There's no GT football this weekend, and really nothing much of huge interest happening this weekend in the world of Tech sports other than the beginning of basketball practice, so I wanted to take the dead time to look at what is basically an entirely new team in Atlanta this year. gtsports.blogspot.com
has some practice updates up - go check them out, then come back here and read my (early) season preview.General Program Overview
GT is probably the least experienced team in the entire country this year. There is not a single player on the roster who has ever started a regular season game at the college level (thanks to MabletonJacket for pointing that Tarver started the 3 NIT games in 2003
) which is an astounding fact when you think about it. Hewitt will have his work cut out for him in getting all the young guys ready for the long grind that the ACC season has become, one of the biggest fears that I have is that they will slowly wear down under the demand of playing far more minutes than any of them have had to before. This is going to be a very young, inexperienced and athletic team on the court. They are going to make a ton of mistakes, some great plays and some plays that are going to leave us pulling our hair out (Hewitt's permanently cool demeanor will be severely tested). In short, it's going to be fun to watch. I expect GT to finish in the middle to bottom of the ACC, and probably only qualify for the NIT. Next year this group of young talent should really begin to gel, and we're going to get to watch some terrific basketball - but that doesn't mean this season is going to be any less enjoyable.Big Changes!
Again thanks to our friends at gtsports.blogspot.com
, here's a picture of the new floor that was installed at Alexander Memorial this summer. And yes, that's one big insect!
Thank God the Golden Arches are gone from the floor, I don't mind the corporate sponsorship for the complex, but on the floor was cheesy. Also, as a resident of Lawrence, KS now - I see the big Jayhawk on the floor of Allen Field House all the time, and I like it. I like the big logo on the AMC floor just as much. Evidently the floor is also a lighter color (think Oklahoma State), though this picture doesn't show it well.Frontcourt Preview
I'd point out the frontcourt is extremely young and inexperienced, but there's actually more returning experience here than anywhere else. Unless something dramatic happens in practice, Jeremis Smith and Ra'Sean Dickey will be the starters - and along with Tarver are the only ones with anything even close to game experience.
#4 - Ra'Sean Dickey (RCSI #51
- HS class of 2004)
Dickey is probably the best overall player on the roster entering the season, and certainly the best offensive presence in the post. He has a wide array of post moves, a soft touch around the basket and good body control. Dickey played well in a backup role last year, and will be called upon to be one of the key cogs in this years team. He needs to do a better job of passing the ball out to permiter shooters when double teamed, and play "stronger" with the ball when he has it. He had a number of careless turnovers last year that a 255lb. post player shouldn't have, and I'm sure that's something Hewitt will remind him of each and every practice. Only an average defender, and will have to up his effort level on that end of the court. I'm expecting Dickey to improve this year, and be one of the key building blocks for the next couple of seasons in Atlanta.
#32 - Jeremis Smith (RCSI #74
- HS class of 2004)
Besides sporting the best tattoo in GT basketball history (the spiderweb that covers his entire deltoid), Smith is also one of the most athletic players on the team. Despite being severely limited by a dislocated kneecap last year, he showed his toughness and nose for the ball on the glass when he came back in February. While nobody on this team is quite as explosive as Muhammed was last year, Smith should be on SportsCenter several times with his dunking ability combined with a nasty streak. Smith will be the defensive presence in the post, and almost certainly the leading rebounder on the team. His offensive game is somewhat rough at this point in time, and his ability to add even 8-10ppg will be a huge bonus if he can expand his repetoire to include a short jumper and a couple of post moves. Smith is my favorite player on the current roster, and only part of that is because of the tat.
#44 - Theodus Tarver (RCSI Unranked
- HS Class of 2002)
Projected: Key Reserve
Quite simply, Tarver needs to step up. So far in his career at GT, he hasn't been able to earn consistent playing time and despite his size, length and overall skill he has not played tough enough to make much of an impact. Tarver has a nice overall game, is a good shotblocker and has a bit of polish to his offensive game, but all of that has been negated so far by his inability to hold the ball with strength, keep position on the floor or fight through for tough rebounds. How much Tarver matures and how much strength he has added in the offseason will go a long way in how well this team plays this year. He will be the first frontcourt player off the bench, and will see a lot of minutes.
#41 - Alade Aminu (RCSI #79
- HS Class of 2005)
Aminu was ranked as one of the top 10 centers in last year's class by most of the recruiting services, and is a long athletic player that should see some playing time almost immediately. I am not expecting that much from Aminu this year, asking a 210lb. freshman with only 4 years of organized basketball to bang in the post against ACC opponents is probably too much. If he can add 8-10 minutes per game with some shotblocking and rebounding presense, I will be thrilled. Aminu also ran track in high school, and is an excellent athlete. He is also from the same high school as Reggie Ball (factoid alert).
