Originally created 03/28/04

Hewitt's Yellow Jackets have depth, versatility



ST. LOUIS - When Georgia Tech emerged as a consistent national contender under Bobby Cremins, the Yellow Jackets typically consisted of one or two superstars, a solid supporting cast and a short bench.

And it worked for more than a decade, as the Yellow Jackets made five Sweet 16 appearances in 12 years during the 1980s and '90s.

But current Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who replaced Cremins in 2000, has rebuilt the Yellow Jackets with a different tenet.

"My philosophy has been since I've been a high school coach is that you have to have depth. Depth and versatility on defense and offense allow you to weather a lot of different situations," Hewitt said. "We can overcome a lot of different things."

In order to make the Final Four, the Yellow Jackets will have to overcome an experienced Kansas team and an injury to leading scorer B.J. Elder, the closest thing the team has to a star. Third-seeded Georgia Tech (26-9) and fourth-seeded Kansas (24-8) meet in today's St. Louis Regional final at 2:40 p.m.

The winner will meet Oklahoma State in a national semifinal in San Antonio on Saturday. The Jayhawks are seeking their third consecutive trip to the Final Four. Georgia Tech is in its first regional final since 1990, the only time the Yellow Jackets reached the Final Four.

Elder, who sprained his right ankle early on Friday against Nevada in the regional semifinals, is expected to play, but not start. How much Elder, an honorable mention All-American, can play and how effective he can be likely won't be known until tip-off. In the absence of Elder, the Yellow Jackets will turn to the one thing that Hewitt has relied upon since he was coaching junior varsity - depth.

"It's the philosophy I had as a JV coach at Westbury (N.Y.) High School. It served me well at Siena and it's served us well here," Hewitt said.

It served Georgia Tech well Friday in the Yellow Jackets' 72-67 victory against Nevada. Eight players scored at least six points in the victory, but just one scored more than nine. All eight played at least 12 minutes, and that's without Elder, who was limited to three minutes and zero points by injury.

Ten players average at least 8.9 minutes per game for the Yellow Jackets, and no player plays more than 31 minutes per game. Six players have led the team in scoring in a game this season.

"One thing that makes our team special is we have depth and a lot of good players that can step up at any time," said Georgia Tech reserve guard Will Bynum. "I think that's what makes us so tough."

The players have accepted the philosophy, one that seeps into the tiniest of things, like the team huddle, which often ends with a chant of "family."