A Little This, A Little That

Dec. 18, 2010

For information about a tailgate before the Independence Bowl: http://gtalumni.org/pages/independencebowl

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

`Tis the time of year for . . . a combo job, and you might wanna break this into a couple reads; I’ve gone kind of Stephen King-ish on length today.

I wanted to write about the men’s basketball team and their game against Richmond in the Bahamas, and that became an even more interesting proposition after the Yellow Jackets recorded their most impressive win of the season, 67-54 over the Spiders. But I wasn’t there so I can’t go too deep.

So a little this, a little that, a note about a few of the 66 student-athletes who graduated Saturday, some chatter about St. Nick protocol, and a few flashbacks to when I was more sane and the Atlanta Falcons were as good or better than they are right now, which is to say 1998.

Hop on; the sleigh’s taking off . . .

Richmond entered that game 8-2 with wins over Purdue and at Arizona State, and the Spiders were one of the nation’s better shooting teams.

Having listened to much of the game on the radio, and followed up by perusing the box score it’s pretty clear that the Jackets played solid defense, limiting Richmond to 20-of-51 shooting.

The Jackets made just 2-of-11 3-point shots, and had a modest seven assists. But assist totals tend to sink proportionately when a team does a great job attacking the basket, and Tech (6-4) was better at that than in any game to date.

You don’t run up a bunch of assists when your drivers are getting hacked because that’s the only way the opposing defense can slow you down. All the Jackets did was hit 23-of-29 free throws (to Richmond’s 7-of-10). Attack, and ye shall be rewarded.

Iman Shumpert suffered cramping issues for the second time in three games, but still led Tech with a game-high 21 points, and he was especially effective in the first half (18 points). I’ve suggested before that the Jackets’ best chance for success is for Shumpert to be their alpha player.

“This was about everybody trying to be aggressive,” Shumpert said. “It was a nice venue they had put together and I just felt real comfortable. It was bright. They got a couple of spotlights that stick out, but while you’re playing it’s nice. I kinda like it that it was dark in the back.

“To me it felt like Madison Square (Garden). I played in Madison Square for the Jordan game. It’s really bright on the court, and you can’t see into the crowd at Madison Square, you can only see people on the floor.”

At one point, Richmond made back-to-back 3-pointers for a 36-34 lead with 14:15 left in the game. Then, the Jackets bowed up, scoring the next six points (on jumpers by Jason Morris, Kammeon Holsey and Mfon Udofia) and never again trailing or falling into a tie.

Brian Oliver missed all five of his shots, and continues to look for a comfort zone while playing a mix of “power” forward and swing man, but the Jackets trio of freshmen bigs – Daniel Miller, Holsey and Nate Hicks – put together their best combined effort with 13 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists, two steals and one turnover between them. That’ll work.

Tech hit the boards hard, too, out-rebounding the Spiders 32-23 as Shumpert and Daniel Miller tied for game honors with six each.

That’ll work, too. Very solid, balanced effort.

The Jackets next play Wednesday, at Sienna. Maybe they should always play in the dark . . .

I wrote a story for Sunday’s Journal-Constitution about four junior football players – Roddy Jones, Jason Peters, Kyle Jackson and Michael Peterson – who graduated Saturday. They all plan to return to play another year of football.

That story pointed out that Jackson and Peters plan to remain undergraduates while seeking a second degree each. It also points out that Roddy has applied for Tech’s MBA program, which, as many Tech people know, is no piece of cake to get into. It’s especially difficult for students who have not already accumulated work-world experience.

That had something to do with starting guard Joe Gilbert graduating last year and moving onto Georgia State even though he had a year of eligibility remaining. I don’t know about the print edition of the AJC, but on-line a fairly important part of Roddy’s comments was edited from the bottom of the story. Here’s what he said:

“I’ll find out about grad school in maybe a week or two,” Jones said. “I applied to the evening program because they accept in the spring rather than the full-time program, which only accepts in the fall. It’s kind of a loophole for getting in. I might be able to take some graduate-level classes even as an under grad [if not accepted into the MBA program]. I think I’ll be taking graduate classes either way.” . . .

A colleague of mine, the esteemed Associated Press writer Paul Newberry, had a deep conversation last night after the Hawks beat the Bobcats. The topic: Santa Clause.

More specifically, Paul was aghast that some of his neighbors sat their children down and because the kids had reached a certain age, mom and dad explained the truth about Mr. Clause. Paul believes vehemently that that is no role for a parent, that kids should sort that out on their own, wade through the mystery, etc., and come to a resolution on their own.

I agree. What say you? . . .

This has nothing to do with Tech, nor Clause, but the Falcons in the event some of you are fans.

Paul and I were talking about the similarities between this team and the ’98 version. The teams have a lot in common on the field and in their record, but this team cannot hold a candle to that one in terms of personality.

On any given day in the locker room or in the wonderfully eclectic orbit of that team . . .

Ray Buchanan might be blathering about how tough he was, or that he’d leave my rump stinking in the woods if I ever wrote anything again about a rookie beating him on a deep route in a training camp practice, or he might show up at the Super Bowl media day wearing a dog collar or say that Denver’s Shannon Sharpe looked liked a horse, or Mr. Ed, or . . .

Jamal Anderson preening, literally, and often, or . . .

Terance Mathis flip out moments after de-boarding the plane to Miami only to complain that elder players and Pro Bowlers should have been allowed to sit at the front of the plane, or maybe he’d decide to spill his guts on his recovery from alcoholism when he’d never previously even admitted that he was an alcoholic, or . . .

Bob Whitfield, the one-eyed, super-smart tackle, might opine about many things that made absolutely no sense, or call my AJC colleague Ken Sugiura, “Tokyo,” or “Fuji,” or “Mitsubishi,” or “Hiroshima,” to his face or . . .

About this time that year, outstanding fullback Bob Christian blew out an ACL in New Orleans, and on the flight home from the Big Easy, coach Dan Reeves basically had a heart attack. That led to bypass surgery, and defensive coordinator Rich Brooks running the team for the next few weeks. And, then . . .

Soon after Reeves returned to the team (which had a first-round playoff bye), Paul and I were rounding the corner of the old Falcons facility in the dark after a long day of hyper-charged work, when Reeves turned the corner at the same time and we startled the hell out of each other. Thank God we didn’t kill Dan Reeves. And thank God . . .

Deep snapper Adam Schreiber (who had a funny looking little dog he liked to haul around as if it were a parrot) and guard Gene Williams didn’t kill me. Late that season, Schreiber and Williams applied to copyright the “Dirty Birds” label with the visions of merchandising sugar plums dancing in their heads. An Atlanta man, a butcher shop manager if memory serves, made a similar application.

My story in the AJC about it said that Williams and Schreiber applied first, but an editor whose name I will not reveal here because I’m a good guy, made a subtle change in the story so that it read as if the butcher applied first. Good Lord, were Williams and Schreiber mad at me the next day. I’ll never forget them screaming at me in the locker room, Schreiber’s spittle showering me, and Whitfield – buck naked and about eight feet away – screaming, “Ph–him up, Wink!” . . .

The editor’s apology did no good whatsoever.

That’s more than enough for now even though there was so, so much more. I probably owe you all an apology, but what a ride that was and so much of it came bubbling to the surface in last night’s chat.

Hit me with your thoughts on Clause at stingdaily@gmail.com.

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