On the Rebound: 2009-10 Men’s Basketball

2009-10 Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball Preview

The Jackets’ backcourt this season will largely look similar to that of last year’s team. Shooting guard Lewis Clinch is gone, but the addition of a few new players and the return of several key starters will add much needed depth at the guard positions.

Sophomore guard Iman Shumpert, who became the de facto point guard last year due to injuries, will be one of the starters at guard. Although he led the team last year with 116 turnovers, the former five-star recruit improved throughout the season and exhibited poise and ability that will certainly continue to develop with experience. Shumpert became the team’s go-to option and will set out to further establish himself as a leader on the court.

Joining him in the backcourt will be redshirt senior D’Andre Bell, who missed last season after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis. The versatile Bell, who has played both wing positions and point guard for Tech, will provide the Jackets with much needed experience and depth in the backcourt. Bell averaged nearly 25 minutes per game during the 2007-2008 season and was regarded as the team’s best on-ball defender.

The third starter in the backcourt, who will be the main point guard for the Jackets, remains to be seen. Junior Moe Miller split ball-handling duties with Shumpert last season, but Miller suffered a concussion in late Sept., his third in the last 12 months. Still, he has been cleared to practice and played in Tech’s recent scrimmage.

The other candidate to start is freshman Mfon Udofia, whom Head Coach Paul Hewitt has praised repeatedly. Udofia averaged 20.1 points and shot 54% from three-point range in leading Miller Grove High School to the Class AAAA state title. He is a quick left-hander who will look to leverage his speed to propel Tech’s fast-break mentality.

The starters will have plenty of help, as the backcourt depth has improved this season. The two main reserve guards from last season return as well, and those two—junior Lance Storrs and sophomore Nick Foreman—will see the majority of the backcourt minutes off the bench. As a freshman walk-on last year, Foreman was utilized primarily on the defensive end of the court. Storrs emerged as a solid three-point shooter for the Jackets, shooting 35% from long range on the season.

If Miller is able to stay healthy, and if Shumpert can build off of his success from last year and reduce his turnover numbers, look for the Jackets’ backcourt to be faster, stronger, and deeper all season long.

During the 2008-09 season the Jackets stumbled to a 2-14 record in ACC play, Tech increasingly struggled as the year went on at getting the ball to the post. Then-sophomore forward Gani Lawal was often in double teams, and then-junior Zachery Peacock, a natural power forward, had to play out of position untill the Jackets switched to a three-guard scheme. This season, an influx of talent should make Tech’s frontcourt a force.

Lawal provided a strong inside presence for the Jackets last season as the focal point of Tech’s offensive gameplan. He finished with 15.1 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game and had double-digit points in 26 31 games. Tech’s fortunes rose and fell with his play; notably, he had 25 points and 10 rebounds in the upset of No. 6 Wake Forest and posted 20 points and 14 rebounds in the ACC tournament win over Clemson, but he failed to reach a double-double in many of Tech’s losses.

This year, the Jackets’ talent in the frontcourt should receiven an upgrade as they welcome freshman Derrick Favors to their roster. In his time at South Atlanta high school, Favors was team captain for three years and led South Atlanta to a Class AAA state championship during his senior year. He earned numerous accolades after the season ended, including several Player of the Year honors and the MVP award in the McDonald’s All-American game. During his senior season, the four time all-state selection averaged 28.1 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.0 blocked shots during that year. The 6-foot-10 Favors provides a welcomed post presence to compliment the 6-foot-9 Lawal.

Behind Lawal and Favors, the Jackets have a combination of depth and talent that the team lacked last year. Peacock will be the primary reserve forward; he started 30 games last year and posted 9.2 points per game while recording 21 blocks and 32 steals.

The tallest member of the team is 7-foot redshirt junior center Brad Sheehan. Freshman forward/center Daniel Miller stands 6-foot-11 and weighs 252 pounds. He should provide a strong presence near the basket. Miller, a native of Loganville, Ga., originally committed to Georgia but switched to Tech.

