Dateline: GREENSBORO, N.C...
OK, I know I don't blog much from Tech basketball, but I had some stuff I just had to share.
First of all, what a turnaround. Not just on the floor but what a turnaround in the wave of support it seems the Yellow Jackets are beginning to receive. Of course, I'm well aware of the talk about letting go of head coach Paul Hewitt, and I'm well aware of the reasons many of you are calling for his ouster, but his team is finally being to prove why such talk puts Tech officials in a precarious position. This team has great talent, and it seems it is just now all completely coming together.
As I Tweeted earlier tonight: "Better late than never."
Following last night's win over North Carolina, senior D'Andre Bell, who has tried hard to become a leader on the court and in the huddle for this team this season, told me that he can tell where the team is finally in complete sync. The chemistry and camraderie is there so much that players even have no trouble taking criticism -- an issue some, perhaps rightfully or not so rightfully, have struggled with -- from themselves.
Those sentiments were echoed following Friday night's win over Maryland by Hewitt, who acknowledged that the program has finally gotten on one single page. If you'll recall halfway through the year, former Yellow Jacket, Kentucky State interim head coach Clarence Moore said he saw a team in Georgia Tech that lacked leaders and didn't play together as well as his 2004 Final Four team.
Anyway, here's what Hewitt had to say about the state of his players now that tournament play has begun, particularly a perception that they have increased chemistry. Below that, he shares some nuggets about Iman Shumpert taking over vocally as a leader on the floor.
"That's a great point. They're growing up. You play all year and you try to teach and give them experience for this time of the year. This is what it's about, this is the most fun time. Sometimes, quite honestly, during December and January and even some parts of February it can be a little drudgery. But yeah, they're realizing now, 'OK, this is what Coach has been talking about. When you get to this time of the year... there's just something as silly, well, not silly, it's fun, but going back to the hotel and the band's going to be there waiting for them and their family members. It's fun, and these are going to be great experiences for them.
Hewitt on Shumpert:
"I'm just happy that they're finally realizing what they can do. It's good for them to finally realize what we're talking about as a coaching staff."
"I feel like in particular tonight (Friday), Iman did a great job of talking when we saw (Maryland's) call. They didn't run a lot of sets. (Assistant) Darryl (Lebarrie) did a great job scouting them. When the team wasn't in front of us, Iman would see the call and would alert us and that kind of gave us a half a step in the right direction of where to go to be there to contest a shot."
I'd also be remiss if I failed to add that Hewitt was filled with relief when the clock read all zeroes against Maryland on Friday. It marked the last time he'd have to see Terrapins guard
in ACC play. Barring some strange twist of fate in the NCAA tourney, it shouls be the last time he sees him period.
"That kid's tormented us the whole time he's been in the league.
"Obviously, I'm very happy we won this game, but I'm even happier we won't have to see Greivis Vazquez anymore in an ACC game at least. Well-deserved player of the year."
Vazquez was named ACC player of the year this week. Maryland coach
won coach of the year honors.