Myths About the '05-'06 GT Basketball Team
FINALLY!. After having the lead at the half or later in 5 of the 8 losses in the recent gawdawful stretch, and losing 3 of the last 4 by a total of 4 points (read that again, then go puke) - GT finally held on to a lead and beat #16 NCSU today in Atlanta 71-68. 8 game losing streak this season, done. 7 game losing streak to NCSU, over. Horrible wrenching feeling in my gut during the last 5 minutes of every game, still there - but a bit less than before.
The worst part of the losing streak was listening to GT fan comments about this season that really aren't/weren't based in fact - so with a win over a Top 25 team finally under our belts and the losing streak over, I can tear into a couple of these.
- "Hewitt needs to recruit shooters, he just recruits athletes and that's why we struggle to score at times."
Nearly 40% 3 point shooting in ACC games says that Hewitt has recruited a number of guys that can shoot the ball. Morrow is truly an elite shooter (more on this later) and Clinch and Fredrick can stroke it as well. Speaking of Fredrick, now that he's playing off the ball he really looks like the prolific scorer he was supposed to be coming out of high school and his confidence is much, much higher. This team certainly has the firepower to put up a bunch of points when not turning it over at ridiculous rates (unfortunately, that seems a lot ask right now). There's a lot of shooters though, Hewitt has recruited well in that area.
- "This team isn't buying in or playing with the effort you expect, Hewitt isn't doing a good job."
Well, at points early in the year this was a valid criticism. But in the past month (possibly excluding the Miami game), this team has played very hard - they just are young and can't closeout games at all. The tough loss to VT really seemed to be a shot the psyche of the club as well, and they've struggled in end game scenarios. That doesn't mean they've quit, or stopped playing hard - they have really hustled and battled and had leads in almost every loss. Losing @BC by 2, @VT by 1 and @FSU by 1 isn't failing on effort - it's just failing on execution in the final minutes, something that has be learned by experience.
- "Ra'Sean Dickey is a lazy oaf"
Oh wait, that was me. Lets just say I couldn't be more wrong right now. Dickey is the best all around player on the floor for Tech over the past month, and his improvement off the ball on the offensive end has really started to show. He sets screens like a monster, is moving hard without the ball between the blocks to set himself up, and when he gets it in the paint it's almost automatic - heck, he's even passing the ball much better. He still has lapses on the defensive end from time to time (esp. letting other big men get position on him), but his effort level there has improved as well. Dickey is going to have to be a force for next year's team to be special, he seems much more on that track now than he did 6 weeks ago.
- "This team is lacking All-ACC caliber talent"
I wanted to compare a couple of current members of this GT team to recent players in the ACC at the same stages of their careers - just to point out how effective they've been already as young players.
Anthony Morrow ('05-'06)
16.5ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.7apg, 45% FG%, 44% 3pt% (2.9 3's made per game)
J.J Redick ('03-'04)
15.9ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.6apg, 42% FG%, 39.5% 3pt% (2.75 3's made per game)
Anthony Morrow as a sophmore is better than Redick was in every single facet of the game. He's a better shooter than Redick was, has better shot selection, is a better rebounder and a better defender. If Morrow played at Duke, he'd be going through the hype machine as one of the great pure shooters in college basketball (which he is). Will he turn into a First Team All-American? Probably not, because he won't play enough minutes and Hewitt won't run a one man offense where he can get that many shots (Tech will just be too deep the next two years) - but he's very clearly on his way to being one of the top scorers in the ACC and could average around 20ppg next year.
Ra'Sean Dickey ('05-'06)
12.3ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.5bpg, 61% FG%, 71% FT% (1.48 pps, 3.0 TOpg)
Sean May ('03-'04)
15.2ppg, 9.2rpg, 1.3bpg, 46% FG%, 69% FT% (1.25 pps, 2.3 TOpg)
Dickey probably will never be the rebounder Sean May was, even though he's a very good one - Dickey this year is getting rebounds at a very respectable rate of 10.2/19.8 (orb% / drb%), which makes him one of the better rebounders in the country - and his numbers are probably a bit reduced because he plays alongside Jeremis Smith who is having one of the best rebounding seasons in recent ACC history. What does stand out to me is Dickey's offensive efficiency - it's ridiculous. I consider May to be one of the more effective low post scorers in the ACC in the past couple of years, and Dickey just blows him away. 1.48pps is a huge number - showing just how effective he is in the low blocks, and just how good his shot selection is. If Dickey can put forth the same level of effort May did (basically carrying his team to an NCAA title) he can certainly have the same impact - and as this season continues on he's starting to show he can be more like that kind of player.
Jeremis Smith ('05-'06)
12.2ppg, 8.9rpg, 2apg, 1.6spg (1.41pps)
I honestly can't come up with a recent comparison for Jeremis Smith so I just put up his stats - I guess I'd be interested to hear if he reminds anyone else of someone. To me he's a very unique player, in that he scores almost all his points on "trash" plays or offensive rebounds, yet he's an effective ball handler. He's an absolute monster on the boards, but not a great scorer when given the ball on the blocks. Speaking of rebounding, Smith has a ridiculous 13.0/20.1 (orb% / drb%) split on the season - and again, he and Dickey both impact each other's rebound rate a fair amount - if either one were the only post player on the court for the majority of a game, they'd have even higher rates. The most bizarre Smith statistic though is that he's 12th in the country in Free Throw Rate (FTM / FGA) meaning he's one best in the country at getting to the line when he's shooting. If he could just up his FT% into the 70% range, he'd become a much more dangerous offensive option.
Now, I'm not saying that next year we're going to have the All-American versions of Redick and May on the court at the same time to go along with the best rebounder in the country - the point was to show just how effective our sophmores have been already. There's a bunch of talent there, and in most of the cases it's already turning into production. Yes, they need experience and the basketball IQ that comes along with - but so did May and Redick and all the other studs in the conference in recent years, that's not something unique to only this version of the Jackets.
There are still a lot of problems with this edition of the Jackets. They are still a 3-8 team in the conference and have a losing record overall (man, losing to UIC sucked) - but at the beginning of the year I figured that breaking even in the ACC would be a magnificent season, and 6-10 was more likely. If GT can keep their recent quality of play up, 6-10 is still a pretty good possibility and two wins over Top 25 teams is nothing to sneeze at. Obviously everyone would prefer that we were 8-3 right now instead, but that was just never in the cards for this season. All in all, I refuse to get too down on this team - every game I watch (especially the last 6 weeks) they are playing hard, they have a lot of obvious talent and they are improving and that's keeping me cautiously optimistic for next year.
Tommorow - highlight video of the NCSU game, comments on the "BIG OFFENSIVE CHANGES!!!!" which probably don't mean much, quick comments on Thad Young's matchup against Brandan Wright and some baseball commentary ... it was a busy weekend in GT sports for sure.