Oct. 30, 2009
by Matt Winkeljohn, Managing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA – Before even playing the first game, there is a difference in Iman Shumpert, and there are different ways to explain what was and what is.
There is the diplomatic style: “Iman has to think everything through, he’s a debater,” said Georgia Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt. “He wants to talk. Some days, you don’t have a chance to get a word in.”
And there is a more-to-the-point approach, complete with a solution: “It was not arguing,” Shumpert explained. “It’s just that sometimes he’d like me to shut up and play.”
That’s it: talk less, play… well, less, actually.
The Yellow Jackets’ second-year guard had a lot on his shoulders last season when being a freshman was only the beginning of his problems. With point guard Moe Miller injured on and off, and D’Andre Bell out for the entire season with spinal stenosis that required surgery, Shumpert had to play a whole lot of point guard.
In fact, he led Tech in minutes played with 981 (31.6 per game), not to mention assists (154). He was fourth in scoring (10.6 points per game).
In the ACC, with an under-manned squad, asking a freshman point guard to run the show is asking a lot.
There were many reasons why the Jackets struggled to a 2-14 record in conference play, and none of them were the fault of any one player. It was a collective slide, and no one player could save the Jackets.
But Shumpert, who came to Tech as a McDonald’s All-American, tried at times. Sometimes he tried too hard, a partial explanation for his team-high 116 turnovers.
If the Jackets are to live up to their billing (they are ranked No. 20 in the preseason coaches poll), Shumpert will be one of several keys, and he may well end up playing fewer minutes thanks to Tech’s increased depth.
He figures to have help at the point. Freshman Mfon Udofia is already impressing Hewitt and if Miller returns to health (he recently suffered his third concussion in a year), he’ll help out too.
Shumpert, who is a candidate to play at shooting guard as well, believes he’s all the more prepared this season than he was last.
“The game has slowed down a lot,” he said before practice Thursday. “I know which spots I’ve got to get to. I know the offense pretty much, and I got used to the shot clock, and I finally got sophomore legs. I feel like I can shoot the ball a lot better.”
He also believes he’s easier to coach now.
“I think I am,” he said. “I don’t think [Hewitt] has to do any of the getting me out of my bad habits. I grew up with my dad coaching me, and… if I saw something, I was able to say it. And then I gained a relationship with my high school coach, and if I saw something that was different, I could say it.
“When I got here, I don’t think Coach was used to freshman saying so much, but I was so used to being so verbal that I said it.”
So last season was an adjustment not only for Shumpert, but for Hewitt.
“He wasn’t hard headed. He wasn’t hard to coach. He was just a freshman,” the Tech coach said. “He doesn’t understand sometimes what you’re trying to tell him. His high school coach… warned me about him. He said Iman will want to sit down and debate every play. We don’t have time for that. Just do what I say to do, and go.”
For the record, Hewitt was chuckling while saying this. Shumpert got a yuck, too.
“Just go play,” he said with a grin.