Sept. 17, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
Maybe it should come as no surprise that one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Mfon Udofia’s offseason was yoga. He was wound uber tight in more ways than one, and went searching for flexibility of multiple sorts.
Seriously, one of Georgia Tech’s many guards sought to stretch out not only his physical gifts but the gray matter between his ears. His freshman season was that taxing.
Udofia was a starter from Game 1, and after scoring 26 points against Siena he sported an average of 13.2 points per game through the Yellow Jackets’ first six contests.
As Autumn turned to winter, Udofia’s shot abandoned him and confidence went with it. He scored 31 points over the Jackets’ final 19 games. A starter for the first 25 games, he came off the bench for the final 10. A point guard by definition, he had but one assist over the final seven games – combined.
Somewhere along the way, a season became a siege.
“I hit a wall; it was more mental,” said the 6-foot-2 point guard. “When your minutes get cut down it starts messing with your head. Other guys were playing better and I wasn’t playing as well, probably putting pressure on myself more as a freshman.”
Maybe yoga would help all of us. It’s almost certain to benefit the Jackets.
When strength and conditioning coach Scott McDonald suggested it for Udofia, and coach Paul Hewitt signed off on the idea, the former Miller Grove High standout jumped in and stretched out . . . ah, nice.
“It just helps you out with a lot of little things . . . and it’s relaxation for me,” he said. “You’re more flexible on the court, it helps with injuries, you’re more athletic, you can play defense better, you can maneuver better.”
Maybe all the Jackets should join in because they’re going to be asked to play a different style of basketball this season. With big men Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors now in the NBA, and Brad Sheehan having graduated, Hewitt is going to modify his offense and defense.
“We put in a lot of motion concepts this spring,” the coach said. “It’s going to be a little different. Some of the concepts will be the same [as what Hewitt has run in the past], but it will be a little different. Obviously, we’re a guard-heavy team with the ability of guys like [Glen] Rice Jr., [Iman] Shumpert and [Moe] Miller and Udofia to break people down off the dribble.
“[Freshman] Jason Morris is another so that’s something we have to try to take advantage of in the way we play.”
Hewitt said the Jackets also will try to play more pressure defense than in recent years.
It’ll be a good thing, then, to be flexible and fit.
“It’s pretty much a motion offense we’re going to run,” Udofia said. “We’re real small. We’re going to have to be in the best condition we’ve ever been in to go up and down [the court]. It’s similar to what I did in high school, and that’s how it’s going to be this year because we have mostly guards. I’m looking forward to it.”