Nov. 6, 2001
ATLANTA – Head coach Paul Hewitt will showcase his second Georgia Tech basketball team for the first time against the Nike Elite All-Stars Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.
The game will be broadcast live on Tech student station WREK-FM (91.1).
It will be the first opportunity for Tech fans to see five Yellow Jacket freshmen, four of whom were ranked among the nation’s top 100 high school seniors, and a healthy Clarence Moore, Tech’s 6-5 sophomore forward who missed almost all of last season with a broken foot.
Returning starters Tony Akins, a 5-11 point guard from Lilburn, Ga., and Marvin Lewis, a 6-4 shooting guard from Germantown, Md., lead the Jackets. Both have performed well in pre-season practice and will be counted on to be the leaders of Hewitt’s second Tech team. Akins led Tech in scoring (14.5 points per game), assists (4.3 per game) and three-point shooting (41.9 percent) last season. Lewis, who played an undersized small forward position last year, averaged 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, but will give the Jackets a great three-point threat from his new position.
Hewitt is pleased with the progress of his young team.
“We’re still so new that we just need to establish our style of play,” he said. “We have five freshmen and Clarence Moore who are still getting used to what we’re trying to do. All six of those guys are going to play a significant part this season. Thursday night we just want to establish that we’re going to press, we’re going to run on every possession. We’re going to push and play unselfish basketball. There are some things defensively that are glaring weaknesses right now, and we’re going to pay attention to that. More than anything else, we want to establish our style of play in the kids’ minds.”
Hewitt has been impressed with the play of Moore, who missed all but five games last year with a broken foot, averaging 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds. He had two surgical procedures on the foot and has shown no ill effects on the court. As a freshman in 30 games, the Norco, La., native averaged 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds.
“He’s doing very well,” Hewitt said. “I’m hypersensitive to anything that goes on with his foot. He’s playing very well, and is probably our second-best player at this point.”
Hewitt said Monday that 7-foot freshman center Luke Schenscher from Hope Forest, South Australia, will probably be in the starting lineup along with Akins and Lewis. He has not made a decision on the forward positions, though Moore would seem to be a frontrunner for a spot and can play either forward position.
Schenscher, the first high school player ever to play for the Australian National Team, averaged 15.1 points and 9.6 rebounds for the Australian Institute of Sport.
“It’s starting to settle in. I feel pretty certain that Luke will be starting along with Tony and Marvin,” Hewitt said. “There are a couple more decisions to be made, but I have a very good idea in my mind who is going to start. As I told the kids, starters are of no consequence. The five who finish the game, in my mind, are probably our five best players.
Other candidates for the forward spots are Robert Brooks, a 6-9 sophomore from Saginaw, Mich., who averaged 2.8 points and 3.0 rebounds as a freshman, Halston Lane, a 6-5 sophomore from Oak Ridge, Tenn., who averaged 6.8 points per game last year, and 6-7 freshman Ed Nelson from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Nike Elite, which features former Georgia center Robb Dryden (7-2), former Texas forward Tremain Wingfield (6-7) and former Washington forward Thalo Green (6-8), has lost all three of its games thus far to Virginia Tech (83-57), Wake Forest (108-65) and Florida State (62-61) with a game to play against Kentucky Tuesday before visiting Tech. The Nike Elite team is coached by former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder.
Hewitt said the outcome of Thursday’s game will be far less significant than seeing his team perform to its capabilities and executing properly. The Jackets lost their first exhibition last year by 21 points, rebounded to win the second by 11 and went 17-13 for the season, finishing fifth in the ACC at 8-8 and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.
“I’m looking at our guys, which we do in the regular season also,” Hewitt said. “We don’t have enough information to concern ourselves with the other team. And, quite frankly, winning or losing is of no consequence right now. It’s about establishing our style of play. If you remember, last year, we lost our first exhibition game by 21 points. But, the point differential was of no significance. What was really important was we were not doing the things I thought we were capable of doing. Eventually, we’re going to need to get around to doing the things we need to be doing all the time.”
The Yellow Jackets have been predicted to finish sixth in the conference this season in a vote of the Atlantic Coast sports writers who attended last month’s ACC Operation Basketball.