Friday, March 17, 2006

Greg Paulus

Nice line last night against the #16 seeded Southern Jaguars. 2 points, 8 assists and 7 turnovers while playing the worst defense on the floor isn't exactly going to keep you on Dickie V's "Diaper Dandies" list for long.

(credit to grappa over on for the excellent photoshop)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Arguing with the refs ...

Arguing with the refs takes on a whole new meaning after this clip. Wow.

Best Weekend of the Year (Thursday Edition)

10:31am - I'm #5,512 in the VIP line for's March Madness on Demand. Hopefully they don't totally choke the feed out, I paid for it last year and it was well worth it. God Bless the internet.

I also finished picking my brackets for our family pool ... and I'm already regretting picking Iowa for the Final Four. My bracket will be on fire on my porch in about 4 hours. I should have put paint on my dog's paws and let him walk around it like my first plan.

O/U on first taunting phone call to friends stuck at work? 37 minutes.

10:55am - Drew Nicholas just ran down the tunnel again on SportsCenter. It's still funny every time I see that shot, of course I'm also not a UNC-W alumn. Oh, and big suprise on the #1 buzzer beater - Bryce Drew the coaches sun. Games can't start fast enough, I'm getting the shakes and I'm starting to drive my dog nuts.

10:59am - I just noticed the "Boss Button" on the March Madness on Demand video player. I've never been so proud to be an American.

11:10am - What on earth is Clark Kellog saying? He makes absolutely no sense. Someone sedate him and put Jay Bilas in the booth as an intelligent replacement. Thank you.

11:20am - Wichita State and Seton Hall tip off the tournament. I see a lot of MVC games out here in the KC area, and I'm not very impressed with most of the teams. That being said, I think WSU pulls this one off. Emergency Taco Bell run might in order right here, or it could be hours before food.

11:34am - Taunting phone calls to JW and Phil complete with Wichita State and UW-M both out to early leads. Gotta love the mid majors! UW-M is extremely athletic by the way, and they just ran an excellent alley-oop that left a guy making a chin-up on the rim.

12:07pm - WSU is just blowing out Big East powerhouse Seton Hall. Somewhere Billy Packer is quivering in a corner screaming "noooooooooo" like Hayden Christiansen at the end of Star Wars Ep. 3

12:23pm - I just realised that every member of BC is wearing headbands. I could not hate them more, I even caught myself cheering for Duke in the ACC title game. I think it's Dudley and Marshall that I especially dislike, or maybe the fact they are just northern thugs as a group - I can't tell.

12:36pm - San Diego State's arena is emptied out while they examine a "suspicious package". I sincerely hope this is being over careful and not a true threat to a sporting venue. What a down note to hit during the first halftime break.

On an another note - I forgot about the Master's commercials all during the tournament. I love this time of year.

12:51pm - Nothing says "March Madness" quite like back to back commercials featuring Coach K and then Dick Vitale.

12:59pm - Taj Gray just blocked a shot by putting his arm through the rim and rocked the whole goal to boot. No goaltending call, Billy Packer must have been one of the officials. Doesn't matter, UW-M is up by 9 and seems to be in control of the game from the tip today.

1:06pm - Just got my first - "I should have just donated my money to a charity instead" phone call.

1:23pm - Seton Hall hasn't even attempted to make a comeback, they are down by 18 with 3:44 left and are absolutely toast. Scratch one Big East team. Of course, they lost to Rutgers (TWICE!) so maybe we should have seen this coming.

1:26pm - Speaking of comebacks, Terrell Everett is trying to will OU back into this against UW-M ... but Taj Gray just fouled out. I don't think OU has it in them, but this has the potential to be the first great finish of the tournament.

1:38pm - WSU polished off Seton Hall by 20, and UW-M is taking care of business down the stretch against OU. Billy Packer is now officially in the fetal position. Boston College is fighting for their lives against Pacific, only interesting game on right now.

1:47pm - BC and Pacific just ran the two worst end of game plays in the history of the tournament on back to back possessions to end the game. You can't tell me Skinner seriously drew up a play in the time out for Craig Smith to dribble the ball up the court under pressure. Or maybe he did, who knows. Overtime coming up.

