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Georgia Tech Media Day

Oct. 12, 2006

Paul Hewitt – Head Coach

On talk that this team will be better than last year’s team because of the freshman class – “That’s not a factor. The returning guys know that if this team is going to be a good team, it’ll be on the strength of Lewis Clinch, Anthony Morrow, Jeremis Smith, Ra’Sean Dickey and Mario West. Those guys will be the core of the team, and you hope the new guys will add something to that.”

On freshman point guard Javaris Crittenton – “Certainly of all the new guys, the guy who has a chance to have the greatest impact is Javaris (Crittenton) because he’s our point guard. A freshman point guard in the ACC is never an easy job. But, I think he’s talented enough and competitive enough to step in and do the job we need him to do, which is manage the game. He doesn’t have any more to do that make sure the other guys get enough shots, take care of the basketball, create a tempo, offensively and defensively, that we like to play. He doesn’t have to score many points. He’s got to rebound and create tempo.”

On re-emphasizing fundamentals – “We always try to be sound fundamentally. What we did this year, different from other years, was to get them more comfortable with what we’re doing offensively. There were times last year when we got off and free-lanced a little more than we normally would. And with having a freshman point guard, we felt like we had to start a little bit earlier doing some team-oriented drills. So there’s no renewed emphasis on fundementals. We’ve always tried to be strong fundamentally. We’ve always preached player development.”

Where do you fill in the minutes at point guard (after Crittenton) – “D’Andre Bell and Mario West. D’Andre played very sparingly last year at point guard, but he did it a couple of times where I felt like he could be there, and Mario was our backup point guard last year.”

Have your backup point guards improved their ballhandling significantly? – “I’ll tell you more after we start practice. From what I’ve seen through individual workouts and some of the team workouts we’ve done, they’ve improved. But you start to tell a lot more when you get into practice. Right now, you don’t know what kind of shape their in to play the position. When fatigue becomes a factor, that impacts decision-making. When their fresh, they look fine. When their in there at the end of a ball game, then you’ll really be able to tell if they’ve improved much.”

Understanding the offensive philosophy or better defense, which ranks higher as a priority? – “I think their commitment to conditioning. The major priority in the off-season was improving strength and conditioning, improving flexibility, and they have done a great job. Scott (McDonald, team’s strength and conditioning coach) has been very happy with the work they’ve done. When you’re in better shape, you execute better, period. Whether it’s offense, defense, out-of-bounds plays, when you’re in better shape, your mind is clear, and you execute better. That’s where we’ve made the greatest jump, and I expect that to lead to whatever improvement we have this year.”

Is there pressure that comes from media ranking you in the top 25 because of your freshman class – “You realize everything people write and say is guesswork. Last year, Florida won the (national) championship, and they weren’t ranked in the top 25 (in the pre-season). The year we went to the Final Four, we weren’t ranked in the top 25. It comes down to who puts the work in, and who goes out and executes. That’s the way journalism has evolved. It’s prediction journalism; everybody has to have an opinion. As my Yankees can tell you, the game isn’t played on paper. It’s played out on the field or the court. You know it comes down to how hard your guys worked in the off-season, how committed their going to be, and how healthy you stay.

“I felt like our 2005 team was better than our 2004 team, but we had a major injury to Jeremis Smith and a major injury to B.J. Elder.”

But your players, your freshman players, are hearing and reading these things – “We haven’t done anything to get a big head. They’ll tell you. All we’ve done is let ourselves down last year. This junior group came in with the program at its peak, and I know they have a lot of pride. They’ve watched it go from its peak to one of its lowest lows in the last 20 years. That alone will keep them from getting a `big head.’ As far as those freshmen are concerned, I expect our upperclassmen to let them understand that this is no joke. It’s the toughest basketball league in the country, and a league that this year has nine teams that could vie for NCAA consideration.

“When you get a chance to talk to these freshmen, I think you’ll find out very quickly that they’re very bright, they’re very intelligent. This is the hardest any of them have worked, ever. They’ll tell you, it’s totally different from high school. They have already dismissed all of the talk.”

On how the Maui Invitational fits in to how the team progresses early in the season – “It’s a great opportunity to put yourself in position, early, on that NCAA radar screen. You don’t like to look too far down the road, but anytime you step out on the court in a situation like Maui or the Preseason NIT, it does give you a chance to position yourself for the end of the season, gain momentum, things like that. At worst, we get three games against three very good teams for our freshman point guard, give him some experience for the tough ACC. At best, you go a good job their and you maintain whatever momentum you can create out of there throughout the year, like we did in the Preseason NIT a couple years ago.”

