expected to vie for postseason honors at the the power forward and center slots.
Alabi, a 7-1 sophomore, probably comes the closest in that group to being a traditional big man, with his post moves and knack for blocks.
"But even he likes to go outside sometimes," Lawal said.
Then again, that has become the norm, N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said.
"Even the centers, they want to step out and shoot it now. That's not bad, but you don't have many that want to get down there in the post, work in the post, and make that what they do."
As a result, coaches are recruiting more versatile forwards to match up with the other versatile forwards in the league. A year ago, when only three ACC teams started small forwards 6-8 or taller, playing the 6-9 Henson or the 6-9 Singler at the '3' spot would have created match-up problems for other teams.
That will not necessarily be the case this year. Henson and Singler should have plenty of tall company on the perimeter.
Bonner cautioned, however, that the remaining backcourt players in the ACC should not be underestimated. He predicted that the teams who have the most success will continue to have the best guard play.
"Solomon Alabi isn't going to dribble the ball up the court himself and get himself in position and score. He's going to need somebody to throw him the ball," Bonner said. "Trevor Booker is going to need somebody to throw him the ball."
BULLIES ON THE BLOCK
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Dwayne Collins, Miami
Tracy Smith, N.C. State
MAGIC JOHNSON 'WANNA-BES'
Kyle Singler, Duke
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
John Henson, UNC
Milton Jennings, Clemson
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Ed Davis, UNC
Solomon Alabi, FSU
Chris Singleton, FSU
Jeff Allen, Va. Tech
Assane Sene, Virginia