ATLANTA — When Paul Hewitt recruited Iman Shumpert to Georgia Tech more than three years ago, he sat in the young guard’s Chicago-area home and told him he wanted the ball in his hands at the end of every game he played for the Yellow Jackets.
Every clutch, game-winning or game-icing shot attempt Georgia Tech had, would leave through his hands, Hewitt implied.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
Now, perhaps more than before, those words have real resonance.
“He’s our most important player; no question about it, on both ends of the floor,” Hewitt, Georgia Tech’s head basketball coach said of Shumpert Tuesday. “He’s the guy who’s going to make us an NCAA tournament team. He understands that and is ready to do it.”
With preseason practices officially kicking off on campus Friday night, Hewitt and company are ready to begin a hopeful a campaign that takes the Yellow Jackets back to the national tournament.
Last season, after streaking through the ACC tournament and into the conference final against Duke, the Yellow Jackets made an appearance in the NCAA tournament, beating Oklahoma State before being eliminated by Ohio State in the second round in Milwaukee, Wis. In that championship game against the Blue Devils, Georgia Tech came within mere seconds of upsetting the team that went on to be last season’s national champion.
Hewitt believes that late-season run will pay instant dividends this year with his more experienced, more complete team.
“You can’t put a price tag on how they closed out the year last year and realizing what they had to do to win every possession of every game,” Hewitt said.
During his Tuesday afternoon preseason news conference, Hewitt more than intimated that it would be upon Shumpert’s shoulders where his team’s success this year will reside. As one of the Yellow Jackets’ most experienced players, there is no reason it should be any other way, he said.....
For more on this story, read Wednesday's Telegraph and return to macon.com Wednesday morning.