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Hewitt Wants an Inside Job

Nov. 1, 2009

by Matt Winkeljohn, Managing Editor

ATLANTA – If you are among basketball fans who had difficulty trying to discern Georgia Tech’s offensive scheme in recent years, rest easy.

Forget the “four-out, one-in” approach.

When the Yellow Jackets tip off their season Nov. 14 against Florida A&M, there will be a simple plan.

Much as football coach Paul Johnson does not hide the fact he wants to run the ball, and then run it more and more and more, basketball coach Paul Hewitt is more than cooperative when asked about his team’s pending approach. “Get it inside, get it inside,” he said with a laugh the other day.

No wonder.

Not only is post man Gani Lawal back after averaging 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds as a sophomore, but Derrick Favors has joined the Jackets as perhaps the premier freshman post player in the nation. Senior Zachery Peacock is back in the mix full time, too, having gladly put in his past the idea of trying to play some small forward.

“With those guys, we don’t have to do as much running around with our motion [offense],” said sophomore guard Iman Shumpert. “If we get in the half-court, we’re going to look at those guys. We’re going to play inside-out a lot easier this year.”

Make no mistake, the goal will not be to spend a lot of time in a half-court offense.

As always, Hewitt prefers to push the ball, and on paper he has the bodies this year to run more often.

“The goal is to score quickly,” Hewitt said. “Always push the tempo. We should be better on the boards and that should give us some more opportunities to run.”

The Jackets were a little too easy to defend at times last season.

Lawal often was a one-man show in the post, particularly with the 6-foot-8 Peacock playing out of position on the wing at times. If Lawal was not always drawing double-team coverage, he was at least working against not only his defender but frequent helpers.

Sometimes, passes were forced into the post anyway, and turnovers resulted. Or, the ball had to swing around the perimeter, and the Jackets might over dribble or be coaxed into a poor pass and… a turnover.

This year… look for plenty of double-post offense. “You’ll see us probably do a little more high-low [with a post man near the basket, and another up the lane],” Hewitt said. “When you have Derrick and Gani, you’ve got to get the ball inside.”

And then, beyond Peacock, who averaged 9.9 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the field as a sophomore before his up-and-down junior season as a hybrid player (he even lost weight to chase small forwards), Tech may have other options in the paint.

Junior 7-foot center Brad Sheehan could offer minutes, and Hewitt said freshman Daniel Miller (6-11, 252 pounds) of Loganville Christian Academy has made an impression in practice with his skill set and toughness. He recently had to battle the stomach flu, however.

The 6-10 Favors and the 6-9 Lawal are sure to be be front and center… or power forward and center. That will depend on matchups.

Defensively, Favors is a little more agile.

“Derrick might be a little bit better on the perimeter so he may end up guarding more [power forwards],” Hewitt said. “Gani’s got more experience [in the paint].”

Where the Jackets have at times in the past had problems with entry passes to the post, Favors may offer an assist, too. He has soft hands. “If it’s a 50-50 ball, he’s going to go get it,” Hewitt said of the freshman. “Instead of a turnover, we get a shot attempt.”

Don’t look for Favors, Lawal and Peacock to be statuesque down low, though. There will still be motion when Tech has the ball. As Shumpert said, “We’ll do a lot of down-screening, high-low, a lot of back screening, stuff like that.”

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