Nov. 4, 2003
ATLANTA – Playing a man short on the front line, Georgia Tech faces its first outside competition Thursday night at 7 p.m. when it hosts Team Nike in the first of two exhibition games at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.
Tickets for the exhibition games are $4 each (the Yellow Jackets also host the Southeast Atlanta All-Stars Monday at 7 p.m.), and will be on sale at the Coliseum Thursday night. Radio coverage is provided on WREK-FM (91.1).
Coming off a 16-15 campaign that included a quarterfinal run in the National Invitation Tournament, Tech has its deepest and most experienced team in the tenure of head coach Paul Hewitt, but a knee injury to sophomore forward Theodis Tarver last week leaves the Jackets a player short in the frontcourt as the Jackets start the new season.
Tarver will be sidelined indefinitely, leaving the post duties to 7-1 junior Luke Schenscher, who started 16 games last season, and 6-8 senior Robert Brooks, who started 12 the year before. Head coach Paul Hewitt, beginning his fourth season at the helm of the Yellow Jackets, will use 6-5 senior Clarence Moore, returning after a year off from basketball, and 6-7 junior Anthony McHenry at the power forward spot.
“We have a senior in Robert Brooks, who has played on an NCAA Tournament team, who has craved this opportunity for four years,” said Hewitt. “Luke is playing better; Clarence Moore is playing better. Anthony McHenry has played very well. I said before I felt we have more depth than most people up front, and now we’re going to find out if the depth is quality enough. Before Theo’s injury we had five guys I felt could play minutes and contribute in the frontcourt, and now we have four. I still think that’s enough. It’s a matter of producing now.”
Brooks, who averaged 16.3 minutes in 31 games as a sophomore and posted some big games against Syracuse and Georgia in place of an injured Schenscher, saw his court time diminish last season. He averaged 3.4 points and 4.3 rebounds as a sophomore while shooting 44.3 percent from the floor.
“Robert has a tremendous opportunity now to play significant minutes,” Hewitt said. “It’s his senior year, and I know he’s going to be inspired to play. He’s had flashes. He’s got to do it now. On a given night, he could play 15 to 25 minutes depending on foul trouble and matchups.”
Schenscher, who grew to 255 pounds last year, has worked hard to improve his strength and conditioning over the spring and summer and has been impressive in pre-season practices. The native of Australia, who averaged 16.7 points in the World University Games in August, scored 28 points Saturday in Tech’s Gold-White scrimmage.
“If Luke can continue to play the way he has and stays healthy … he’s looked very good,” said Hewitt. “He’s doing the things he did as a freshman. He’s finishing plays. He’s a very intelligent player. He’s making the right passes, he’s making good decisions, and he’s rebounding the ball. He’s going to score around the basket, get rebounds and contest shots.
“I like my chances with Luke. He’s handling the weight better. He’s carrying that weight he put on last year better so he’s more graceful. He can run the floor, catch and pass.”
Whatever happens in the frontcourt, Tech will be a guard-oriented team with the return of 6-4 senior Marvin Lewis, 6-4 junior B.J. Elder and 6-3 sophomore point guard Jarrett Jack to the starting lineup. Elder, who averaged 15.0 points a game and shot better than 46 percent last year, is on most pre-season all-Atlantic Coast Conference lists. Lewis averaged 12.2 points and shot nearly 37 percent from three-point range last year, and Jack handled the point guard duties efficiently, averaging 6.0 assists and 9.5 points per game.
Hewitt will be focusing on defensive play and ball movement Thursday night when the Jackets face a team led by former Michigan coach Bill Frieder.
“We’ve put a great deal of emphasis on the defensive end of the floor. I just hope we guard,” said Hewitt. “We did not guard well in our Gold-White game, and that was disappointing. I also want to make sure that we move the ball and work for each other to get shots rather than going one-on-one a lot. There will be some guys that we give a little bit more freedom to.”
Both of Tech’s exhibition games and its Preseason NIT games will be played under experimental rules, in which the three-point line will be at 20 feet, 6 inches, and the foul lane is trapezoidal. Both elements are part of international basketball rules, and the new three-point distance has been approved for all games starting in 2004-05.
Hewitt says his team will need to make some adjustments to the experimental rules, under which the Jackets could play as many as six games.
“I’m going to have to take a hard look at the tape,” he said. “One thing I’ve noticed is that we’re taking a lot of threes with our feet on the line, and that’s a bad shot to take. So we want to make them realize that they need to take a step back and get a three up, or understand that it’s a long two and drive that ball into the paint and get a better shot.
“I don’t think [there will be any long-term effects], because the lane is smaller and the line is closer. If it were the other way, it could be a little different. In a strange way, it may help us because our big guys will have to get used to posting up and executing shots a little farther out. Then when we go back to the regular lane and line, we may be a little more efficient.”
Tech’s roster has expanded by one player with the addition of 6-2 guard Keith Jones from a walk-on tryout the Yellow Jackets held at the beginning of pre-season workouts. Jones, a freshman, attended and played basketball at Pebblebrook High School in Austell, Ga.