Key Losses: G Will Bynum (12.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 apg), G B.J. Elder (12.6 ppg), G Jarrett Jack (15.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.5 apg), C Luke Schenscher (10.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.8 bpg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated George Washington 80–68, lost to Louisville 76–54 in the second round
Stone Mountain, GA/Stephenson
Pacific Palisades, CA/Palisades Charter
Cordele, GA/Crisp County
Clinch, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, was a prolific scorer in high school. He was a late bloomer who slipped under the radar until late in his prep career. Aminu is a rangy 6-9 center who also blossomed late. Bell, a forward from Pacific Palisades, Calif., chose Tech over his local school, UCLA.
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Two minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline, junior point guard Jarrett Jack decided not to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft. And just like that, Georgia Tech's outlook for the 2005-06 season darkened considerably. The shelf, stocked bountifully a year ago with tournament-savvy, seasoned veterans, is now bare.
No one on the returning roster has ever started a game for the Yellow Jackets. Senior center Theodis Tarver and junior guard Mario West are the only scholarship upperclassmen. The rest is a band of youngsters with fresh faces, plenty of zeal and an abundance of talent.
Transforming that talent into victories will be a tremendous challenge for coach Paul Hewitt.
"We probably won't play quite the same, but that's college basketball," Hewitt says. "Every year you have to do things differently offensively and defensively to get the most out of your talent."
Ra'Sean Dickey, a year older and wiser, could emerge as one of the top centers in the ACC. Dickey converted 62.1 percent of his field-goal attempts through an inconsistent freshman season. He displayed nice footwork and a soft touch around the basket, but he was often chastised for being too loose with the ball. It was never safe in his hands, as the big guy often took his size and strength for granted.
Dickey also needs to work on passing the ball out of the post. The self-acclaimed "black hole," Dickey confesses his reluctance to pass the ball back out to teammates on the perimeter. To be successful in Hewitt's offense, sharing the basketball is a must.
Dickey will get help from Tarver, who has played sparingly the past two seasons. As a sophomore, he suffered a dislocated kneecap before the season began and didn't fully recover until the postseason. Last year, Tarver was caught in a numbers game and averaged just 8.6 minutes as a backup power forward.
Sophomore forward Jeremis Smith, arguably the player with the greatest potential, will begin the year healthy. He sustained a knee injury early last season and did not return to full strength until late in the year. Incredibly strong with the ball and a good passer, Smith adds an element of toughness to the Jackets' lineup.
Incoming freshmen Alade Aminu and D'Andre Bell will be relied upon for depth. Bell spent most of his senior season injured, but his scoring prowess will be a plus.
No Jarrett Jack. No Will Bynum. No B.J. Elder. And no Austin Jackson, either. Jackson signed a letter-of-intent with Georgia Tech but chose baseball over basketball after being selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the MLB Draft in June.
That leaves little-used sophomore Zam Fredrick (6.7 minutes per game) to run the show. Fredrick threatened to transfer after a disappointing freshman season in which his classmates garnered much more playing time than he did. The 6-foot South Carolina native, who came in as a shooting guard, reconsidered and now will be a primary cog for the Jackets.
Incoming freshman Lewis Clinch could be the Jackets' savior. He is a gifted scorer from the wing, so the coaching staff would prefer not to use him at point guard.
Small forward Anthony Morrow showed flashes of great potential his rookie year. Morrow stepped in for B.J. Elder when the senior went down with a hamstring injury. Morrow consistently nailed big shots -- he knocked down 38 3-pointers on the season -- and showed no fear in attacking the basket.
West is an erratic but energetic player who is the team's best on-ball defender. Getting West to play at a more controlled pace will be a challenge. As important as his play on the court will be, West's ability to lead a young group of players will be even more critical.
This could be a long season for the Jackets, but as the year progresses, there should be considerable improvement. If the sophomores -- Dickey, Morrow, Smith and Fredrick -- can make the transition from being backups to starters, Tech should enjoy some positive outcomes.
How the Jackets mature, particularly defensively, throughout the year will go a long way in determining how far this team goes. After Tech made it to the NCAA Championship game in 2004 and won one game in last year's NCAA Tournament, the postseason expectations this time around are tempered by youth.
Tech won't be the only team in the ACC dealing with major losses this season, so an NIT berth is a realistic possibility.