ATLANTA (Nov. 1) – Armed with perhaps the deepest team he has had in 18 years on the Flats, head coach Bobby Cremins puts his Georgia Tech basketball team to its first test Tuesday with a 7:30 p.m. exhibition game against Athletes in Action at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.
It is the first of two exhibition games Tech will play. The second is Nov. 9 against All-Star California, also at 7:30 p.m. The Jackets open the regular season at home on Nov. 19 with a 7:30 p.m. game against Mercer.
“We have a lot of people back. The drills are a lot easier,” said Cremins. But we’ve added some people to the group who have played well. We’re competing now.
“We’ve got a lot of competition going on, so we’ll see where that leads us. Last year, we were the youngest team in the ACC. It’s nice to have some experience. The new players are refreshing.”
Cremins, who has a record of 341-220 at Tech, has 10 lettermen back from last year’s 15-16 squad which lost in the first round of the NIT, led by 7-0 senior forward Jason Collier (Springfield, Ohio) and 6-11 junior center Alvin Jones (Lakeland, Fla.). Collier was chosen to the pre-season all-Atlantic Coast Conference first team at the conference’s Operation Basketball media gathering, while Jones was voted to the second team.
Collier, a second-team all-ACC choice last season, was Tech’s leading scorer with an average of 17.2 points per game while also contributing 7.3 rebounds. 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. They combined for 23 points in Tech’s first pre-season scrimmage Saturday.
Point guard Tony Akins (Lilburn, Ga.), a 5-11 sophomore who struggled at times as a freshman, averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 assists per game but should benefit from the addition of former Tech all-America and NBA all-star Mark Price to the Tech coaching staff.
Shaun Fein (Centerville, Mass.), a 6-3 transfer from Stonehill College who sat out last year after averaging 19.7 points per game as a sophomore, is a strong possibility to start at the off-guard position. He faces competition from 6-6 senior swingman Jason Floyd (Hampton, Ga.) and 5-10 junior T.J. Vines (Woodstock, Ga.). Floyd and Fein had excellent performances in Saturday’s pre-season scrimmage, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively, with four three-point field goals between them.
Coaches have been please with the development of Vines, who averaged 6.6 points and 2.0 assists last year.
Floyd, a solid three-year starter and reserve who scored 13.5 points per game last season, also will put in time at small forward, where 6-7 junior forward Jon Babul (North Attleboro, Mass.) and 6-4 freshman Clarence Moore (Norco, La.) also will vie for time. Babul, who averaged 5.3 points and 6.0 rebounds last year, will be the top frontcourt sub, while 6-8 transfer Michael Isenhour (Lawrenceville, Ga.) also is expected to provide help in the middle. Moore, the Louisiana state player of the year last season, played mostly inside in high school and is being groomed to play more on the perimeter.
Shaun Fein, Michael Isenhour and Clarence Moore are playing well, and they’re going to have something to say about who starts and who’s going to play.
Floyd, Babul and Vines combined to start 68 games last year. Another returning reserve, 6-3 junior Darryl LaBarrie (Decatur, Ga.), averaged 3.5 points in 31 games.
The Jackets were picked to finish sixth at Operation Basketball, something that Cremins will use at motivation for his team.
“That’s fine,” said Cremins. “We’ve been picked sixth before. I believe we can do better than that.”