Dec. 23, 2013
By Jon Cooper
– As Derrick Favors was helping win games for Georgia Tech and earning personal accolades throughout ACC country during the 2009-10 season, the phrase “the tip of the iceberg” frequently came up to describe him.
Unfortunately, the tip was all Yellow Jackets fans got to see. That’s because that was all NBA scouts needed to see to convince them Favors was ready for the next level.
That one season, a 23-13 for Tech, Favors took home ACC Rookie of the Year honors, leading the conference’s first-year players in scoring, rebounding, double-doubles, blocked shots and field goal percentage — he led the nation in the latter heading into the NCAA Tournament. He finished second overall on the Yellow Jackets in scoring (12.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg), while running away with field goal percentage (.611) and blocked shots (2.1 bpg). His 74 blocks were the sixth-highest single-season total in school history.
Favors really turned it on in ACC play, pacing the Jackets in scoring (11.8 ppg), shooting (62.5 percent), and rebounds (8.7 rpg, second in the conference), while recording six of his 11 double-doubles.
He played his biggest when the games were the biggest, earning a berth on the ACC all-tournament team. Favors averaged 17 ppg and 9.8 rpg on .658 shooting, including scoring a career-high 22 points with 11 boards as the Jackets nearly upset No. 4 Duke in the championship game before falling, 65-61. In the NCAA Tournament, he just missed a double-double (12 points, nine rebounds) in 35 minutes to push Tech past Oklahoma State, then scored a team-high 10 points in the Jackets’ season-ending loss to Ohio State. He shot 60 percent in the two games.
His dominance in the nation’s premier conference then on the national stage and his upside led the New Jersey Nets to draft him third overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Favors wouldn’t stay long in New Jersey, however, as the Nets traded him to Utah midway through his rookie year as part of a package in the blockbuster deal that sent All-Star guard Deron Williams East.
The move turned out to be a huge favor to Favors, as landing in Utah gave him the opportunity to start — he’d sat behind Brook Lopez with the Nets. He’s improved every season in Utah, revealing more and more of that iceberg first seen on The Flats.
So far during the 2013-14 season, Favors’ fourth pro season, he is in the top 15 in the League in rebounding and blocked shots and is in the top 25 in the field goal percentage — he’d been shooting over 60 percent for most of December. He has become a cornerstone of the young, rebuilding Jazz, averaging close to a double-double (13.4 rpg and 9.1 rpg). He leads the team in rebounding, field goal percentage (.512), and blocks (1.46), while ranking second in scoring, minutes (31.8), and steals (1.11).
Favors, who has filled out his 6-10 frame — he’s at a ripped 268, vs. the 246 he carried at Tech — recently stopped by Philips Arena with the Jazz to play the Atlanta Hawks and took time to chat with Sting Daily. He talked about what’s made this season so successful for him, with whom he still keeps in contact at Georgia Tech, and the one contact he wishes he hadn’t made with a Jazz teammate.
STING DAILY: A lot has changed since your freshman year at Georgia Tech. What’s working so well for you this year?
Derrick Favors: That was a long time ago (laughs). I think I’ve improved a lot since then. I’ve just been working on my game a lot. I was a lot more comfortable coming into this year.
SD: Where have you gotten better?
DF: I think I got better with taking care of my body. Strength-wise, conditioning-wise, just my whole offensive game. I came in at 18 and my rookie year I was young, my body wasn’t fully matured yet. I was just out there running around all over the place trying to make stuff happen. But now, as I’ve gotten older and I have kind of slowed myself down, I’ve slowed my game down and just am playing at my pace. I am kind of thinking the game now.
SD: What’s been the key to your shooting over 60 percent?
DF: I credit that to my teammates. They’re finding me in good spots and I’m just hitting the shots that they give me.
SD: What is your best memory of your year at Georgia Tech?
DF: Just the whole college experience. I loved Tech. I loved the fan base, the college, the team, everything about Tech. I wish I could have stayed a couple more years but it didn’t work out that way. Just being a kid, being a college student, that’s what I miss.
SD: Having grown up in Atlanta, how much fun is it to come back and play in here?
DF: Oh, It’s always fun. My family and friends get to come see me play and it’s just like playing in my back yard.
SD: Have you gotten to see any games at McCamish Pavilion?
DF: Not yet. I wanted to go this week but they’ve got a game at Vanderbilt, so I couldn’t make it. I try to go down there in the summertime, work out with the guys, work out with the strength and conditioning coach, talk with the coaches and just show my face.
SD: Whom among your former teammates do you still keep in touch with?
DF: Kam [Holsey], Daniel [Miller], we were freshmen together. They redshirted my freshman year so they’re fifth-year seniors now. I still keep in touch with them. I keep in touch with the strength and conditioning coach (Mike Bewley) and I keep in touch with a lot of people around the basketball operations.
SD: Jazz teammate and North Carolina alum Marvin Williams said you caught him with an elbow in practice and broke his nose. That wasn’t a Georgia Tech-North Carolina thing was it?
DF: (laughs) Nah, man. Marv wanted to get a rebound. I wanted to get a rebound. I thought he was another player on the team so I kind of went up a little bit too aggressive and kind of caught him in the nose.
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