2:06pm - Craig Smith is an absolute man, only BC player I can stand. If Jeremis Smith can become Craig Smith Lite by the time he's a senior I'll be ecstatic. He just canned two free throws with under 5 seconds left to send their game against Pacific to Double OT. Heck of a start to the tournament. I also have BC going to the Elite 8, so this is basically my bracket's life hanging by a thread right now.

2:11pm - Shawne Williams with the dunk of the tournament so far. He left from waaaay back in the lane to throw that down on the break. Looks like the wheels are starting to fall off for Pacific.

2:18pm - The sigh of relief from every office park in America was heard on the moon I think. Boston College saved approximately 16,293 brackets by pulling out that win in Double OT (surprisingly enough, they also managed to cover the spread which was a hefty +7.5).

2:55pm - I am watching Alabama and Marquette solely because Jay Bilas is calling the game. I actually learn something about basketball when I listen to him call games.

Winthrop was a sexy pick to pull off the first round upset, looks good for them right now. They are giving Tennessee everything they want. My tournament rule of "never pick more than one SEC team for the Sweet 16" is looking alright at the moment.

3:25pm - It's not a fall Saturday, and as such there is no reason for Alabama, Florida and Tennessee to be on TV all at the same time. No surprise that both Tenn and UF are struggling, it's the wrong sport on the wrong day of the week.

3:29pm - Right as I type this, Watson picks up his 4th for Tennesse with 16 minutes left, and Winthrop takes the lead. Go SEC basketball!

3:47pm - Underated 5-12 upset possibility ... Montana over Nevada. Montana is up 40-33, and I honestly can't name a single player on their team.

Winthrop just hit a huge putback and has tied Tenn. again. This game is going to be right down to the wire. I can't believe any human in their right mind gave the 'Vols a #2 seed. What was the committee thinking?

3:56pm - "Buzzed Driving IS Drunk Driving" ... Ok, what about "Tipsy Driving", or maybe "Feeling Good Driving". What about "High Driving". Seriously, can we stop with the PSA's trying to be cool and hip and using slang from 5 years ago?

Oh yeah, Winthrop is up by two now. I can't believe my wife picked this and I didn't have the guts to. She got 31-32 right on the first weekend last year, I should know better.

4:11pm - Nice airballed free throw UT, you guys really deserved that #2 seed. Just lose and get this farce over with. Of course, you'll blow up my bracket if you do - but that's life, and I'll gladly trade $5 for a Vol disaster.

4:21pm - And that's why this is the best sporting event in the world. Holy crap James Lofton off balance from the corner with half a second left. ONIONS!!

4:57pm - And the afternoon session ends with the SEC the most bogus 3-0 ever. A big screw you to Nevada for laying a fat turd against Montana (SERIOUSLY, MONTANA?) and my Sweet 16 sleeper getting bounced early. Oh well, off to the local sports and drinking establishment for the evening haul. Good times.


I got a number of e-mails from people wondering if I was alright after the tornados last weekend in the midwest - and yes, I seem to be in one piece and nothing substantial we owned was damaged, so that was good. We didn't have power for a while and that forced a thawing of our freezer (which was no fun), but other than that nothing too serious. I did get to watch a several ton construction dumpster being lifted into the air though, and that was entertaining to a point - as was the car sitting on it's owners roof(!). Lawrence only got hit with "micro-bursts" which are like baby tornados, the storm got much worse as it moved east and spawned full blown twisters all over Missouri which we thankfully escaped - what we got was enough, thank you very much. Thank you for everyone that wrote me concerned after the pictures I posted or who had seen the twisters on the news, it made for an interesting weekend and early week but that was about it.

March Madness begins today, and I have the next two off of work. I'll have updates all day long as I sit firmly on my couch with the remote.

