Originally created 12/16/03

Yellow Jackets continue rapid climb



ATLANTA - Georgia Tech's men's basketball team continued its surprising climb in the rankings Monday, jumping five spots to No. 5 in The Associated Press poll.

The ranking is Georgia Tech's highest since Feb. 24, 1986 when the Yellow Jackets were No. 4. Outside of the 1985-86 season when Georgia Tech was ranked between No. 1 and No. 7 all season, the No. 5 ranking in the media poll is the highest in school history.

The Yellow Jackets (8-0) received 14 first-place votes - 10 more than last week and the third most in the poll. The Yellow Jackets play Alabama A&M at home Wednesday.

The Yellow Jackets are ranked No. 6 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, their highest ranking in that poll since the final poll of the 1989-90 season when Georgia Tech was No. 3 after making a trip to the Final Four.

Despite the high rankings, head coach Paul Hewitt said there is still some skepticism of the Yellow Jackets' hot start.

"I think we all realize that in the back of everyone's mind, they're thinking, 'OK, they're having a nice little run in the preseason, but what's going to happen once they get to the ACC season?"' Hewitt said. "Right now we have to take whatever we get and appreciate the ranking, but we have to understand that we have to keep getting better with every game."

Georgia Tech opens its Atlantic Coast Conference season Jan. 11 at North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets have five non-conference games remaining before that, including four at home

GETTING BETTER: Sophomore forward Theodis Tarver, out since dislocating his left kneecap in preseason, is now running on a treadmill during Georgia Tech practices and is participating in shooting and light cutting drills. If he continues to progress, Hewitt said he could return to the practice court in three to four weeks.

A potential new NCAA rule could aid the 6-foot-10 Tarver in his recovery. The new rule, scheduled for a vote in April, would allow players to play up to 20 percent of the season at any time and still take a redshirt. The rule, which would be applied retroactively, would allow Tarver to test out his knee without losing a season of eligibility.

Although Hewitt believes the rule will pass, he said it would not impact Tarver's return. Hewitt said he would take the counsel of team trainer Tim Hansen, Tarver and Tarver's family in making the decision about bringing Tarver back.

"If Tim doesn't feel like he can come back and make a full recovery, then we're not going to play him at all," Hewitt said. "We're not going to take that chance."

BYNUM'S DEBUT: Will Bynum hasn't played in a college basketball game in nearly a year. So he wasted little time in making an impact in Georgia Tech's 75-62 victory against Saint Louis on Saturday.

Bynum, a 6-foot junior transfer from Arizona, entered the game with 15:36 remaining in the first half and grabbed a rebound on his first defensive possession and drew a charge on his second.

In all, Bynum scored six points on two of five shooting from the field, including one of four from 3-point range. He added three rebounds, three assists, a steal and two turnovers in 18 minutes off the Georgia Tech bench.

"I give my game like a D today. I was real rusty out there. Hopefully as we keep going, I'll pick it up," said Bynum, who last played on Dec. 30, 2002 for Arizona. He has been practicing with Georgia Tech for the last year, but was forced to sit out under NCAA transfer rules. "I was out of rhythm."

Bynum, however, did have a hand in the game's best highlight. He tossed a halfcourt alley-oop pass to Isma'il Muhammad for a thunderous dunk in the second half.