Georgia Tech basketball grew into a national power in the mid-1980s when head coach Bobby Cremins came to The Flats and began to build the Yellow Jackets with some of the nation’s top talent, year after year. Every year, it seemed, the Yellow Jackets had one or two of the top freshmen in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the media recognized many of them, 11 exactly, as the ACC “Rookie of the Year.”
The dominance began with an unprecedented streak of four straight rookie winners with Mark Price in 1983, Bruce Dalrymple in 1984, Duane Ferrell in 1985, and Tom Hammonds in 1986.
The all-America guard Price started the string in 1983, becoming the first freshman to lead the ACC in scoring with a 20.3 average. He bested NC State’s Ernie Myers and Duke’s Johnny Dawkins for the award.
One year later Dalrymple’s all-around excellence made him Tech’s second winner. Dalrymple averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds to edge UNC’s Kenny Smith, Duke’s Tommy Amaker and Maryland’s Keith Gatlin.
Ferrell emerged as a high-flying small forward whose spectacular play kept Tech’s streak alive in 1985. He averaged double figures throughout the season, but his average dropped to 9.1 after a knee injury in the ACC Tournament limited his play. Ferrell outdistanced Maryland’s Derrick Lewis for the honor.
Hammonds burst onto the ACC scene in 1986 with the poise and presence of a veteran. The power forward ranked among the ACC leaders in field goal percentage while averaging 12.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He won over a talented class, including North Carolina’s Jeff Lebo and Duke’s Danny Ferry.
Mark Price • 1983
“Price probably means more to Georgia Tech than any other freshman in the country. We scouted Tech once and then played them in the Meadowlands. He had a hand in almost 85 percent of their scoring plays. That means he is either getting the steal or rebound to start the break, making the pass to set up the score or putting in the clutch shot.” — Pat Kennedy, Iona head coach
Bruce Dalrymple • 1984
“Bruce Dalrymple has been extremely important to our success this season. I honestly don’t think any other freshman in the conference has meant as much to their ballclub as Bruce has to ours. He scores. He rebounds. He plays excellent defense and he handles the basketball extremely well. And he plays the game with great intensity and a great attitude.” — Bobby Cremins, Georgia Tech head coach
Duane Ferrell • 1985
“Ferrell, one of the most highly sought players in the country last year, has had the ups and downs of any freshman. But his scoring average is in double figures, and he has shown enough silk in his moves to the basket to leave people gasping at times.” — John Feinstein, Washington Post
Tom Hammonds • 1986
“Freshmen aren’t supposed to be this good, this polished. This essential. Even at Georgia Tech, where the Atlantic Coast Conference “Rookie of the Year” award has become a permanent fixture, freshmen aren’t supposed to be so at home in the world of big time college basketball. But Tom Hammonds, Tech’s prize catch, has taken to college ball like it was another pickup game in somebody’s backyard back home in Crestview, Fla.” — Chuck Thompson, Macon Telegraph-News
After UNC’s J.R. Reid broke the streak in 1987, Dennis Scott revived the tradition in 1988. Scott made a profound impact on Tech’s fortunes when he led all ACC freshmen in scoring at 15.5 points and ranked 12th overall. He was also the ACC’s most prolific three-point shooter. Scott’s competition included Maryland’s Brian Williams and NC State’s Chris Corchiani.
Then Kenny Anderson dominated in 1990, not only capturing the ACC, but National “Freshman of the Year” honors as well. He set a standard that may never be broken by winning the ACC “Rookie of the Week” award 10 times. On Tech’s Final Four team, Anderson averaged 20.6 points, 8.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds as he became just the second freshman in league history to make the all-ACC first-team.
Swingman Martice Moore added his name to the list with solid campaign in 1993 that helped Tech win an ACC title. Moore, who edged Maryland’s Johnny Rhodes and Exree Hipp, averaged 10.5 points and 4.6 rebounds.
As Anderson had six years earlier, Stephon Marbury arrived at Tech as a highly-publicized and immensely talented point guard from New York City. And like Anderson, Marbury garnered first-team all-ACC honors along with the Rookie of the Year award, for which he outdistanced another freshman all-conference selection, UNC’s Antawn Jamison. Marbury averaged 18.7 points a game and helped Tech capture its first outright ACC regular season title.
Dennis Scott • 1988
“First of all, he’s not aware he’s a freshman. Second of all, he’s not aware of where the three-point line is. He plays so cool. Beyond the fact that he can shoot from the planet Pluto and not blink an eye, he seems to have great court awareness and he doesn’t appear to be selfish.” — Dale Brown, LSU head coach
Kenny Anderson • 1990
“He was the player for this tournament, and this March, and five years from now, when he is as big as any star in the NBA, it will be important that the country first took a good look at him when he was a freshman. When he was 18. There has not been anyone like him in college basketball since Magic and Bird. He is better than Isiah Thomas. Michael Jordan, miracle that he has become, was just not this kind of presence. Not this young.” — Mike Lupica, The National
Martice Moore • 1993
“Martice has helped us. He’s a good athlete. I know he’s been a little inconsistent at times, but he’s meant a lot to our team. I really felt he was one of the keys to our ACC championship.” — Bobby Cremins, Georgia Tech head coach
Stephon Marbury • 1996
“What makes him so special as a point guard is his unique scoring ability. He has a strong body and he works hard on the defensive end . . . He wants the ball late in games. He’s not afraid to take the tough shot.” — Dick Vitale, ESPN
Ed Nelson and Chris Bosh captured the honor in consecutive years in 2002 and 2003. Nelson, a 6-8 forward, won in a close competition, establishing post presence on a small Tech squad against taller opponents nearly all season long, ranking 10th in the ACC with 6.8 rebounds per game. Bosh dominated the league’s freshmen in 2003, leading the ACC overall in field goal percentage (56.0) and blocked shots (2.16) while ranking eighth in scoring (15.6) and second in rebounding (9.0).
The award returned to Tech’s campus in 2010 when Derrick Favors, rated the nation’s top high school player, fulfilled expectations by easily winning the honor, topping all the ACC freshmen in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots.
Who will be the next?
Ed Nelson • 2002
“He’s gone from a guy who in high school could just get the ball and bully his way to the basket to understanding how important it is to screen and set his men up to get good post position.” — Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech head coach
Chris Bosh • 2003
“We had to gang-guard him. I think the best way to defend him, and we don’t have this, is to have a veteran big guy who’s a physical player. We had to trap him and do some different things to keep him off-balance.” — Skip Prosser, Wake Forest head coach
Derrick Favors • 2010
“Derrick’s got all the physical tools that anybody could want, and he is a highly skilled player. I do think we faced him at the right time, as a young player.” — Brian Gregory, Dayton head coach