Finally, just as a random comment not sports related at all - My college memories include linear algebra finals, eating at the V, driving I-75 from Chattanooga to Atlanta and back ... and getting rocked by Sevendust at every tiny venue in Atlanta. I saw them again last night here in KC, and while everyone is 6-7 years older than the last time I saw them they still put on a tremendous live show. I've never been a huge fan of their albums (something just doesn't carry over to recordings for them), but their live shows are absolutely tremendous. For those of you in your mid-20's reading this who went to school about the same time as I did ... you probably know what I'm talking about.

Games tip in 1 hour and 20 minutes. I can't wait - the single best sporting weekend of the year, no contest.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Tornado part isn't supposed to be taken literally ...

After yesterday morning, I can officially say "I've lived in Kansas" ... my power just came back on (12,000 homes in Lawrence lost power) - I didn't know those thick power poles could be snapped like toothpicks.

(Photos from the Lawrence Journal-World)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hey Marketing, here's an idea

You know, this has been nagging me for a while ... GT is located in the very heart of Atlanta and has yet to use the resources in one of the fastest growing and most marketable cities in the world to it's advantage. Heck, there's a move title "ATL" starring two Atlanta rappers (Big Boi and T.I) in it coming out this summer. There's countless references to Atlanta or Atlanta based musicians on the radio daily everywhere in the U.S. Atlanta (or The ATL) has become a brand in and of itself, and GT should be using that to help market the athletics programs. There's no reason that the football stadium should only be 2/3rds full most of the year - and that I blame on us for not creating any sort of a "buzz" around Tech.

Oh, and there's no reason that UNLV should have beaten us to marketing campaigns like this one (watch the video below). My father-in-law lives in Vegas and has been a Rebel supporter for years and brought my wife into that a bit as well, but this is certainly aimed at the younger generation flooding Vegas and not the older crowd of the previous generation. Would it hurt us so bad to market to someone under the age of 40? Seriously?

Friday, March 10, 2006

More Recapping

A couple of days ago I broke down the freshman, their performances this year and what to expect from them next year. Today we're going to look at the rest of the team ... or as I like to call them "the sophmores". There will be 4 returning players for next season who played as sophmores this year and one who played as a junior, and they will form the core of the '06-'07 team along with Crittenton, Young and Clinch. The progression of this group was somewhat fitful, and a bit spotty. There were bright spots, especially on the offensive end (this group shoots the ball very well) but there were huge lapses in basketball IQ and defensive play as well as overall effort level.

Ra'Sean Dickey - 27.5mpg, 13.2ppg, 6.5rpg, 59.7% FG%

Dickey is the best returning player on GT's roster, and will be one of the best big men in the ACC next year. My, how strange it feels to type that, because in December he was just playing out the string, exhibiting very little effort on either end of the floor and having 5 point performances against UGa's decidedly below average front line. Sometime around 1/4 of the way through the conference season Hewitt finally got through to him, and he's been a monster since that point - easily the most encouraging sign for next year.

Next year? Well, Dickey is extremely polished on the offensive end of the court. He's got the size, the soft hands and the athleticism to go with a smooth jumper and a plethora of post moves; you will be hard pressed to find another post player in the country with more raw offensive skill than Dickey has. With the added dribble penetration of Critty and Young, and with the outside shooting of Clinch and Morrow to keep people honest, Dickey should have plenty of chances to work one on one in the post and get a number of easy scoring opportunities. I'm not sure there will be enough shots to greatly increase Dickey's scoring average ... but 15ppg on 55% shooting sounds about right, and that's a heck of a player.

There's another end of the court though, and Dickey absolutely has to improve his play on that end. We gave up countless easy buckets in the paint this year, and a lot of them are because Dickey doesn't work hard enough to keep his man from posting him up right under the basket. He's a big strong guy, and his man shouldn't be catching the ball on a regular basis with both feet in the paint. It wouldn't hurt anything if Dickey stepped up his shotblocking a bit from the weakside as well. Luke Schenscher was a very underated defender, and his post defense helped anchor the terrific teams of the two previous years - Dickey needs to step into that role for this group to reach their potential.

