ATLANTA (Nov. 22) — Georgia Tech’s basketball team, coming off a season-opening win at home over Mercer, opens play in the Great Alaska Shootout at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday against Grambling State. The game will be broadcast on radio only (WGST, 640 AM/105.7 FM in Atlanta).
The Yellow Jackets are in the Shootout field along with Washington and host Alaska-Anchorage, who meet in Wednesday’s other first-round game at 12 midnight EST Wednesday. The winners will face off Friday at 9:30 p.m., and the losers meet Friday at 4 p.m.
Tech opened its 85th season Friday night with a 91-79 victory over Mercer in a game the Yellow Jackets led by as many as 20 points in the second half. Four Tech players scored in double figures, and the Jackets shot 52.4 percent from the floor in the game and connected on 10 of 22 three-point field goals.
“We’re pretty excited about going to Alaska,” said head coach Bobby Cremins. “We’ve heard so much about it and watched the tournament on TV. It’s a great field, and we have a good draw. Washington beat us last year in Hawaii and went to the NCAA Tournament. There are three NCAA Tournament teams in the other half of the bracket.”
The other half of the bracket has Xavier meeting Louisville at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by Kansas vs. Georgia at 12 midnight. The two losers meet at 6 p.m. Friday, and the winners meet at midnight. All times are Eastern.
Final round games are scheduled for Saturday: the seventh-place game at 4 p.m., the fourth-place game at 6 p.m., the third-place game at 9 p.m. and the championship game at 12 midnight. The midnight games Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be televised live on ESPN.
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, had 15 points and eight rebounds against Mercer. Jones, Tech’s all-time leading shot-blocker with 256, blocked eight shots against Mercer and led Tech with 18 points and 11 boards, his 16th career double-double.
The rest of Tech’s starting lineup includes 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 posted one of his better career performances against Mercer with 16 points, eight assists and just two turnovers, while hitting four of five three-point attempts. Floyd scored 15 points (6-of-10 field goals), and Fein chipped in with nine points (3-of-6 on three-pointers).
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. Tech can also call on 6-3 junior Darryl LaBarrie (Decatur, Ga.) for some offensive punch.
Each member of the quartet played at least nine minutes against Mercer and combined for 18 points and 14 rebounds.
First Time to Alaska
Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team is making its first-ever trip to Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout, but it is not the first time a Tech team has trekked to the state. The Yellow Jackets’ women’s team has made two trips to Anchorage for the Northern Lights Invitational Tournament in the 1982-83 and 1994-95 seasons.
Tech has traveled out of the continental United States each of the past two years during Thanksgiving week, winning the 1997 Puerto Rico Shootout and finishing second last year in the Big Island Invitational in Hilo, Hawaii.
The Great Alaska Shootout is the seventh holiday tournament the Yellow Jackets have played outside the lower 48.
Series with Shootout Field
Wednesday’s first round game between Georgia Tech and Grambling will be the first meeting between the two schools in basketball. Tech also has never met the host team, Alaska-Anchorage, a possible second-round opponent Friday.
The Jackets have met Washington, the other team in their side of the bracket, twice before, winning in 1984 (65-58) and dropping the final of the Big Island Invitational to the Huskies (76-60) last year.
On the other side of the bracket, Tech is 0-2 against Kansas, 0-2 against Xavier, 13-14 against Louisville, and 96-78 vs. Georgia.
Akins Makes Solid Sophomore Start
Point guard Tony Akins posted an impressive sophomore year opener against Mercer, scoring 16 points with eight assists and just two turnovers. The Lilburn, Ga., native hit four of five three-point field goal attempts and six of 11 field goals overall.
Akins averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 assists, while shooting 31.4 percent from the field, as a freshman.
If opposing teams want to foul Alvin Jones when he gets the ball inside this year, they may have to pay. New assistant coach Mark Price, one of the great point guards in Tech history, has made improving Alvin Jones’ free throw shooting his project, and the early results are promising.
Jones, who has hit 53.5 percent of his free throws in his career so far, hit six of seven attempts Friday night against Mercer. That followed a 10-of-12 performance in Tech’s final exhibition game against the California All-Stars.
That bodes well for a player who shot 73 more charity attempts than anyone else on the Tech team last year.
Jackets Look for Depth, Balance
Georgia Tech used nine players in the first half of Friday night’s 91-79 win over Mercer, all of whom played at least five minutes.
For the game, no Tech player logged more than 34 minutes, and all played at least 10 except Jon Babul, who has been bothered by a strained hip flexor muscle and played nine.
Six Tech players made at least seven field goal attempts, and Jason Collier, Jason Floyd, Alvin Jones and Tony Akins made six each to lead the Jackets.
Price Has Number Retired Again
The No. 25 worn by Mark Price as a player has been retired twice. Georgia Tech retired the all-America point guard’s number in his final home game in 1986. The Cleveland Cavaliers, the team for whom he played for nine of his 12-year NBA career, retired his number on Nov. 6 prior to a Cavaliers’ game.
Price, in his first season as an assistant coach at Tech, scored 2,193 points in his four-year Tech career, still the third-best all-time total, and led Tech to the 1985 ACC championship and two NCAA Tournaments.
An NBA all-star at Cleveland, he finished his NBA career as the league’s top percentage free throw shooter and helped build the Cavaliers into a perennial playoff team.