#1 - D'Andre Bell (RCSI Unranked
- HS Class of 2005)
Projected: Limited Reserve
I honestly have no idea what to expect from Bell, and anyone who says they do is making it up. Due to a stress fracture in his foot, he missed a large portion of his senior season and really flew under the recruiting radar until AAU ball started up. He played well in the Global Games, and got high marks in the ABCD camp last year. Has a smooth left handed jumpshot and a pro-style body. I listed him here in the frontcourt because he'll probably play as a small forward at this point in his career, but it's more likely that if he makes an impact at Tech it will be as a shooting guard. By all accounts a very good student who picked GT for the business school, taking additional math classes just so he had no problems entering the school.Backcourt Preview
No Jarrett Jack. Ugh. No Will Bynum. Double Ugh. No B.J Elder. You can see where this is going, and it isn't pretty. For the past couple of years, the Yellow Jackets have been guard oriented, and they were some pretty darn good guards at that. This year is a fresh start, though losing Austin Jackson to the Yankees is really going to hurt. There is only one "true" PG on the roster, and even then he's very inexperienced running the point. On the bright side, there is plenty of talent here - and the ACC lost a ton of super guards last year, the league is fairly week as a whole this year in the backcourt.
#35 - Zam "Buck" Fredrick II (RCSI #85
- HS Class of 2004)
This is going to be an interesting year for Buck, as he tries to solidify a starting position before the arrival of super stud Javaris Crittenton next year. He was Mr. Basketball in South Carolina as a scoring 'combo' guard, but he's being asked to now run the point for an ACC team - a very tall task for someone who was never a true PG in his life. On the positive side, he's got a thick build that should allow him to hold up to the daily grind of 30+ minutes a game in the ACC and he's got a silky smooth jumper that allowed him to pile up points in his prep career. On the downside, nobody has any idea how well he's going to handle the ball and run the offense, because it's never been expected of him at any level. Over the offseason, there was talk of him transferring back home to USC-East because of lack of playing time his freshman year, but that seems to be water under the bridge at this point and he will get every chance to start this season, there simply isn't anyone else. My expectation is that he will struggle a bit this year, and enter next season as the first guard off the bench to backup both the SG and PG spots - and for him to play well in that role for the rest of his Tech career.
#33 - Lewis Clinch (RCSI #25
- HS Class of 2005)
Clinch is the highest ranked shooting guard enrolled in college this year, and is an explosive, lethal scorer who should make an immediate impact from the very first game. He has a very polished offensive game similar to Rashad McCants (minus the attitude), with a smooth deep stroke and the ability to take it to the rim with ease. Much of Clinch's success this year will depend on Buck's ability to run the point, because if he can't it's likely that Clinch will have to handle the ball a substantial portion of the time and that will probably limit his scoring. I fully expect Clinch to lead the team in scoring and be in the running for ACC Rookie of the Year, he has the potential to be a very special player on the flats. Hewitt is going to ride him had about playing defense, and that is going to be the biggest weakness for Clinch as the season progresses.
#23 - Anthony Morrow (RCSI #91
- HS Class of 2004)
Morrow was Mr. Basketball in North Carolina in 2004, and has one of the prettiest deep strokes you will ever see. Watching him last year during his freshman season, I kept getting the feeling that Hewitt had stolen one out from under the noses of the Big 4. Morrow has excellent size, a beautiful jumper and a nose for the ball. He showed off a nice ability to get open without the ball last year, and is a terrific spot up shooter. With Clinch's ability to penetrate and Dickey on the inside demanding attention, Morrow should have plenty of chances to get open shots from deep, and that plays right into his strengths. On the defensive end, Morrow has the size to matchup with most ACC small forwards, and is a very tough matchup for smaller guards with his length and quickness. For the season, he will probably battle with Dickey to be the second leading scorer on the team, and as his confidence grows will be a dangerous weapon. While not quite the NBA caliber prospect that Clinch appears to be right now, Morrow has a chance to become a very good 4 year player at GT and will be a key cog in anything that happens the next couple of years in Atlanta.
#5 - Mario West (RCSI Unranked
- HS Class of 2002)
Projected: Key Reserve / Starter
'Rio is a former walkon, and the teams best athlete and on-the-ball defender. Tremendous nose for the ball, and a very physical and determined defender. He really came on at the end of last year with his energy and ability to lock down opposing guards during the ACC tournament. He is an excellent rebounder from the guard position, and almost impossible to keep out of the paint area going for offensive boards. Mario is still somewhat erratic on the offensive end, where his spotty ballhandling, jumper and habit of getting out of control at times have limited him. He will probably see time this year at both guard spots as well as at small forward, and his defense, energy and toughness will make him the player that Hewitt is going to lean on the most for leadership on this young team. I really like Mario's game, and expect him to play well this year - and also to turn the ball over a bit more than I'd hope for. This Tech team needs him badly, and he's always been a crowd favorite.
#12 - Papa "Paco" Diaw (RCSI Unranked
- HS Class of 2005)
The biggest question mark on a team full of giant question marks. Diaw is the younger half-brother of former Hawks (now Suns) guard Boris Diaw, who has lived and played most of his life in Senegal. He slipped into this year's recruiting class at the very end, and just was cleared by the NCAA within the last month. Diaw is evidently a very athletic and long guard, who can play both guard positions and is an above average defender. Of course, most of this is conjecture because he has played very little in the U.S and is still adjusting to living here. Speaks something like 5 or 6 languages, and has the size to be an excellent player in the future, but I'm expecting very little out of him this year and any contribution at all will be an excellent surprise.
#14 - Keith Jones (RCSI Unranked
- HS Class of 2003)
Projected: Deep Reserve
Redshirt walk-on guard who will add some valuable depth in practice, though will see very limited game time. An excellent student who has made the ACC Academic Honor Roll both of his seasons at GT. Honestly, I don't know much about his game because of his very limited role up to this point, but this team is so young and so thin at the guard positions that it is plausible he will play some this year as a reserve.