Anthony Morrow
- 32.2mpg, 16.0ppg, 4.5rpg, 42.9% 3P%

Quick question - who led the ACC in 3P% this year? Nope, not J.J Redick ... it was Anthony Morrow. Morrow led GT in minutes and points per game, hit 78 3 point baskets and was named Honorable Mention All-ACC. Not a bad sophmore year for a kid who wasn't that highly regarded coming out of high school in North Carolina, mostly because he played for a tiny school against questionable competition. Morrow accepted the challenge of being the focal point of the offense - and conversely, the other teams defense - for most of the season, and while he wore down towards the end of the year it was unquestionably a successful year for him.

It's strange though, I'm not sure where Morrow fits in next year - or even if he'll be a starter by the end of the year. Shooting guard is the one spot where GT has tons of quality depth, and with Lewis Clinch stepping up his game at the end of the year to go along with Thad at small forward, Morrow will probably see his minutes decrease. With his quick release and ridiculously deep range, he's going to be on the court though - you can't keep a shooter of his quality off the court for too long. Morrow also proved in games like Michigan State and Wake Forest that he is totally unafraid to take big shots in the last few minutes of games, heartlessly draining 3 after 3 in eventually futile combacks in both those games. With more dribble penetration and the offensive weapons on the court to spread the floor, Morrow shouldn't face the continual double teams he saw this year, and his shooting percentage might even be a bit higher next year than this - 14-15ppg on 40+% from 3, to go along with underated rebounding and Morrow will be in contention for All-ACC mention again.

Morrow has some holes in his game, specifically ball handling and defense (recurring themes?). He is a bit turnover prone for an ACC guard, and his handles limit his ability to score inside the 3 point arc, which is a shame because once he gets the ball inside he's very effective. It's this weakness that may end up with Clinch starting over Morrow at some point, he simply is going to have to develop like Redick did into a player who can put the ball down on the floor with some regularity to become the big time scorer his shot says he should be. On the defense end he's long and fairly athletic, but seems to get lost behind screens at times and can be beat off the dribble. The skills are there to be a solid defender, but the production just isn't there right now and that's more an effort issue than anything else. I hope to see a teamwide improvement in that area when we tip off the season in Maui.

Jeremis Smith - 28mpg, 11ppg, 8.2rpg, 49% FG%

Jeremis Smith recovered from last year's dislocated kneecap very nicely, only to end the season fighting back spasms this year, and that's a shame because his game is based on his athleticism more than anything else. Jeremis still finished 4th in the league in rebounding despite playing 7-8mpg less than the other guys on the leaders list. Because of his physical playing style and ridiculous strength, Smith finished 11th in the country in free throw rate ( - but unfortunately shot very poorly at the free throw line and didn't quite capitalize on that skill as much as he could. Smith is that "dirty work" guy that every team needs, a relentless rebounder and a solid body you can't keep off the offensive glass. He's going to be the starting power forward for the rest of his career at Tech, and while he's probably never going to be a superstar, his hustle play and thunderous dunks will keep him a crowd favorite.

For next year? Smith is going to start every game at power forward, and play around 25-30mpg just like this year. Actually, I'd be surprised if there was a huge difference in his production, except his rebounding numbers might go up. If Smith were to add even a 10' jumper to his arsenal, he'd average 15+ per game, but I just don't see if happening. The most painful part of the season was probably the end of the Duke game when they kept leaving Smith open at the FT line and forcing him to shoot those jumpers ... it was just brutal to watch. With the depth of offensive talent around, Smith's weaknesses shooting the ball shouldn't be too obvious, he'll be able to focus on the dirty work around the hoop that he does so well, as well as the 5-6 ridiculous dunks per season he's good for. Demarcus Nelson is still looking for the number of the truck that facialed him early this year.

Smith is the best post defender GT had this year, and his hustle and effort made him a leader on the court that I expect him to keep growing into. He needs to improve his decision making with the basketball and hopefully find some semblance of a jump shot, but I really think Smith's game is what we're going to get. Any improvement from this point will be imcremental. Hopefully he cuts down on the number of fouls as he matures a bit, but with his intense nature and style of play I'm not sure that's going to change much.

