Hewitt, Jackets face uncertain future

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ATLANTA --- Coach Paul Hewitt can't quite reconcile the end of Georgia Tech's season.

"It's worse today than it was yesterday," he said Monday. "You get on a plane, take a ride home, and all of a sudden it hits you that it's over."

A second-round loss to Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday closed an unfulfilled season that leaves the Yellow Jackets wondering what's next.

Big men Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal might leave early for the NBA. The team has lacked consistent play at point guard since Jarrett Jack turned pro after the 2004-05 season.

Another question is the future of Hewitt, who believes he will return next season. He confirmed that he's not looking for another job and indicated athletic director Dan Radakovich wants him back.

"That's the way I see it," Hewitt said. "There's a lot going on with recruiting, and our players deserve some time off with spring break this week."

Hewitt said he's overcome the bitterness he showed last week. The 46-year-old was upset that fans and media outlets were suggesting his job security was backed mostly by a rollover clause in his contract and a $7.1 million school buyout.

Radakovich has not spoken to The Associated Press since an e-mail two weeks ago stated he "will not get into a discussion regarding the evaluation of a program while there are still significant games to be played and goals yet to be reached."

Despite having its deepest roster in 10 seasons under Hewitt, Georgia Tech finished seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference and below .500 against the league for the sixth consecutive year.

The Jackets, who were 23-13 overall, managed just one ACC winning streak, a two-game stretch in January against North Carolina and Clemson.

Georgia Tech ended the regular season losing five of seven. The Jackets made the NCAA field by winning three ACC Tournament games before losing to Duke in the final.

"We were just inconsistent," fifth-year senior D'Andre Bell said. "At certain points we showed how great we can be. And that's that."

Hewitt is uncertain whether Favors, who is projected as an NBA lottery pick, will return for his sophomore year. Lawal, who had team-high averages in scoring (13.1) and rebounding (8.1), will be a senior if he doesn't give up his final year of eligibility.

Another concern is the perimeter. Glen Rice Jr. emerged late in the season as a deep-shooting threat, but his rise coincided with Brian Oliver's struggles.

A similar scenario occurred at point guard when junior Moe Miller reclaimed the job he lost in November to freshman Mfon Udofia. Sophomore guard Iman Shumpert was also inconsistent.

The Jackets were abysmal at ball-handling, ranking 318th among 334 Division I schools in turnover margin. They also struggled after drawing fouls, finishing 11th in ACC free-throw percentage and 267th nationally.

Though the team could have substantial holes to fill over the next few months, Hewitt believes the Jackets have an "excellent corps of young players, and this team has a bright future."

Hewitt, who has watched in past years as Jack, Chris Bosh, Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton left early for the NBA, acknowledges the difficulty that comes with losing talent.

"That's why college basketball is even more unpredictable now than it ever has been," he said. "You don't know what happens from year to year. Transfer is a way up, because everybody's trying to find their path to the NBA. ... It's nerve-racking for the coaches sometimes. But this is the life we've chosen."


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