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October 12, 2009
Georgia Tech has the roster to erase the memories of its brutal performance in ACC competition last season, when it finished last. The Yellow Jackets return six of their top eight scorers and have an outstanding freshman class headlined by 6-foot-10 forward Derrick Favors, the No. 3 prospect in the nation. This up-and-down program appears headed in the right direction again. "There wasn't a lot wrong with this team," coach Paul Hewitt said. "We didn't have some of the experience and depth on the perimeter. Having guys like [the incoming freshmen] compete makes everyone a little bit tougher, hardens everyone a bit for the games, makes them take care of the ball a little better, shoot free throws a little better. They will make a big difference on this team. In spite of our record, we weren't far off."
Iman Shumpert ranked second in the nation among freshmen in assists and steals.
Georgia Tech might have the best big-man tandem in the conference. Gani Lawal earned third-team All-ACC honors last season while averaging 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. And he doesn't have as much upside as his new teammate. Favors is one of the best freshman post players in the nation. If he successfully handles the pressure of playing for his hometown team, Favors could help carry the Yellow Jackets back to the NCAA tournament. The return of physical senior Zach Peacock gives the Jackets even more toughness inside.
Iman Shumpert ranked second among all freshmen across the nation last year in assists (5.0) and steals (2.1). He now gets a chance to team with freshman Mfon Udofia (the No. 32 prospect in the nation). Udofia is more of a pure point guard than Shumpert, so his arrival could allow Shumpert to move off the ball. The Jackets must find an outside shooter to replace the departed Lewis Clinch, who played particularly well late last season. Tech is looking forward to the return of swingman D'Andre Bell, a fifth-year senior who missed the 2008-09 season with spinal stenosis. Bell is a wing who also can play the point if necessary.
Don't be fooled by Tech's poor 2008-09 performance. This is a dynamic team capable of making serious noise in the ACC. If the freshmen are as good as advertised, Georgia Tech should end its two-year NCAA tournament drought.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.