Mario West - 22.1mpg, 5.2ppg, 2.05spg

West played out of position, in a role he isn't fit for in the least and yet every night brought his lunch pail and played his butt off. The one guy on the team who I never ever questioned the effort out of, or the defensive intensity and the best perimeter defender on the team - West finished 4th in the ACC in steals per game, just another symptom of his excellent defensive play. As the only junior on the team, he will be the lone senior next year and while his role may decrease with the newcomers, his impact on the team will hopefully extend well past the the court floor.

West is one of the premier perimeter defenders and wing athletes in the ACC and has given Hewitt an excellent option off the bench for the past two years when he needs a lock down defensive performance. West really is much more suited to the SF/SG spot that he played last year than the PG spot he was forced into this year, but no matter where he plays his limited offensive game beyond dunks and putbacks limits him. I expect Mario to play a larger number of minutes early in the year, before gradually giving way to the youngsters as their play increases. He will still be on the court for his energy and defense - but if GT has to depend on him for 20mpg and to help run the offense like this year, we'll be in trouble.

As a kid who came in on an academic scholarship, and will be back on one next year while in graduate school - I hope West gets a huge ovation on senior night, he represents everything that is right in college athletics. If he had gone to a smaller league, he could have been a star with his explosive athleticism, but that's a level he'll probably never reach at GT. That doesn't mean he isn't a good player (he is), or that he can't have a huge impact at this level (his defense alone guarentees that). He's the kind of guy you're glad to point to and say "he went to my school".

Zam Fredrick - 28.8ppg, 10.5ppg, 3.9apg

Zam was stuck in a tough position this year, having to play out of his true position and replace one of the best players in school history at the same time. Some nights he handled it well, and some others he did not. Fredrick had an extremely erratic season, and only truly looked comfortable when Hewitt moved him off the ball to SG and had West run the point. There's been a lot of talk about Zam's body language, his somewhat strange transfer attempt in the offseason and his future role on this team - but in between all that he did show flashes of talent that could make a valuable piece if he stays in Atlanta.

Zam's strength is certainly as a "scorer" ... he was the only player on the roster this year consitently able to beat his man off the dribble, and his midrange game is quite tough. While a decent shooter, he's not in the class of either Clinch or Morrow, but he doesn't lean on that to score. Most of Zam's points came from 15' or in, often off a pull-up or floater. Zam also showed that at the end of games, he wanted the ball ... hitting the game winners against both BC and NCSU. That confidence isn't something you can teach, and it was something that the team as a whole was sorely lacking this year.

On the negative side, Zam's body language and attitude fluctuates wildly while he's on the court. When it's going good, he's bright and playing well. When it starts to fall apart, he really begins struggling and it just seems to mushroom. I bet if you mapped Zam's TO's this year, they would happen in streaks, 3 or 4 closely bunched together - his decision making would just dissapear once something went wrong. Between that and his seeming lack of physical conditioning, a lot of people got down on Zam - including myself. He's not an ACC PG, and we desperately needed one this year - he's a backup SG at this level, and much of people's frustration with this season was dumped on Zam simply because he was the unlucky one who had this role shoved on him. I like him, I hope he stays in Atlanta and improves his approach to the game. I truly believe he has a lot to offer, but it needs to be in a role he's comfortable with. Unfortunately, I think the recent scholarship offer to Lance Storrs is the writing on the wall, and would not be surprised in the least to see Zam at USC-East next year. If he leaves, I'm going to miss him - but at the same time he unfortunately doesn't have a skillset that is irreplaceable at this point.

(all pictures by Chris Gooley)

I just dropped it like it's hot

Vee Dub holding it down on the engineering tip, jaaaaa

The new Volkswagon "Unpimp My Ride" ads are even creepier than the Burger King "King" ads. I cannot believe I'm going to spend the next 3 weeks watching some mentally unstable german guy (from the Big Lebowski, by the way) throw VW gang signs at me while I'm just trying to watch basketball. I've already got the shakes. Honestly, these are even worse than the "My Fast" VW ads which are currently on the air as well. Ugh.

