2:16 p.m. - I neglected this morning to give a plug to a friend and colleague, Jim Hart of MTM Radio. Jim does a weekly radio show Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. at AM-WCFO, News Talk 1160. It’s Atlanta sports with a Tech bent. Tech fans, I imagine, will be interested to learn that Tech team chaplain Derrick Moore will be joining Jim as a regular on the show. Moore will be giving a weekly segment to young athletes on overcoming challenges in sports and life.
I encourage you to give Jim a listen. He has done several interesting and informative interviews with Tech football players and coaches, as well as other members of the Tech sports community, that are worth their time.
Good morning, all-
We’ll take a break from football for some basketball notes. I went Thursday to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Zelnak Basketball Center, the long-awaited basketball practice facility that will be built adjacent to the AMC.
Both Paul Hewitt and MaChelle Joseph were naturally excited about it, as it will help with a) recruiting; b) ease of practice. As they were sharing AMC as a practice facility, the men sometimes have practiced at 5:30 in the morning in order to get practice time in and to not conflict with classes. Another facet is an on-site weight room (so the teams won’t have to trek to the weight room by Bobby Dodd Stadium or have to fight for time with the other varsity teams).
Said Hewitt, “[Players] hear from their friends how nice their facilities are. Now to have one of their own, they’re excited.”
I talked to both Hewitt and Joseph about that and some other matters, as well as Gani Lawal.
First, Hewitt. He was excited about Charlton Young getting hired at Georgia Southern. He noted that when he and Young took recruiting trips together, conversations often ended up on their college days, and Hewitt said he could tell how much Georgia Southern meant to Young.
As such, Hewitt was needling Young before Thursday’s introductory press conference in Statesboro that he would cry, and Young texted Hewitt back to confess that indeed he had.
Further, Hewitt said, “I told [Georgia Southern athletics director Sam Baker], ‘I’m not sure you can hire a guy that can recruit from Atlanta to Miami (Young’s hometown) better than Georgia Southern.”
Now, onto what I imagine you’re wondering about – Young’s replacement. Hewitt said he has two primary criteria — someone who understands Tech’s culture and someone who can develop players, the first because “it’s a different place to work” and the second because “that’s the thing we’ve always hung our hat on.”
I asked specifically about former Tech assistant Dean Keener, who went to James Madison in 2004 after Tech’s Final Four run and resigned towards the end of his fourth season, a year ago.
Hewitt chose to pass on the question.
However, I asked about possibly hiring back former assistants and he said, “Guys that understand Tech are very important. That’s very important, first and foremost. You can read into that what you want.”
He further said that there are former assistants of his that he will definitely talk to.
Since his resignation, Keener has since returned to Atlanta, is working for an executive search firm and, I’ve been told, is quite happy with the job and the time it affords him to be with his family.
It doesn’t sound like a hire will happen soon, though.
The story of the year in women’s basketball was, of course, Connecticut going undefeated and demolishing pretty much everyone in its path.
You might be interested to know that Tech came the closest of almost anyone to knocking off the Huskies, and they were the only team to offer such a stiff challenge at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion. Notre Dame and Rutgers lost to UConn by 10 — Notre Dame in Hartford and Rutgers in Piscataway — and LSU lost by 13 in Hartford.
Connecticut’s average margin of victory was 30.5 points.
Coach MaChelle Joseph, whose team reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, where it lost to Oklahoma, said she still thinks about the Connecticut game.
It was Nov. 16, UConn’s opener and Tech’s second game. Tech was tied at the half at 34, fell behind by 13 with about 11 minutes left but then drew to within three with 5:12 left. UConn scored 13 of the next 15 points to put the game away.
Tech’s Mo Bennett scored 19 points off the bench on just 11 shots to lead the Jackets. However, Joseph said, three of Tech’s best players, Jacqua Williams, Alex Montgomery and Sasha Goodlett, didn’t play well.
“If we’d have had one other person having a great game, it would have been scary for them,” Joseph said.
Of course, without having seen the game, I think it’s safe to say that UConn had a little bit to do with it. And, in the end, a loss is a loss. Regardless, there’s your historical asterisk.
Lastly, I talked to Gani Lawal, whom I almost didn’t even recognize because he had shaved his head.
He said he still wasn’t sure about his decision about the NBA.
He said he was just trying to get to the end of the semester and that he’d talk about it with his family and the coaching staff after that. He sounded like he really didn’t know what he’d do.
“At the end of the season, I thought I would be closer (to a decision) at this point,” he said.
My sense of things, given what he said, is that he may well put his name in but not take an agent to test the waters and buy himself more time.
The deadline for early entries for the draft is April 26. But the last day of classes is April 24 and the exam period is April 27 through May 1. So, if he really wants to wait until school ends to make the decision, he’d have to put his name in.
Certainly, he can adjust his timeline. But he certainly doesn’t have to if he wants to decide after the semester, as the decision to enter is not binding. He would have until June 15 to withdraw from the draft.
Among players who are leaving early or testing their draft status — Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair, Ohio State’s B.J. Mullen’s Arizona’s Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, Wake Forest forward James Johnson.
But he has certainly thought about returning.
“I really like what we have here,” he said. “I really like our chances. I think we’ve got a really good class coming in.”
As for his new hairstyle, Lawal noted that the money he is saving on not having to go to the barber shop, not to mention gas to and from the barber shop. Said Lawal, who will soon have to consider the option of never having to worry about such things ever again, “It’s pretty economical.”