March 10, 2005
By Simit Shah – “How do you feel?”
That’s a question that B.J. Elder has been asked hundreds of times in the last 12 months. Between his ankle sprain during last year’s NCAA Tournament and his hamstring injury this season, the senior guard has been peppered with that query over and over.
This time though, he’s able to smile.
“I’m feeling good right now,” he said, sitting in the Hyder Room following Georgia Tech’s victory over Clemson last Saturday. “It’s still going to bother me a little every now and then, but it’s close to full strength.”
Without Elder in the lineup, the Jackets have been well short of full strength, especially on the offensive end. After losing him in the first half of the Kansas game on New Year’s Day, the team dropped six of ten games and nearly fell out of NCAA Tournament contention.
Elder’s return against Clemson on February 8 sparked a resurgence of sorts, as the Jackets won three consecutive road games plus their regular season finale against Clemson to finish 8-8 in conference play.
Shades of his dominance have been on display in recent weeks, giving hope to a repeat of last year’s postseason success. Against Florida State in Tallahassee, Elder scored 16 of Tech’s first 30 points, and then he calmly knocked down two free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining to give Tech’s a crucial 76-75 victory.
He scored 22 points against Wake Forest last week, and followed that with 17 points against on Senior Day against Clemson.
“When he gets on a roll like that, he can score every time he touches the ball,” noted point guard Jarrett Jack.
In Elder’s first game back, Jack saw him do something seemingly out of character.
“There was one particular play in the second half where he came down and posted (up),” recalled Jack. “I wasn’t sure he was open. He, in his own words, just told me to give him the ball. I obliged. He just creates a lot of mismatches out there.”
Hewitt has sought that kind of aggressiveness on a consistent basis from Elder for quite some, even benching him for a half early in the season to send a message.
“Maybe he has greater appreciation of his play and what he can do to help this team,” Hewitt said following the February 8th game.
“I think I learned a lot sitting and watching on the bench,” explained Elder. “It was tough, especially when we were losing. There were games that I know that we should have won, and that opens your eyes.”
With his college career in its final weeks, Elder is focused on another strong postseason run, beginning with the ACC Tournament this weekend. The Jackets play Virginia Tech Friday at 2:30 p.m. in Washington, D.C.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get a better seed in the (NCAA) tournament,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to – another chance, another opportunity, to win some tough games.”
The four-year starter is also closing in on some school records. With 1,568 career points, he’s currently 15th all-time in Tech’s history books and trails John Salley by just 20 points. Elder is also fourth in school history with 218 three-pointers, just four shy of passing former teammate Marvin Lewis.
However, those marks mean little to the Madison, Georgia native if the Jackets can’t play deep into March.
“We got everybody back and everybody healthy,” Elder said. “We definitely feel we can make a run at it.”