Hewitt: Longer '3' will force changes

Aiken Tech coach Bruce Capers leaned in and asked USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander a simple question.


When, Capers said with a laugh, are the Pacers playing the Atlanta Hawks?

And thus the talk -- and the hype -- began Thursday at the Greater Augusta Sports Council's College Basketball Preseason Tip-off at Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites. The luncheon preceded the start of the NCAA basketball season, which officially begins Oct. 15.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, the keynote speaker, spoke on several topics, but the main one concerned the NCAA's extension of the 3-point line one foot to 20 feet, 9 inches.

"I'm interested to see how it changes the game," he said. "I think what you'll see is more passing, more cutting, more screening, but like all prognosticators I reserve the right to change my mind come January. I think the 3-point line will certainly diminish the number of 3-point shots taken, which I think will be for the good of the game. Instead of being able to stand around, spot up and shoot, it'll go back to more cutting and passing and using the dribble."

It remains to be seen how the rule will affect Augusta State and USC Aiken, teams that each had their own breakthroughs last season. Alexander said he believed both squads could receive a preseason top-5 Division II ranking.

The Jaguars are coming off a record-setting season when they captured the community's attention for a two-week span in late March. Augusta State reeled off three wins in a row to claim the South Atlantic Regional. The Jaguars then defeated Central Oklahoma in double overtime in their Elite Eight game before knocking off Alaska-Anchorage. Augusta State eventually fell in the national title game to Winona State.

After a 27-7 mark and a taste of national level basketball, Jaguars coach Dip Metress said his team is ready to get back on the court.

"They're wanting to practice now," he said. "They're looking forward to it."

Augusta State's main competition is its rival, USC Aiken. The Pacers won 19 of 20 league games to claim the Peach Belt Conference title en route to a school-record 27 wins.

"We're going into this year just as excited as we were last year," Alexander said.

USC Aiken picked up Auburn transfer Josh Dollard to help out All-American forward Chris Commons.

"(Dollard) is very, very talented," Alexander said. "He and Commons complement each other so well."

Augusta State plays host to USC Aiken on Jan. 5 before traveling across the river for a matchup in the Pacers' convocation center two weeks later.

Aiken Tech will get a first look at USC Aiken in an exhibition later this month. The Knights, coming off a 28-6 season, already started practice for their junior college slate, which begins Oct. 31. They return five sophomores.

"We did pick up a couple of transfers that'll help us a lot," Capers said.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.