On Anthony Morrow’s back injury – “I’m concerned but that’s why we’re being cautious with him. The doctors told us we could put him out on the court after six weeks, but we’re choosing to wait eight weeks to give him the best chance to heal. He’s a very important player for us, our leading scorer last year. You talk about a guy who worked very hard in the off-season. That’s the most disappointing part of this. He worked extremely hard to prepare himself for a big year, and I hope he has the opportunity to do that. Right now, all indications are that after eight weeks (around Nov. 5), he should be healthy. Then we’ll gradually bring him back.”

Would he be able to play in the season opener on Nov. 10? – “If our doctors give him the go-ahead, and if he feels okay, we’d bring him back slowly. I doubt he’d start that game. My thinking is if we can get him back healthy and going full-tilt by Dec. 1, then we’d be very happy. If it’s earlier than that, then it’s a bonus.”

On being able to play at a faster pace than last year – “We’ll definitely get back to playing a faster tempo. Conditioning has something to do with that. The point guard will have something to do with that. Depth will have something to do with that. We have more depth, so we should be able to play at a faster pace.”

On what you hope to accomplish before the ACC schedule begins in earnest – “I want to linger in the non-conference as long as I can. I’m not looking forward to that league schedule. You hope to improve as a unit, but you also have to build momentum. The league this year is so tough, and our schedule is very difficult.”

Anthony Morrow – Guard

On being ready to get going on the court — “Yeah, we are ready for this. Everybody has been working individually to get better in all aspects of their game.”

On how good Tech can be this year — “I think we can be one of the best teams in the nation, it will be a matter of staying focused down the stretch of the games, and that comes with being in good condition. I feel that everyone is in really good condition.”

On Coach Hewitt getting easier to play for – “He is hard on you, but it is tough love. Everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing and he is happy with that.”

On top teams in the ACC – “It will be a tough year in the ACC. Florida State has some experience coming back, Carolina, Duke with coach K. Pretty much everybody in the conference can be pretty good this year.”

On what freshmen joining Tech bring to the table – “Obviously a lot of athleticism, they are just great kids, easy to get a long with. They are very good team players. On top of being good players individually, they are going to bring a lot to the team chemistry that we already have.”

On back injury – “I will be back in a couple weeks; I should be back by the beginning of the season.”

Mario West – Guard

On where Tech stacks up in ACC – “There are a lot of teams with players returning that will be good. I like the guys on our team, the guys coming in. I really like our chances. Last year we thought we had a good chance but that means nothing if you do not come out and perform.”

On difference of games at start of the season and games during ACC schedule – “I think it is tougher in the second part of the season once you begin league play because a lot of teams have had a chance to look at tape and scout you. The atmosphere, the fans, it seems to just turn up a notch when you league play begins. The energy through out every game, guys diving for balls, it’s just the whole energy and I love it.”

On playing for an ACC school – “You watch games on TV and see guys out there having a good time and all the fans, you really can’t picture what that atmosphere will be like until you get a chance to play in it. Guys are trying to make a name for themselves and get to the next level, it is just a wonderful experience and it is all that it is cracked up to be.”

On most difficult place to play in ACC – “There are a lot of tough places to play in the ACC but I will narrow it down to both North Carolina and Duke. Up there, the fans are extremely tough and very supportive of their team, it is just a hostile environment.”

On this upcoming season – “We are very hungry for this season to start. It was a really tough situation for us last year; we just didn’t do what we were supposed to do. We are just trying to get back out there and perform like we know how too.”

Jeremis Smith – Forward

On spreading out playing time – “I am not sure how coach will spread the time on the court, I just know that this fall we have taken time to develop companionship, we have been hanging out together. I don’t think jealousy will be an issue.”

On wearing down last season – “I don’t want to say I was worn down. I really don’t know how to explain, I just know as the season went on, my numbers were going down and Ra’Sean’s (Dickey) numbers were going up.”

On chances of team turning it around this season – “We can be good. Last year I said the same thing on the same date, this year I am just going to leave it as we can be good. We will then take it from here and hopefully prove it.”

On a team contending with a freshman point guard – “Definitely, I think Duke had a freshman point guard last year and that proves my point. I think we definitely can and will contend.”

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