There were times last season when Paul Hewitt looked lost on the hardwood.
College basketball is back.
Kinda hard to believe, isn't it?
It seems like just yesterday Georgia Tech was finishing out a very disappointing 2008-09 campaign, losing to Florida State in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
That loss was preceded by an abysmal regular season that saw the Yellow Jackets compile a 12-19 record and finish dead last in the ACC.
Predictably, loyal Tech fans became displeased with lackluster on-the-court performance and a dearth of offensive production and direction, with blaming falling squarely on the shoulders of head coach Paul Hewitt.
Yellow Jacket alumni and boosters alike began calling for Hewitt's job, despite him having what is effectively a lifetime contract with a reported seven-million dollar buyout.
However, a consensus top five recruiting class helped Hewitt weather the storm throughout the offseason, and a preseason ranking in the top 25 has given Tech followers a hopeful yet wary outlook for the 2009-10' season.
Here is a quick preview of the new-look Jackets:
2008-09' Record: 12-19 (2-14 ACC)
Key Losses: SG Lewis Clinch
Key Additions: F/C Derrick Favors, F Brian Oliver, F Kammeon Holsey, G Mfon Udofia, G Glenn Rice Jr.
Starters Returning: PF/C Gani Lawal, F Zach Peacock, G Iman Shumpert, PG Maurice Miller
Back-court Outlook: Much improved. Despite losing their top scorer in Lewis Clinch, the addition of Mfon Udofia gives the Jackets something they have sorely needed since Jarrett Jack left early for the NBA: a true point guard.
Sure they have Moe Miller, but he has been little more than a serviceable option even on his best days, and by the end of last season Iman Shumpert was running the point on the vast majority of sets.
Udofia's play should allow Shumpert to move to his natural two-guard position, and allow him to put his slashing and spot shooting position to good use.
Defensively, the return of D'Andre Bell gives Tech a lock-down defender who can be relied on to guard the opposing team's best player; an attribute Tech will need desperately when ACC play rolls around.
The loss of Clinch and his gaudy 15.5 points per game to graduation does leave a few holes, however. Someone will have to step up and hit deep three point shots to stretch opposing defenses, and his leadership and big game experience will be sorely missed.
Frontcourt Outlook: Dominating. Even though Tech has a future NBA lottery pick in PF Gani Lawal, the real superstar of the front-court will likely be newcomer Derrick Favors, considered by some to be the best freshman in the nation.
Listed at 6'9" and 220 lbs. with lightning speed and excellent ball-handling skills, Favors is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Even though he is likely a one-and-done in Atlanta, Derrick will bring great depth and scoring to a Yellow Jacket team that has aspirations of competing in both the ACC and nationally.
Lawal, a junior, is already a proven force in the paint, averaging nearly a double-double last season (15.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and was projected as the No. 26 pick in the NBA draft before deciding to return to school for one more season.
Also participating in Georgia Tech's frontcourt attack is senior PF Zachery Peacock (9.2 ppg, 40% 3-pt.) and freshman F Brian Oliver, who should challenge for playing time in a two-guard set immediately, according to Paul Hewitt.
Look for Tech to use their frontcourt to dominate opposing teams this season, and as long as Favors and Lawal remain healthy, the Yellow Jackets should be able to impose their will on the ACC and the rest of the nation.
Overview: Even though Tech fans are full of confidence about the upcoming season, most are understandably reserving judgment about the state of Yellow Jacket basketball until the season is well under way.
Paul Hewitt has certainly had boatloads of talent in the past, and yet his teams continue to under perform both in the half-court offense and in transition defense.
His ability to coach an immensively talented and young team this season will certainly be tested from the first game in November, and any failure to perform could certainly cost him his job.
In 2009, Paul Hewitt is completely out of excuses.
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