Oct. 5, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
Iman Shumpert’s homecoming is right around the corner, and it will not be a one-day or a weekend experience. For the Georgia Tech guard, it will in some ways be like going back in time when practice begins in a little more than a week, and it will last all season.
The Yellow Jackets’ personnel will dictate a more wide-open offense than they’ve deployed over the past two seasons with the ball so often running through the post. With big men Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors, Zachary Peacock and Brad Sheehan gone from last season’s team, and Tech’s only players taller than 6-6 being freshmen Daniel Miller and Nate Hicks, the Jackets will go small(er).
That’s fine with Shumpert. The 6-foot-5 junior’s been there before, and he became a McDonald’s High School All-American when he was in this – or these positions: “I never played with a big man in high school so . . . playing with Gani, and Favors, and Zach and Alade [Aminu], it was different. Now, I’m sort of getting back to where I was in high school. The comfort level is probably about right.”
At times last season, Shumpert played point guard. At other times, he played shooting guard. Sometimes, the Jackets played with what approximated two men on point.
“We’re not looking at, `I’m playing point guard,’ or, `You’re playing point guard,’ ” he said. “Hopefully, whoever the ball lands with, we’ll just go. We’ve got to be more of a scrappy team this year; we’ve got to get up and down. We don’t have anybody who is dominant in the post. Our strengths are going to be breaking people down, moving without the ball, back-screening, keeping the floor open.”
That will call for more players handling the ball, and more players doing the dirty work.
Shumpert averaged 3.6 rebounds per game last season, and 3.9 as a freshman. Those numbers figure to climb.
“Definitely. Coach put a lot of emphasis on me and Glen [Rice Jr.] using our athleticism to get a lot of rebounds,” he said. “Last year, it was more about blocking out and Gani or Favors getting the rebound. Now, it’s more about blocking out and getting the rebound.”
While playing at Oak Park and River Forest High in Oak Grove, Ill., Shumpert did a lot. He averaged 6.7 rebounds as a senior. “In high school, I didn’t play a true position. If we were having ball-handling problems, I handled the ball. I handled jump balls.”
He’ll really go home when the Jackets play at Northwestern in the ACC-Big 10 challenge. That game will be on NU’s Evanston, Ill., campus.
“It’s going to be a pleasure to go home, [but] I’m not going to play any different style just because I’m back,” Shumpert said. “It will be good to maybe get a home-cooked meal from my mom. If [teammates] hop on the bus, we can go. I got no problem parking the bus in front of my house.”