Coach Paul Hewitt Talks 2009

Going into the 2009 season Coach Paul Hewitt's Yellow Jackets will have one of the top freshman classes and will also have the return of former starter D'Andre Bell. Coach Hewitt talks about the incoming freshmen, Bell's return, their chances in the ACC and the overall improvement of the conference.

Would you rather see Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech or the Yankees beat the Red Sox?

"I'd rather see Georgia Tech win. I'm glad the Red Sox are gone. Good riddance."

Looking at this year's roster what are some of the strengths you see going into the season?

"As compared to last year, our backcourt is much stronger. Just from a health, experience, and talent standpoint. I think a lot of people will point the addition of Derrick (Favors) and think that he will be the big difference. Last year I though Zach Peacock, Gani Lawal, and Alade Aminu played extremely well. I thought that front court was as good as any in the league with the exception of North Carolina's. I think our backcourt will be the big difference this year with Mfon Udofia and having D'Andre Bell back. This is as important as any addition we've had. We have more depth with Brian Oliver and Glen Rice. Lance Storrs I expect to be improved this year. We have more options this year. Last year we basically had one option with Iman Shumpert with the injury to Mo (Miller). Mo unfortunately was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago and is suffering the effects of a third concussion within the last year. We're a little concerned about him. He has not worked out over the last two weeks. I dropped him off at his apartment and he's feeling better but I don't think he'll practice this weekend. If the doctors clear him fine but again he's suffering the effects of another concussion."

In your one man workouts, how would you rate Derrick Favors?

"He's about where I expected. He's a hard worker, he listens well, and he picks things up as well. I'm impressed with his ability to retain information. I like what I've seen out of him so far. He's making good progress."

Are you going to use last year as a motivator or are you going to forget about it moving forward?

"Last year is last year. I thought that team performed extremely well under the conditions that played hard. At the end of the games we just didn't take care of the ball as much as we would like and we didn't make free throws. When you go back and look at it we won two and I think we could have won at least nine if we made free throws and didn't turn the ball over in the last four minutes. That's a different team and this team is completely different where we are today in terms of health and depth."

With four starters back do you think they are smarter and wiser?

"Just healthier, deeper, and more talented."

"Again, I thought we did pretty much what we wanted to do except the end of the games. There was only one game where we walked off the court and I felt we didn't compete and that was North Carolina. I sure I wasn't the only coach that felt that way walking off that court. You go back and look at the overtime games and the buzzer beaters that tells you that that team competed. I'm not going to poormouth the effort that team gave last year. You play as hard as you can and the inability to make free throws and take care of the ball in the last three or four minutes that's what you are. I think we got everything we could out of their ability."

When you have a roster this deep are you concerned about everyone getting enough minutes?

"No, the best players are going to play."

You have a lot of flexibility this year. How much of the preseason will be spent finding the right combination?

"Some of it will but like I said the best guys are going to play. It's going to be competitive and guys know what they're going to have to do to get on the court."

Is Favors and inside-outside type of player?

"He's an inside guy. The thing I like about Derrick is that he's not a big guy trying to impress you with his perimeter skills. He would like to dominate the paint area before he steps out. John O'Connor asked him one day what was the one thing he felt he did best. He sat and thought for a second and said rebound. It's a nice answer to hear from a big guy."

What do you see from the rest of the ACC this year?

"It's going to be a good league. It's going to be like always. Last year I think it ended up at number one in the RPI. I wouldn't be surprised if it was number one again in the RPI. I'd be curious how many times the ACC finished at the top over the last ten years. We've won the ACC-Big 10 challenge every year they've had it. The thing that puzzles me is how they get more bids than the ACC. I can't figure that out."

Do you think the ACC is a little more open this year?

"Probably because Carolina was such a prohibitive favorite last year. The league overall is probably better and stronger."

Do you think nobody knows how this season is going to go except the guys in the locker room with the writers picking you anywhere from second to seventh?

"The thing about our game as opposed to football is that the rankings have a distinct impact on them and who's playing in the end. I think these guys know that if everything goes right we have a chance to be as good as anyone in the ACC. If you're as good as anyone in the ACC you can compete for anything that comes after that but nobody really knows. Health always plays into it. A young guy like Mfon Udofia has impressed with how hard he plays. Who knows how he's going to adjust to playing on the road at Maryland or Duke or whatever. I like where we are and we'll see where it goes from here."

How is D'Andre Bell?

"When the doctors went in they didn't know what they were going to find. They knew it was there based on the MRI. When they went in they found it was a situation that was correctable. He had to sit out eight months. I just talked to him today after individuals. He's really making a lot of strides. He still doesn't feel good in terms of his full court defense but the half court defense he feels he's getting it back. His first step is back offensively but he doesn't feel he has the quickness and the stamina to guard somebody full court. I assured him. I said you were out for eight months and now you're back. I teased him and said you don't look as fluffy as when you first started. He's streamlining a little bit. The doctors have told us there's no risk moving forward. They wouldn't have released him if it wasn't correctable. He's had a conversation with T.J. Ford who had a more serious situation who had the same doctor. Doctor Watkins felt he was good enough to play. I don't think Doctor Watkins would play around with it."

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