Nov. 19, 2006
By Simit Shah –
Lahaina, Maui – The Georgia Tech basketball team’s first full day in Maui featured perfect 85-degree weather tempered with a light breeze, but the Jackets didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy the tropical climate Saturday.
Coming off a stretch of three games in seven days followed by a 10-hour non-stop flight, the team began their day with a weightlifting session and study hall before their first practice.
“It was a long travel yesterday, but they had a good practice,” coach Paul Hewitt said afterwards. “I liked the intensity.”
The two-hour session was also the team’s first look at the tiny Lahaina Civic Center, located just a few minutes from the team hotel. The cozy arena holds just 2,400 fans and puts the spectators close to the action. The facility has two locker rooms, so teams actually arrive in uniform and head back to the hotel to shower after games.
While Georgia Tech has never played in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Hewitt was an assistant on the Villanova staff in 1995 when the Wildcats won the tournament. Known to be a bit superstitious, Hewitt denied that he’s replicating the routine from 11 years ago.
“By accident, we’re in the same hotel,” he laughed. “That’s just complete luck. I hope that’s a good omen.”
The team got only a short time to enjoy their surroundings during the day, but the Jackets had plenty of fun at an evening beachfront meet and greet that included all eight teams. The event also featured an EA Sports NCAA 2007 March Madness video game tournament on XBOX 360.
Tech’s two entrants, Ra’Sean Dickey and Brad Sheehan, represented the virtual Jackets admirably. In the first round, Sheehan beat Purdue guard David Teague, while Dickey hammered the Boilermakers’ Chris Lutz.
In the final moments of Sheehan’s lopsided victory, his teammates started chanting “An-der-son,” mimicking the Tech students call for Ty Anderson.
In the second round, Dickey lost to Memphis’ Joey Dorsey on a basket with nine-tenths of a second left in the game. Meanwhile, Sheehan continued to dominate with a resounding victory over the Tigers’ Antonio Anderson. The freshman’s stoic demeanor earned him the nickname “The Silent Assassin” among the throng of 40 to 50 players gathered around TV screens.
Sheehan’s streak finally came to an end in the semifinals when he fell to UCLA’s Josh Shipp after letting an early lead slip away.
That concluded a long day, as well as the fun and games for at least a while.
“They want to have a good time, but if you ask them if they want to hang out at the beach or play Purdue, these guys definitely want to play Perdue,” Hewitt stated. “The way for them to have the most enjoyable time out here is win basketball games.”