Nov. 3, 2005
ATLANTA – Encouraged by the overall talent level and the progress of the freshman class, head coach Paul Hewitt will get his first look at Georgia Tech’s basketball team against outside competition at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Yellow Jackets host Augusta State at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Tech student radio station WREK-FM (91.1) will broadcast the game. Tickets for the game are included in Tech’s season ticket packages, which are sold out.
The teams played four times, all Tech wins, between 1984 and 1990, before the Jaguars dropped from Division I. Tech is coming off a 20-12 campaign and has lost its top six players from that team. Augusta State was 19-11 last year.
It will be the first game action for the Yellow Jackets’ freshman class of Alade Aminu, a 6-9 center-forward from Stone Mountain, Ga., D’Andre Bell, a 6-5 guard-forward from Los Angeles, Calif., Lewis Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., and Paco Diaw, a 6-6 guard from Dakar, Senegal.
“I feel like I have a good idea of what they can do in terms of their talent level,” said Hewitt, starting his sixth season at Tech. “D’Andre is starting to look more comfortable offensively. Lewis is starting to shoot the ball well. Paco is starting to settle in, but he’s still playing a little too fast, especially when he’s at the point. Alade is probably the most gifted of the group. He’s a young basketball player, but he’s going to be outstanding. He’s got to get used to executing plays and doing the simple things.
Clinch, the highest rated of the group coming out of Crisp County High School, was a first-team class AAA all-state player after averaging 21 points a game. Bell earned all-city honors at Palisades Charter High School as a senior after averaging 21.4 points a game. Aminu made class AAAAA all-state as a senior after averaging 18.7 points and 12.3 rebounds as a senior. Diaw, who has lived in Atlanta for over a year, averaged 26.3 points at Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy.
“I’m very encouraged by the overall talent level,” said Hewitt. “They’ve settled down in practice, and there’s going to be another level of settling once they’ve played a few games.”
The themes that Hewitt expressed in remarks prior to the start of practice still hold as the team prepares for its first exhibition, that the entire group is talented and skilled offensively, but needs to develop its defensive play.
“I don’t think this exhibition game is going to tell us a lot, to be honest,” he said. “What I expect to see is a little bit of confusion, a little bit of hasty play. What it will do is give us some game tape that we can show them and help us evaluate.
“I’m not going to get so caught up in the result. I remember my first year here, we lost an exhibition game, and that team went on to beat Kentucky, UCLA, Maryland, and Virginia three times when they were ranked in the top 15. I’m looking for a certain level of effort on defense, and making sure they grasp our defensive principles. On the basketball court, we have a set of defensive principles that, when in doubt, you fall back on.”
Tech has seven letterwinners returning, including its only senior, 6-9 center-forward Theodis Tarver from Monroe, La., and its only junior, 6-4 guard Mario West from Douglasville, Ga. Tarver is the only player on the roster with any starts on his career record, while West emerged as a top-drawer defensive player last year and is getting a shot at some minutes at point guard.
The sophomore class will be the nucleus, including 6-5 guard Anthony Morrow of Charlotte, N.C., and 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey of Clio, S.C., the Yellow Jackets’ top two returning scorers. Zam Fredrick, 6-0 from St. Matthews, S.C., has been the most steady in practice among Tech’s players getting a look at point guard, and Jeremis Smith, a 6-6 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, gives Tech a tough, physical rebounder and defender at power forward.
Tech begins its regular season Nov. 18 at home against UNC Asheville.
MORE FROM COACH HEWITT
“I’m not so much concerned with the offense. This is a very solid group offensively. If I’m going to look at anything and be critical or harsh, it’s going to be how we defend. That’s going to be the thing in the end that wins you games against good teams.”
“I know the talent level of this group is high. That’s the one thing they’ve proven to me over these last three weeks.
On D’Andre Bell
“He’s a kid that expects a lot of himself. He’s a smart player. That’s one thing I’ll say about this team. They’re a smart group of basketball players. He’s a smart player as well. As he’s figured out where his shots are coming from, and how to get them off in some of the sets we’re running, he’s more efficient offensively.”
On Alade Aminu
“I don’t know how much impact he’s going to have because he has such a long way to go. But Alade has surprised me with his versatility. He’s not just a five man. He’s pretty versatile with the basketball. He can put it on the floor and get to the rim. He’s pretty athletic around the basket. If there has been a surprise with me, it’s how good he is with the basketball, especially going to the basket and around the basket.
On Lewis Clinch
“He can shoot the basketball. He’s one of our better outside shooters. We practiced at Philips Arena yesterday and got going up and down the floor a little. I don’t think he was conscious of where he was, but he made about four NBA threes. He’s starting to get more comfortable shooting the ball.