Nov. 18, 2007
By Simit Shah –
St. Thomas, USVI — For Georgia Tech’s two senior starters, the Paradise Jam is more than a nice vacation. The Virgin Islands tournament represents an opportunity for Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith to jump-start their final collegiate season and hopefully make a postseason run.
Morrow is enjoying the best start of his career, averaging 21 points a game and earning ACC Player of the Week honors for his play in the first week off the season.
On Friday against his hometown school, the Charlotte native poured in 19 points, and he followed with 10 against Winthrop.
“Every year is a new experience, so it’s a fun opportunity for us to be here,” said Morrow. “It’s a blessing for us to be here. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity just like Maui was last year. Not too many guys can say that they went to Hawaii one year and then the Virgin Islands the next year. It’s a great experience, but we have to approach it with a business mentality as well.”
Smith agreed and noted that mindset will need to carry the Jackets throughout the season whether it’s home or on the road.
“We came here down here trying to win three games, and that’s what we’re working on. Everyone back home keeps asking, `So what are you guys doing?’ When I tell them about resting, watching film or eating, they say, `But you’re in the Virgin Islands!’ What’s different about the Virgin Islands and Atlanta? We’re going to end up in a gym playing a game.”
Last season in Maui, the Jackets came into the tournament as underdogs in a tournament field dominated by the likes of Kentucky, Memphis and UCLA. They ended up in the championship game.
“That experience really helped us,” said Morrow. “We all have the same mindset out here, even the younger guys. That carries onto the court. We’re focused on what we have to do. The atmosphere here is a lot like Maui was last year, so we’re prepared to play here.”
“Maui proved that we could keep our focus for three games,” added Smith. “It was unfortunate that we lost in the championship game, because it would have given us a chance to win two big invitationals back-to-back. We come into this with that experience from last year, and we’re better because of that. We’re just trying to help the freshman out and keep them focused on this trip and keep their heads in the game.”
Helping keep them focused is the team’s new cell phone policy, which essentially bans them from team meetings and meals.
“It’s been great,” admitted Morrow. “My phone has been acting up the last couple days, and I was mad about that. Then I realized that I’m in the Virgin Islands. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I just throw my iPod on and sit on the balcony by the ocean. We just have to have to enjoy this atmosphere. I always have my phone, and I’m always texting people. Right now, my phone is off back in my room. I’ve never been like that with my phone.”
“For me, it’s tough,” said Smith. “When I check my bill, I’ve had up to 5,000 text messages a month. To know that I have to end all my conversations when I leave the room can be kind of hard. That does allow me to focus and keep my mind on the scouting report and the game ahead of us.”