Your Next ACC Champion ...
Before Prisbell and I unveil our full brackets tomorrow -- surely picked in a hangover-induced haze -- I'm going to go ahead and give the people a championship prediction: The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Now, in the words of South Boston News Record Scribe and Noted Press Room Chowhound Tucker McLauhglin, I've been wrong before" But there's a lot to like about Paul Hewitt's crew, starting with freshmen stars Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young who, finally, are playing like stars. Had an interesting chat with Hewitt before the season about freshmen, and he talked about how Young and Crittenton each had their issue to overcome from playing the AAU circuit.
For Young, he was ceding to often to his teammatres, a trait picked up from being a top-ranked prospect for many years. Seeing that he had already established, teammates and their parents scolded him for shooting, because the lesser-ranked players wanted the shots to secure gaudy stats and, hopefully, a scholarship. Young is naturally an easy-going guy, so he played within the flow and never took over, which carried to college. "He's playing like a small forward now," Hewitt said a few minutes ago in Tech's locker room.
For Crittenton, he would play panicked after the other team scored, a symptom of playing so many games during AAU seasons and not practicing. All the action had made him think about the score primarily instead just playing the game. By season's end, he became perhaps the best complete point guard in the conference, finsihing with 14.5 points, 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Both Young and Crittenton struggled at times this season, and the freshmen relied on each other. They met a few years ago at a camp and became quick friends, Instant Messaging one another. When it came time to pick a college, Young picked Tech in part because Crittenton, who is from Atlanta, had already committed. On his recruiting trip to Tech, he went to a high school football game with Crittenton. They room together now.
"Me and Javaris, we talk a lot," Young said. "We'd come in after a bad game and be like, 'We got to pick it up. We're getting contributions from everybody, but we're star players. We have to lead by example and starting playing like we have to.' "
The entire team took on that attitude, particularly on defense, after a four-game losing streak that including a loss at home to Virginia Tech, which Georgia Tech would play in the quarterfinals once it gets by Wake Forest. Crittenton said he looked forward to playing teams the Jackets lost to this season to show how good they could really play. And they will, says this hack.
Some other Georgia Tech notes:
-While every other team so far has used its one-hour practice session as a glorified game of H-O-R-S-E, the Yellow Jackets practiced like it was preseason. Full-court scrimmage, sweating a full lather, hard defense. Not sure that's a good thing for a team about to win four games in four days, but it's possible.
-They had, without question, the sweetest kicks of any team here. They were patent-leather navy blue with gold straps and a white swoosh. "They're a little flashy," forward Jeremis Smith said. "They feel just like shoes to me." Something tells me that's how they're supposed to feel. As good as they looked, a few players had a problem with them. "I want to wear them for the team, but I don't know," one player said of the shoes because his feet hurt. Young told him to wear two or three pairs of socks, because that worked for him every time he breaks in fresh pair. That would be a sacrifice well worth it, for these beauties.
Virginia Tech is taking the court now, followed by Virginia. I'll try to post something on those practices after or maybe tomorrow morning, seeing that everyone will be going home from work around now.
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