If you haven't seen these ads yet, you can watch them here and be equally creeped out. Ad #1, Ad #2, Ad #3

Well, at least it's over

And so the most forgettable season since the end of the Bobby Cremins era has finally wrapped up, and frankly ... I'm just glad it's done. I watched my DVD of the 2004 Final Four game against OSU and pretended it was this year, it was a heck of a lot more fun than watching us throw up airballs against Maryland. I had planned today to do a review of the sophmores on the team, but I figured a few comments about the season as a whole were more fitting - we got the whole offseason now to break down players.

The season has been a disaster from top to bottom. As soon as JJ left for the draft, the writing was on the wall - he was the only sure fire future NBA player on the roster, the only ACC caliber upperclassman and the only PG. That's a lot to replace just on the pure talent perspective alone, let alone the much more difficult to quantify "leadership" portion. Austin Jackson could have helped with the talent portion to an extent, but he could not have filled the leadership role. However, losing him to the Yankees left us with nothing talentwise at the PG spot and that doubly complicated the matter. There's a reason GT was picked to finish 11th - that's the quality of talent and experience we had coming into the season.

College basketball is about two things, experience and talent. If you have enough of one, you can somewhat overcome a lack of the other (i.e - Syracuse in 2004, Maryland in 2002) but that's difficult to do. And if you think talent is something you can coach, remember that '02 Maryland is the only team since the McD's All-Star Game began play that won a national championship without a burger boy. That's staggering, but it clearly shows the role that recruiting plays in basketball success. Nobody would mistake Cremins for the best X and O coach in history, but the guy won a ton of games by bringing in top flite talent to Atlanta. Since Cremins left, Hewitt has had a couple of terrific seasons where he had slightly below top level talent, but they were very experienced.

Earlier this year I did a detailed review of Hewitt's recruiting since he showed up, but with a focus on what the roster will look like in the next two years. What I could have also shown was the 3 year gap in recruiting between the Jack and Bosh class and the Thad and Crittenton class that is coming in next year. In the past 3 years, GT has brought in 9 players. Here's how they break down.

  • Top 25 players:

    Lewis Clinch (RSCI #25) - '05

  • Top 50 Players:


  • Top 100 Players:

    Will Bynum (RSCI #51) - '03
    Ra'Sean Dickey (RSCI #51) - '04
    Jeremis Smith (RSCI #74) - '04
    Zam Fredrick (RSCI #85) - '04
    Anthony Morrow (RSCI #91) - '04

  • Unraked Players:

    Alade Aminu (RSCI - #UR) - '05
    D'Andre Bell (RSCI - #UR) - '05
    Paco Diaw (RSCI - #UR) - '05
That's not a pretty picture. You aren't going to win a lot of ACC games with only a single top 50 player on the roster (also, notice how the quality of the player lines up pretty darn closely with their high school ranking - they are much more accurate than football rankings). That isn't to say there aren't guys on that list who can play - because it's obviously there are guys who are good. They aren't good enough to carry an ACC caliber team as freshman and sophmores though, and that's what you saw this year.

If you took the team we have right now, and brought in two more classes of players ranked in the top 50-150, the ceiling is somewhere around ... the Maryland team we just lost to. There's enough talent to be a middle of the pack ACC team with some experience, and an NCAA bubble team. Those are quality players, but not the requisite "star power" for a top finish in the ACC and a high NCAA seed. So why am I optimistic about the next two years? Because we have had 3 top 15 players in the past 6 years ... and are bringing in 3 more in the next 2 seasons. There's a huge difference when you begin to recruit that level of talent, and it should be very obvious next year.

