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Pre-Season Press Conference with Basketball Coach Paul Hewitt

Oct. 13, 2009

Georgia Tech’s 2009-10 basketball media guide is now available here

On strengths of this year’s roster:

“Compared to last year, our back court is much stronger from a health standpoint, experience standpoint, and talent standpoint. I think a lot of people point to the addition of Derrick [Favors] and think that that will be the big difference. But last year I thought Zachery Peacock, Gani Lawal, and Alade Aminu played extremely well. I thought that frontcourt was as good as any in the league maybe with the exception of North Carolina’s. I think our back court will be the big difference this year. We have Mfon Udofia, and having D’Andre Bell back is as important as any addition we’ve had in the last year. We have more depth with Brian Oliver and Glen Rice. Lance Storrs is improved this year. So now we’ve got more options. Last year, we basically played with one ball handler in Iman Shumpert after the injury to Moe [Miller]. And Moe was unfortunately in a car accident a couple weeks ago and is suffering the effects of a third concussion within the last year. So we’re concerned about him. He has not worked out over the last two weeks. I dropped by his apartment to see how he’s feeling. He’s doing better, but I don’t think he’ll practice this week. If the doctors clear him, then fine. Again, he’s suffering the effects of a concussion.

On freshman Derrick Favors:

“He’s about where I expected. He’s a hard worker, he listens well, and he’s very coachable. He picks things up pretty well, also. I’m impressed with his ability to retain information.”

On using last season as motivation:

“Last year was last year. I thought that team performed extremely well. Under the conditions, I thought we played very hard. We were there in every game. At the end of the games, we just didn’t take care of the ball as much as we would have liked and we didn’t make free throws. When you go back and review it, I saw at least nine games we could have won if we had made free throws, and we didn’t turn the ball over in the last few minutes. But that’s a different team compared to today in terms of depth and health.

On this year’s team being wiser on the court:

“I think the big thing is that we’re healthier, deeper, and more talented.”

On the roster allowing different things this season:

“Again I thought we did pretty much everything we wanted to do except at the end of the games. We pressed effectively last year. There’s only one game that I felt like I walked right off the court and we didn’t compete. That was at North Carolina. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only coach that felt that way walking off of the court. But if you go back and look at every single game, you’ll see we had many overtime games and buzzer-beaters. That tells you that that team competed. I’m not going to poor-mouth the effort that those guys gave last year. Sometimes that’s what you are. You play as hard as you can, but you miss free throws and turn the ball over in the last few minutes. But I think they got everything that they had out of their ability.”

On getting enough minutes for the players:

“The best players are going to play.”

On having the best feeling he’s had before a season:

“Of course, because we’re healthy. We don’t have to deal with any issues. Obviously, Moe’s issue is somewhat of a concern. But I’ve liked the teams that I’ve seen in the past. This year I think we’re the healthiest that we have been in a long time.”

On Moe Miller’s recovery:

“It’s just a matter of taking time, resting, and healing. They’ve done impact testing on him and things like that. He played a little bit yesterday for the first time in a while. He got in to workouts yesterday, but he came out of it feeling a little light-headed. A `little off-balance’ is the term that he used.”

On the details of Miller’s accident:

“I don’t know the details of it. He banged his head on the side window, I think. He was driving.”

On spending time in the pre-season finding the right combinations on the court:

“Some of it will be, but like I said, the best guys are going to play. It’s going to be competitive, and guys are going to do what they have to do to get on the court.”

On Favors playing inside vs. outside:

“I would say he’s more of an inside guy right now. The thing I like about Derrick is he’s not a big guy trying the impress you with his perimeter skills. He would like to dominate the paint area before he steps out. That’s how he approached each game. John O’Connor asked him one day, `What’s the one thing you think you do well?’ Derrick thought for a minute and said, `Rebounding.’ That’s a nice answer to hear from a big guy.”

On the veterans allowing the freshmen to get minutes:

“I don’t think anybody is going to accept anyone taking minutes from them, but you find out more about them as the season keeps going. Right now we’ve been doing individual workouts, and they’ve been playing pick-up (games) on their own. We’ve started to have some mini-practices. You’re allowed to have two hours a week. Today, for instance, we did one hour of individual instruction and tomorrow we’ll do one hour of practice. We’ll be off on Thursday in preparation for the season. You’ll learn more as time goes on and we’ve scrimmaged. We haven’t really scrimmaged in an organized setting. It’s going to be competitive, I know that much.”

On the new Zelnak Center practice facility:

“It looks great, but it hasn’t been opened yet. It looks great, though.”

On the rest of the ACC: “It’s going to be a good league. It’s going to be like it always is. I think that last year it ended up number one in the RPI. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re up there again in the RPI. I’d be curious to see how many years the ACC finished 1 or 2 in the RPI over the last 10 years. That’s the way it is every year. I know we have the ACC-Big 10 Challenge which I think we’ve won every year. The thing that kind of puzzles me is at the end of the year they’ll sometimes get more bids than the ACC. I can’t figure that out, but I’m not that smart anyways.”

On the ACC being more open this year:

“It’s probably more open, because Carolina was such a prohibitive favorite last year. But I think that the league overall is probably better and stronger. Again, they finished first last year.”

On the media’s perception of the team:

“I think these guys know that if everything goes right, we have a chance to be as good as anyone in the ACC, and if you are as good as anyone in the ACC, then you can compete for anything that comes after that. But nobody really knows. You know health always plays into it. Mfon Udofia has impressed and Zach will tell you. I think he has impressed all these guys with how hard he plays and how hard he works. Who knows how he is going to adjust to being on the road at Maryland or Duke or whatever. I like where we are and we will see where it goes from here.”

On the ACC being tough on freshmen:

[It is], because you have the most talented players in the country, depending on how you measure it. If your measuring stick is how many McDonald’s All-Americans or highly rated players coming in. This league gets more McDonald’s All-Americans than any league in the country by far. You also have more NBA players coming out of here. For a freshman to walk into this situation that we’re walking into, whether you’re Derrick Favors or Mfon Udofia or Glen Rice, you’re probably going to play against four or five maybe 10 eventual first-round draft picks. You are also going to play against some McDonald’s All-Americans, and then you have to factor in the coaching, because the coaching is also outstanding in this league.”

On ACC teams beating each other up:

“It happens every year. We talk about it come tournament time every year. You see teams come out of their league with one or two loses, and you know if they were in our league, they would have seven losses. I tell people all the time, it is great to be in the ACC to recruit and then to talk about it after the season. But when you’re in the middle of it, you won’t like it so much. When you’re recruiting it’s great, and then after the season and you look back and see all the things, it’s great. But when you get ready to play someplace you think, `Man, I wish I was in this other league right now.'”

On D’Andre Bell’s injury:

“When the doctors went in they didn’t know what they were going to find. When they went in, they found a situation that was correctable. He had to sit out eight months. Matter of fact, I talked to him today after the individual workouts. He’s really making a lot of strides. He still doesn’t feel good in terms of his full-court defense, but in his half-court defense, he feels like he’s getting it back. He’s getting his first step back offensively, but he doesn’t feel like he has the quickness and the stamina to guard someone full-court. I tell him, `look, you were out for eight months and now you are getting back.’ That’s what the doctors have told us, they would not have released him had they not thought it was correctable. He’s had a conversation with T.J. Ford, the kid from Indiana. He had a more severe situation. I think the same doctor did the surgery. Dr. Watkins felt like he was good enough to play.”

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