ATLANTA (Nov. 16) — Georgia Tech’s basketball team opens the 1999-2000 regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, hosting Mercer at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center. The game will be broadcast on radio only (WGST, 640 AM/105.7 FM in Atlanta).
Tech, which has 10 lettermen back from last year’s 15-16 squad which lost in the first round of the NIT, lost both of its exhibition games to Athletes in Action (82-66) and the California All-Stars (95-85), but head coach Bobby Cremins is confident the Jackets will be improved.
Mercer, coming off an 8-18 season in 1998-99, won its only exhibition over VasdaUSA (95-75).
“We came out flat at times (in the exhibitions),” said Cremins, beginning his 19th season at Tech. “With Mercer coming in here and then the trip to Alaska, Michigan, Stanford, it’s for real now. Mercer has some good athletes and they have nothing to lose coming up here. We need to come out fired up with some intensity.”
The Yellow Jackets are led by a pair of pre-season all-ACC choices in 7-0 senior forward Jason Collier (Springfield, Ohio) and 6-11 junior center Alvin Jones (Lakeland, Fla.).
Collier, a second-team all-ACC choice last season after leading Tech with 17.2 points per game, led Tech in each exhibition game with 13 against Athletes in Action and 26 against California. Collier is a pre-season John Wooden Award candidate.
Jones, Tech’s all-time leading shot-blocker with 248, led the Jackets in rebounding at 9.7 and scored 12.7 points per game last season. He posted double-doubles in both exhibition games, 10 points and 11 rebounds against AIA and 20 points with 11 boards against California.
The rest of Tech’s starting lineup for both exhibitions included 5-11 sophomore point guard Tony Akins (Lilburn, Ga.), 6-3 junior guard Shaun Fein (Centerville, Mass.) and 6-6 senior forward Jason Floyd (Hampton, Ga.).
Akins, who struggled at times as a freshman and averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, averaged 7.5 points and six assists in the two exhibitions. Fein, a transfer from Stonehill College who averaged 19.7 points per game as a sophomore, shot well against Athletes in Action (11 points, 3-6 from three-point range), but not so well against California.
Floyd, a solid three-year starter and reserve who scored 13.5 points per game last season, has been consistent with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Tech’s bench may be the deepest of the Bobby Cremins era with 5-10 junior T.J. Vines (Woodstock, Ga.) in the backcourt, 6-7 junior Jon Babul (North Attleboro, Mass.) in the frontcourt and 6-4 freshman Clarence Moore (Norco, La.) on the wing.
Babul averaged 5.3 points and 6.0 rebounds last year, while Vines contributed 6.6 points and 2.0 assists. Moore, the Louisiana state player of the year last season, averaged 23.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a senior. Vines and Moore have played 20 or more minutes in each exhibition game. Babul missed the California game with a strained hip flexor.
Tech can also call on 6-3 junior Darryl LaBarrie (Decatur, Ga.), who averaged 3.5 points in 31 games last year, and 6-8 Michael Isenhour (Lawrenceville, Ga.), who transferred from Air Force.
The Bears, in their third season under head coach Mark Slonaker, return three starters, including 6-2 senior guard Earnest Brown, who led the team in scoring last season with 12.6 points per game. Mark Adamson (11.4 ppg), a 6-6 senior forward, and Korey McCray (6.6), a 6-1 junior guard, also return to the Bears’ starting lineup.
The Series With Mercer
Georgia Tech and Mercer are meeting on the hardwood for the first time since 1993, when the Yellow Jackets defeated the Bears, 89-69, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The teams have met only twice in this decade, also in 1991 in a 97-67 Tech victory at Alexander.
Tech leads the series 24-16, including a 14-7 mark in home games. Since World War II, however, the Jackets and Bears have played only eight times. Tech won seven of those, including a 65-58 NCAA Tournament victory at the Omni in 1985. Mercer’s last win in the series was a 102-85 triumph at the Thrillerdome in 1974.
Georgia Tech is playing its 44th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center in 1999-00. The Jackets have a record of 424-145 in the facility, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke.
Under Bobby Cremins, Tech is 186-45 (.805) in its on-campus home, including a 10-4 mark last season with wins over Georgia and No. 7 North Carolina.
Non-Conference Foes Beware
Georgia Tech is 106-4 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum during the Bobby Cremins era. Tech’s third-round NIT loss to Penn State to end the 1997-98 season snapped a 24-game home winning streak against teams outside the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Jackets defeated Charleston Southern, The Citadel, Appalachian State, Georgia, Wofford and Mount St. Mary’s last season.
This year’s home non-league slate includes Mercer, Morehead State, Wofford, UNC Greensboro, Lafayette and Florida A&M.
The other non-conference teams to win at the Thrillerdome during Cremins’ tenure are Richmond (Dec. 22, 1987), Louisville (Jan. 15, 1989) and the College of Charleston (Jan. 16, 1993).
Collier, Jones Named All-ACC
Jason Collier has been named to the pre-season all-Atlantic Coast Conference team by the Atlantic Coast Sportswriters Association, while Alvin Jones was named to the second team.
In his first season in a Georgia Tech uniform, Collier earned second-team all-ACC honors last season while leading the Jackets in scoring despite missing the first six games of the season. Jones, meanwhile, was the conference’s second-leading rebounder (9.7) while averaging 12.7 points per game and shattering the Tech career record for blocked shots. He has more career rebounds than any active ACC player with 522.
Jackets Return Everyone, Sort Of
Georgia Tech returns all of its players who played significant minutes on last year’s NIT squad with the exception of 6-7 senior Ashley Kelly, who averaged 7.8 minutes per game as a key reserve on a thin team. Tech lost guard Dion Glover to the NBA, but Glover missed all of last season with a knee injury.
NC State is the only other ACC team to return all five starters, and only the Wolfpack, with 13, and Wake Forest, with 11, return more than Tech’s 10 letterwinners.
Georgia Tech played the 19th most difficult schedule in the nation last season, according to the RPI, with twenty of Tech’s 31 games against teams in the NCAA or NIT. Seven of Tech’s losses were to teams seeded third or higher in the NCAA Tournament.
This year’s slate will be no easier, with as many as 19 games scheduled against teams which played in the NCAA or NIT tournament.
Among the non-conference teams on the schedule are Michigan (Dec. 1), Stanford (Dec. 11), Kentucky (Jan. 5) and Georgia (Dec. 8). Possible opponents in the Great Alaska Shootout include Washington, Kansas, Xavier and Louisville.
Cremins Takes Aim at Driesell
Head coach Bobby Cremins holds fourth place in career victories by an ACC coach (341), having passed former Virginia coach Terry Holland last season. Lefty Driesell holds third place with 348. Cremins also ranks fourth in victories in ACC games.
Getting set to begin his 19th season in Atlanta, Cremins has a 341-220 record (.608) at Tech, and an overall career coaching record of 441-290 (.603) in his 24th season as a head coach. He has guided the Yellow Jackets to three ACC championships, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and four berths in the NIT.
Victories by ACC Head Coaches – All Games
1. Dean Smith, North Carolina 8792. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke 4243. Lefty Driesell, Maryland 3484. Bobby Cremins, Georgia Tech 341