Originally created 03/15/03

Missing link catches up to Georgia Tech



GREENSBORO, N.C. - On today's episode of Unsolved Mysteries, the Georgia Tech basketball team.

A hot-shot young head coach, a talented group of young players, a season to gain experience and get better. Where did it go? What happened?

"We didn't play well enough to win, though we had more than enough chances," coach Paul Hewitt said after a 71-65 defeat to North Carolina State painted the Yellow Jackets as hopelessly mediocre. "I guess that has been the story of our season. We continue to let great opportunities slip through our hands."

These Yellow Jackets never got better. They never got comfortable away from home. They never got tough in tight games. They never got the most out of their talent. They never got out of a rut that lingered from winter to spring.

Georgia Tech never came close to living up to the expectations of better things. It has to be said that the team and coach grossly underachieved.

Why? That's the question everybody inside and outside the Georgia Tech program is asking. Nobody has an answer.

"I was surprised I wasn't able to find it and push the button," Hewitt said of the elusive cure for his team's ills. "I'm more disappointed in myself than anybody else."

In games decided by fewer than 10 points, the Yellow Jackets were a woeful 3-10. In games that came down to one basket, they were 0-4. On the road, they were 1-10.

These were hardly the performance figures we'd come to expect from Hewitt's teams that previously spoke of owning the final four minutes and typically exceeded expectations.

"As a team, we're frustrated because we're always so close," junior Marvin Lewis said. "We get tired of being close. We just wonder what it's going to take to get better and improve as a team. I think everybody wants to prove we're a good team, and we're better than this. We all had expectations of ourselves. We all wanted to do well. We all felt that this was going to be a building season."

It should have been, but it never panned out. This Georgia Tech team flat-lined down the stretch, losing seven of its last 10. They rushed shots. They miscommunicated. They played in fits and spurts with no suitable finish.

Part of it was youth, certainly. Part of it was a freshman point guard still feeling his way. Part of it was a defense too soft on the perimeter. Part of it was an offense that didn't operate enough through Chris Bosh. Part of it was a coach who hasn't quite closed the gap on his legendary peers.

It all made for a redundant story line.

"You just have to grow up," Hewitt said. "You just have to get it done. If we don't correct everything we do that stops us from getting over the hump, somewhere down the road in life it is going to cost you something more than a basketball game. When that moment comes up you have to do whatever you have to do."

If you looked hard enough, there was hope. Maybe the most encouraging words came out of the mouth of the one man who might hold the answer - Bosh. Asked whether he has something left to prove at this level before taking on the NBA, Bosh's heart spoke louder than his mind.

"Definitely, especially on a note like this and having a season with so much slippage," the freshman said. "You want to be on the team that's on ESPN and everybody is talking about in a positive way. I think that's everybody's dream when they come to college basketball. I still want to do it. I haven't lived it yet. I want to live it. I want to get in the tournament and play for the national championship like everybody else."

Bosh wants to return to get it right. If he does or doesn't, they still have plenty of time to figure out what went wrong.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.