Head Coach Paul Hewitt looks to maintain an up-tempo pace, but he acknowledged that the team plans to play more inside-out ball this year and take advantage of their talent on the front line.

Heading into the 2009-2010 season, the Jackets roster has seen small yet significant changes. Two key starters from last season’s squad graduated, but Head Coach Paul Hewitt has brought in a talented recruiting class to help turn the team around after last season’s 12-19 finish.

The most notable losses for Tech are forward Alade Aminu and guard Lewis Clinch, each of whom completed his fourth year of eligibility last season. The 6-foot-10 Aminu recorded 49 blocks and shot 52.2% from the field last season. Clinch was academically ineligible for the first half of the season, but after returning he led the Jackets with 15.5 points per game.

In addition to Aminu and Clinch, Tech saw the departures of forward Bassirou Dieng and guard Gary Cage, both of whom also finished out their eligibility last year.

As for roster additions, there are many, and the most prominent newcomer is forward Derrick Favors. His commitment to Tech has generated plenty of enthusiasm, though many speculate that Favors is likely to leave early for the NBA draft, perhaps after his freshman season.

Five other freshmen—two guard and three forwards—offer depth and talent to a strong roster. Of the guards, Mfon Udofia could start from day one at the point, and Glen Rice Jr. is the son of the former NBA three-point ace of the same name. Forward/center Daniel Miller offers plenty of muscle in the post game, and forward Brian Oliver will be a reserve at the wing. Forward Kammeon Holsey, an athletic power forward, has taken a medical redshirt for 2009-10 after tearing his ACL.

In addition to bringing in a solid recruiting class, Tech looks forward to the return of two veterans whose futures were in question. Redshirt senior guard/forward D’Andre Bell returns to the Jackets after sitting out 2008-09 with a medical redshirt, and junior forward/center Gani Lawal comes back after withdrawing from the NBA Draft. The return of the two stars, coupled with the impact of the freshmen, should help the Jackets skip a rebuilding period and return to contention right away.

Head Coach Paul Hewitt returns to the sideline for his ninth season in charge of the Jackets. During his previous eight seasons at Tech, Hewitt has compiled an overall record of 154-131 and has guided Tech to four NCAA tournament appearances, including the 2004 run to the national title game. Known for his strong recruiting ability, Hewitt has brought in one of the nation’s strongest freshman classe. He will lead the team ranked No. 22 in the preseason AP college basketball poll as the Jackets attempt to rebound in the ACC and potentially make a run at the NCAA tournament.

Hewitt brings back most of his coaching staff from last season. Assistant coaches Peter Zaharis and John O’Connor have been with the staff for several years, as has Director of Operations Willie Reese, a Tech basketball alum. The lone newcomer is assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie, who also played at Tech from 1998-2001 and was on Hewitt’s staff in the 2004-05 season as a graduate assistant.

D’Andre Bell

Year: Redshirt senior

Position: Guard/forward

Bell was one of Tech’s top defenders for three years and brings leadership and experience to the wing position.

2008-09 stats: Did not play last season due to injury; took medical redshirt

Derrick Favors

Year: Freshman

Position: Forward/center

The top recruit in Georgia will team with Lawal to form one of the ACC’s most talented frontcourts.

2008-09 stats: 28.1 points/game; 13.3 rebounds/game; 5.0 blocks/game (at South Atlanta HS)

Gani Lawal

Year: Junior

Position: Forward/center

Lawal returns to anchor Tech’s front line and cement his standing among the ACC’s top players.

2008-09 stats: 15.1 points/game; 9.5 rebounds/game; 46 blocks; .556 FG percentage

Iman Shumpert

Year: Sophomore

Position: Guard

Best known for hitting two key shots to defeat then-No. 6 Wake, Shumpert will look to harness his star potential.

2008-09 stats: 10.6 points/game; 5.0 assists/game; 64 steals