RETURN TO GLORY

After failing to make it into the post season last year, the Jackets hope to rebound and dance their way into March’s ACC Tournament. With several losses in the lineup, some developing talent is going to need to step up for the Jackets if they hope to reclaim their old glory days of success.

Keys to Postseason:

Staying healthy — This season’s version of the Jackets is very different compared to the last few seasons. The 2008 Jackets lack the same depth in positions they had last year and can afford very few, if any, injuries during the season. Last season, the Jackets were three deep at the point (Miller, Causey, Bell), three deep at shooting guard (Morrow, Clinch, Bell), two deep at small forward (Zach Peacock, Bell), three deep at power forward (Smith, Gani Lawal, Peacock) and three deep at center (Lawal, Alade Aminu, Brad Sheehan). This season the Jackets are barely two deep at most of those positions.

In addition to health, Tech must get good point guard play. Miller is the first returning point guard for the Jackets since Jarrett Jack in 2004-05. Miller started off slow, the struggle freshmen normally have when coming into the ACC, but ended the season as if he was a seasoned veteran. Miller started all but two conference games and averaged 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and one steal per game in ACC play.

Iman Shumpert, a highly recruited combo guard from Oak Park, Illinois, comes in as Tech’s only recruit and will play point and shooting guard.

Changes in Lineup:

Despite Tech’s basketball team returning their starting point guard for the first time in four years, the Jackets have lost several key players. Leading scorer Anthony Morrow, second leading scorer and leading rebounder Jeremis Smith, backup point guard Matt Causey and defensive specialist D’Andre Bell are either lost to graduation or injury.

Morrow has been an integral part of the team ever since his freshman year in 2004-2005 and has secured himself a spot on the Golden State Warriors NBA team. The former Jackets shooting guard averaged 14.3 points per game in 29.7 minutes of action, while starting every game.

Smith has been an integral part of the team as one of the on-court and off-court leaders as well as being the leading rebounder from last year’s team with 7.1 rebounds per game. Smith was a three year starter and gave the Jackets leadership in the front court and a solid presence at the power forward position.

Matt Causey is the third senior to graduate and move on from Tech basketball. Causey played just one season with the Jackets as the backup point guard, but started nine games in place of Miller during the middle of the season. He averaged 7.2 points per game and 3.7 assists per game off the bench.

D’Andre Bell is also lost for the season. After colliding with a teammate, Bell felt numbness in his extremities and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. The condition will keep him out the season and maybe his career. While Bell averaged just 6.6 points per game, he was the defensive specialist and was responsible for keeping the explosive offensive guards in check.

Starters:

PG – Maurice Miller: Miller led the Jackets to an 7-9 conference record as a freshman and also took Tech to the second round of the ACC tournament. Miller started at point guard in all four of the Jackets’ road conference wins and five out of six of Tech’s overall road wins, which was five more than the Jackets true road wins over the last two seasons.

SG – Lewis Clinch: Clinch came on strong his sophomore season when he averaged over 15 points per game to start the year. Clinch benefitted from two very talented freshmen playing around him. Unfortunately, an academic infraction kept him out of the second half of the season, and he never got his shot back last year. With Hewitt expecting Clinch to regain some of the confidence, he should see time at the shooting guard spot.

SF – Zach Peacock: Peacock has shown the ability to take over the game and his athletic ability will allow him to play any of the three front-court positions. Peacock did not start any games last year, but he was the first player off the bench for a substitution and averaged 20.7 minutes, made over 50 percent of his shots and averaged just less than 10 points per game.

PF – Gani Lawal: Lawal was last year’s top incoming freshman and improved nearly every aspect of his game, except for free throw shooting. Lawal started 25 games last year and became a solid post complement to Smith. Lawal averaged 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per games.

C – Alade Aminu: Projected to be the only senior starter, Aminu started seven games at the beginning of the season before getting benched behind Lawal. Aminu averaged six points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game and just less than one block per game last season.

Schedule:

Date Opponent

Nov. 7 LE MOYNE (exhibition)

Nov. 14 WINSTON-SALEM STATE

Nov. 22 at Mercer

Nov. 25 ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF

Nov. 28 JACKSONVILLE

Dec. 3 PENN STATE (Big Ten Challenge)

Dec. 6 VANDERBILT

Dec. 14 ILLINOIS-CHICAGO

Dec. 17 GEORGIA STATE

Dec. 20 at Pepperdine

Dec. 22 at Southern California

Dec. 28 VIRGINIA

Dec. 30 TENNESSEE STATE

Jan. 3 at Alabama

Jan. 6 GEORGIA

Jan. 10 at Maryland

Jan. 14 DUKE

Jan. 17 at NC State

Jan. 20 BOSTON COLLEGE

Jan. 25 at Clemson

Jan. 31 WAKE FOREST

Feb. 5 at Florida State

Feb. 8 MARYLAND

Feb. 11 at Virginia Tech

Feb. 14 NC STATE

Feb. 18 at Wake Forest

Feb. 22 CLEMSON

Feb. 28 at North Carolina

Mar. 4 MIAMI

Mar. 7 at Boston College

Mar. 12-15 ACC Tournament (Atlanta)