There's a lot that still needs to be fixed, and the current players on the roster will need to step it up from this year's dismal performance, but they shouldn't have to carry the team by the time the conference season rolls around. I think people are going to be surprised at just how good Thad and Critty (and Lawal in the near future) are and will be for us, and the huge impact they will have on the play of the guys already on the roster.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Basketball Season Recap

One post in the last week - I'm slacking. If you've noticed that most of the really heavily updated blogs have more than one regular contributor, it's because it's darn hard to crank out 2-3 items a day unless it's a fulltime job. Anyways, wah wah wah ... time to take a look back on the basketball season that was - today I want to cover the freshman class for this year and how they did, and I've got an e-mail exchange with RamblinRed about next year that will be going up as well in the near future as well as some discussion of GT players currently in the NBA as well (Luuuuuuuuuke!).

Hewitt brought in 4 freshmen this year, with varying amounts of hype and expectation attached to them. Lewis Clinch, Alade Aminu, D'Andre Bell and Paco Diaw all saw "above walk-on level" playing time this year, enough that we can get a feel for their potential while in Atlanta. Considering that this class contains GT's best athletes at the shooting guard and post positions, the impact expected for next year from this group will be fairly high.

Lewis Clinch - 23.9mpg, 9.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 43% 3pt%

Clinch entered the year as by far the highest regarded of GT's recruits, struggled out of the gate and then missed 5 games due to injury. At one point early in the season many people were down on his overall game and openly wondering why Clinch was recruited over players like Mike Mercer. Once Clinch got healthy and his sea legs under him in GT's offense, he immediately began to show the terrific scoring touch that he had flashed in high school. Clinch shot over 50% from the 3pt line in ACC play, and was the second leading scorer among ACC freshman (behind some guy who looks like a salamander). You could make a solid argument that Clinch was the second best freshman in the ACC, and certainly ahead of fellow class of '05 shooting guards Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, Courtney Fells, Brian Asbury and Martynas Pocius.

What does Clinch bring to the table for next year? He can really shoot the basketball, and that appears to be his strongest trait right now. During the ACC season it was impressive to watch him on the offensive end, he has little to no hesitation in his shot and a very quick release to go along with the athletic ability to put the ball on the floor and adjust for an oncoming defender. Honestly, I was expecting him to be able to dribble penetrate and score in the lane more than he did, he had shown a lot of that in AAU play but that portion of his game was rarely on display in his freshman season. Part of his issues seem to be with a slighly erratic handle, and like almost everyone on the GT squad he needs to work all summer on his ball handling and decision making.

All in all, Clinch had a very good freshman year. He wasn't a magician who suddenly turned Tech into a powerhouse, but he was also a long way from a bust. Clinch showed that he was highly regarded out of high school for a reason and that he will be a key contributor for next year's team. I'm not sure if he'll be a starter or not in '06-'07, GT is just so deep at the SG spot and Anthony Morrow had a heck of a year and will be hard to beat out - but I do expect Clinch to continue to get 20+ mpg, and probably raise his scoring into the 12-14ppg range on around 45% fg / 40% 3pt shooting. That's a very valuable player to have on your roster, and Clinch has the potential to be an All-ACC caliber player in his career.

D'Andre Bell - 18.4mpg, 3.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 36% FG%

Bell was injured a large part of the end of his high school career, and came into GT a bit under the radar but contributed right out of the gate for GT. He started more games than any other freshman (11) mostly because he was capable of playing 20 minutes without severely screwing anything up and he hustled and played solid defense. As the ACC season wore on and Clinch really began to play well, Bell's minutes slowly dried up and his quality of play seemed to tail off as well.

What does it look like he'll bring to the table for future teams? Well, nothing spectacular - he's a hustle player who plays solid defense but he has some clear limitations. Bell is somewhat undersized for a SF, and he can't really play SG. In ACC play he struggled against athletic frontcourts, shooting only 36% (despite having a very nice jumper when open) and rebounding at a low rate. There's a reason Bell was seeing less of the court as the season went along, he was struggling to keep pace at the end.

With Thad Young coming in next year and Morrow and Clinch both needing minutes as well, I think that Bell will play less next year than he did as a freshman - maybe only 10mpg. He has value off the bench as a ball handler, defender and a guy who can make open jumpers but if Hewitt has to play him for long stretches of time, especially in the conference season, it'll be a sign of some pretty serious problems on the team.

