Oct. 23, 2001
ATLANTA – Looking ahead to its exhibition opener Nov. 8, Georgia Tech is into its second full week of pre-season basketball practice, and head coach Paul Hewitt has been impressed by the leadership shown by his two returning starters.
Point guard Tony Akins, a 5-11 senior from Lilburn, Ga., and two-guard Marvin Lewis, a 6-4 sophomore from Germantown, Md., are the two starters back from last year’s team which posted a 17-13 record and reached the NCAA West Regional.
Akins, Tech’s scoring (14.5 points per game) and assist (4.3 per game) leader last year, enters his fourth year as a starter at point guard, giving the Yellow Jackets stability at the position not seen since Travis Best started from 1992-95. When Akins was a freshman, he was Tech’s fourth point guard in four seasons.
“He’s been great. He’s been talking on the court in practice,” said Hewitt, last year’s ACC Coach of the Year. “I thought he began to establish himself as a leader toward the end of last year. So far in practice, he hasn’t disappointed me at all. He’s been a terrific leader.
“College basketball has become such a guard-oriented game. You have a guy like him, you put the ball in his hands, and he’s going to deliver it where something good happens, whether he creates a shot for himself or for one of his teammates. When you’re this young, the one place where you want to have experience and talent, which he does, is the point guard position. For us, there isn’t a more important player on the floor. He can be a common influence for the rest of the guys on this team.”
Lewis, though just a sophomore, has exhibited the willingness to lead on the court as well. Named to the ACC all-freshman team last year, Lewis played an undersized small forward and averaged 8.7 points (fifth on the team) and 4.5 rebounds (second on the team) while starting 29 of 30 games.
“Marvin was very well coached in high school,” said Hewitt. “He’s also able to help the young guys. Marvin is a smart player, an outstanding shooter. He’s worked very hard to improve his ability to put the ball on the floor. He’s doing better at that. Having a guy like that who can help instruct the younger guys will help the transition.”
Lewis, one of four excellent perimeter shooters on the squad, shot 37.4 percent from three-point range last year and nearly 87 percent from the free throw line.
“He’s one of the best,” Hewitt said. “Tony Akins is an outstanding shooter. B.J. Elder has proven to be a terrific shooter. Halston Lane has struggled early because of a viral infection, but he also can shoot. Those are four guys on this team I consider to be outstanding shooters.”
Akins topped the Jackets in three-point shooting last year at 41.9 percent, which ranked third in the ACC, and 2.3 treys per game, which ranked sixth. Lane, a 6-5 sophomore from Oak Ridge, Tenn., made 41.3 percent of his three-point attempts in ACC games, 37.4 percent overall. Elder, a 6-3 guard from Madison, Ga., has demonstrated outstanding shooting ability in pre-season practice.
Joining Elder among the newcomers is 6-6 Anthony McHenry of Birmingham, Ala., who will back up Akins at point guard, 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad of Atlanta, 6-7 power forward Ed Nelson of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and 7-0 center Luke Schenscher of Hope Forest, South Australia.
“The freshmen are very tough defensively, especially on the perimeter,” said Hewitt. “They do a good job of guarding the ball and putting pressure on in the backcourt. Physically, they are pretty strong. Obviously, Luke has to get stronger. The other four kids are very strong physically. They all have a chance to be major contributors to this program over the next four years.
Schenscher and Nelson’s presence are critical in giving Tech a fighting chance on the boards along with 6-8 sophomore forward Robert Brooks (Saginaw, Mich.). Schenshcer averaged 9.6 boards in his final season with the Australian Institute of Sport, while Nelson grabbed 11 rebounds a game as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Schenscher arrived at Tech weighing just 214 pounds and has built himself up to around 230. His offensive skills are polished.
“He’s a solid rebounder with outstanding hands,” Hewitt said. “Once he gets in the post position, he can score well with either hand on his hook shots. Is he ready to be a big-time rebounding force in the ACC? No. I think he’s an adequate rebounder now. Down the road, he can be as good as he wants to be, but he’s got to get bigger and stronger. The magic number to me is 250 pounds. He got here at 214, and he’s 229 now. He will not see 250 this year. He’s working at it and putting in the time.
“He runs well, catches well, passes well. He was very well coached in high school. He has great vision on the court, and a great work ethic. If he gets stronger, he can be one of the best centers in college basketball.”
Hewitt will spend the next week continuing to install the offense and defense and indoctrinate the freshmen into the system.
“I’m pleased with the effort,” he said. “Tony Akins is playing well, Clarence Moore (6-5, sophomore, Norco, La.) is playing well, and Marvin Lewis is playing well. Typical of things you see with young teams, we’re having to go a little slower than normal. But we need to make sure they learn what we want them to do and make sure they’re well-drilled before we get out there for our first exhibition. We’ve got a lot of time.”
Tech meets the Nike Elite All-Stars on Nov. 8, and the EA Sports All-Stars on Nov. 12, both at 7 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center. The Jackets’ regular-season opener is Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. against Florida A&M.
Georgia Tech has added two walk-ons to bring the total number of players on its roster to 14. The newcomers are 5-9 guard David Nelson, a sophomore from Syracuse, N.Y., and 6-4, 230-pound forward David Ewing, a junior from Stone Mountain, Ga. Nelson joined the team the first day of practice Oct. 13, and Ewing was chosen from an open tryout held Oct. 17.
Georgia Tech’s basketball teams will make their first public appearance Saturday, Nov. 3, at the annual Georgia Tech Hoopfest from 1-3 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Admission is free, but donations for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will be accepted.
The program includes prizes for shooting and dunking contests, and the men’s and women’s teams will each scrimmage for 20 minutes.
SEASON TICKETS AVAILABLE
A limited number of season tickets are available for Georgia Tech men’s basketball. Now is an excellent time for Yellow Jacket fans not among Tech’s priority giving groups to get in on the Jackets’ resurgence in basketball.
The price for the 18-game package, which includes the Dec. 16 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic doubleheader at Philips Arena, is $360 and can be purchased by calling 888-TECH-TIX or online at www.ramblinwreck.com.
Since the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule was announced in August, the tip-off times of two Tech games have changed. The Yellow Jackets’ Jan. 19 game at NC State will tip off at 2 p.m., and the Feb. 9 home game with Duke has a 2:15 p.m. start time. TV coverage remains the same.
The changes are a result of the NFL pushing back its playoff schedule, Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
UPCOMING EVENTSNov. 3 Georgia Tech Hoopfest, 1-3 p.m.Nov. 8 Exhibition vs. Nike Elite All-Stars 7 p.m.Nov. 12 Exhibition vs. EA Sports All-Stars 7 p.m.Nov. 16 Regular-season opener vs. Florida A&M 7:30 p.m.All events at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald's Center.