ATLANTA - Anthony Morrow dropped his formal title when he joined the Georgia Tech basketball team.
Morrow went by Mister - as in Mr. Basketball - back home in Charlotte, N.C. Named the state's best player during his senior year at Charlotte Latin, Morrow averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds while leading his team to back-to-back state titles.
At Georgia Tech, his name is less formal: He's known simply as Mo.
Mo is one of four heralded Yellow Jackets freshmen, including another Mr. Basketball as well as a Gatorade Player of the Year, who chose to join a veteran team and sacrifice all the formalities of basketball stardom.
"If your mentality is you want to get better and you want to win, then coming into a situation like this is perfect," Morrow said. "I knew obviously I wasn't going to be the man. I just wanted to come in and play against great players, come to a great school and just get better every day."
Morrow and fellow freshmen Ra'Sean Dickey, Zam Fredrick and Jeremis Smith improved quickly enough in preseason practice to earn significant playing time in the season's first month.
Morrow, Dickey and Fredrick came into Tuesday's game against Lafayette, which the Yellow Jackets won 92-58, averaging 10 minutes a game. Smith averaged 15 minutes before dislocating his kneecap in the third game of the season.
Their playing time will likely dwindle starting this weekend, when the Yellow Jackets face Kansas.
Georgia Tech opens Atlantic Coast Conference play next week.
Head coach Paul Hewitt won't be so giving of minutes to his freshmen when the Jackets play teams like Duke and North Carolina as he was in games against Arkansas-Little Rock, James Madison and Charleston Southern.
"Right now, we just have to beg them to be patient," Hewitt said. "They can play, but they have some upperclassmen in front of them. And they're freshmen, so they're thinking they're going to play every game."
Foolhardy or not, that's the right mindset, said veteran guard Isma'il Muhammad. Georgia Tech's first seven players are upperclassmen with significant experience in league play.
Injuries and foul troubles can test the depths of a team's bench, and the play of the freshmen in non-conference games has boosted the veteran's confidence in them.
"We can't do it with just six or seven players," Muhammad said. "We know we can't go through a full season without them. We're going to need a couple of them to step up and they're coming along well."
Dickey and Morrow could become regular contributors. Dickey, a 6-foot-9 forward and the second big man off the bench, has scored in all seven games he's played in. He scored 12 points, then a season-high for the freshmen, in the Jackets' win against Georgia.
Morrow's biggest attribute is his jump shot. He's a confident shooter - he came off the bench in his second career game and called for the ball on the first possession. He's made 13 of 29 3-point shots this season and scored 20 points in Tuesday's win over Lafayette.
"You have to have confidence out there," Morrow said. "You can't play tentative. You don't want to be a guy who everybody knows plays scared."
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at email@example.com or (404) 589-8424.
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