Alade Aminu - 7.7mpg, 2.3ppg, 1.6rpg

Aminu was a track star in high school and had only a couple of year's experience playing basketball, but his elite level athleticism and size helped make him a top 100 recruit as a high school senior. While not a project on the level of Luke Schenscher, it was fairly obvious that Aminu had a ways to go before becoming a productive ACC level performer. Surprisingly to me, he played well in the conference games he entered and showed that he has tons of potential for the future.

What does Aminu offer for next year? He's going to be the primary post backup coming into the season, and should probably see his minutes double. He has the athleticism and agility to be an above average defender in the post, but he badly needs to get stronger and play under control more - he simply fouled way too often this year. On the offensive end, I'm not expecting Aminu to be a force by any stretch of the imagination, but 5-6ppg on dunks, putbacks and simply beating his man down the floor wouldn't be beyond his abilities. As for beating his man down the floor ... Aminu is F-A-S-T for a man his size, he will be very good in transition as this team tries to run a bit more next year.

If Aminu can contribute 5-6ppg, 4rpg and solid defense in around 15mpg, this Tech team will be in great shape with Dickey taking the lion's share of the minutes and Peacock/Sheehan chipping in a bit as well. I'm excited to watch Aminu develop, Hewitt and the staff did a terrific job working Schenscher into an NBA caliber center (if you had told me Schenscher would play in the NBA his freshman year, I'd have called the nearest mental hospital for you) and Aminu has a lot more natural talent to work with.

Paco Diaw - 7.4mpg, 0.9ppg, 1.3apg, 43% FG%

Talk about the under the radar, Paco Diaw was so far under the radar nobody had any idea what to expect from him. Diaw actually started a game early in the season, and played better than our other PG's for a short stretch at the beginning of the year - "better" meaning "didn't dribble it off his foot bringing the ball upcourt". Unfortunately, that came to an end at Wake Forest when Diaw commited 4 turnovers in only 9 minutes of play and looked completely out of place against ACC competition. From that point on (most of the conference season) Diaw saw very little playing time and really didn't look comfortable in the tiny bit of time he did get.

What does Diaw bring to the table next year? Honestly, I'm still not sure I know. He's the player on the current roster I would say is a better than average passer from what little we saw, but he is very weak and looked like he could easily be physically intimidated by ACC guards and that led to a number of turnovers during conference play. Diaw hit the only three he attempted this season, but didn't show much of an offensive game in any of his time on the floor and was tenative when open for shots. There is talent there, but the jump in competition level looked to be so huge that often he was just trying to adjust to the speed and athleticism of the game.

Diaw will be an interesting case next year, with Crittenton coming in and his brother (Boris Diaw) now in Phoenix and not in Atlanta any longer. I think he's a very strong candidate for a redshirt to allow him to build strength and get used to playing with ACC caliber players in practice every day, but I also would consider him a transfer possibility at some point in the future. I think he has the potential to be a contributor to Yellow Jacket basketball, but I'm not sure next year is the best chance for that to happen.

Looking back on this freshman class it seems that GT has a future All-ACC caliber player, solid options at the low post and small forward positions and possible future starters and one player who is still a giant unknown. All around, this seems to be a solid class and one that can make a large contribution to future success in Atlanta. Not as deep as the '04 class, and not as top heavy with talent as the '06 class appears to be - but a solid class nonetheless.

(all photos from the excellent Gooley Photography)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Busy Weekend

Yikes, my birthday was this weekend and my wife had a bunch of school stuff going on (she got accepted at Columbia for grad school, among other events) so I didn't have much time here. Of course, that means a ton of stuff went on including a bad loss to Clemson, Lance Storrs committing to GT and the requisite rumbling about transfers and future GT players Crittenton and Lawal winning state championships. Lot of meat to chew on over the next couple of days.

Just to leave you with something, you can check out highlights of the players named McDonald's All-American at this link: ... you can also download the video from there. Thad has a couple of sick dunks and a sweet post move right at the beginning, it's worth a viewing and should help with the bad taste in your mouth from losing twice to Clemson in the same year.