GREENSBORO, N.C. - Epiphanies can come to a person anytime, anywhere.
Ra'Sean Dickey's came in the front seat of a 1979 Cadillac Seville two months ago.
Dickey rode shotgun, his longtime friend and teammate Zam Fredrick behind the wheel. Fredrick had driven Dickey home from basketball practice, and the tension between the two, not the cold January temperatures, chilled them both.
"We talked for a long time, maybe an hour or an hour-and-a-half," Fredrick said. "And it was all about basketball."
Not just basketball, but about how they were playing. The Yellow Jackets were in the midst of what would become an eight-game losing streak, the program's longest in 25 years.
And all the subconscious fingers were pointed at Dickey and Fredrick.
Dickey in particular.
Fredrick was still adjusting to his new role as point guard. A shooting guard in high school and "a born scorer," he deserved some slack.
But Dickey's wildly unpredictable play was not so understandable. And his problem was one of motivation, not role or ability.
He would have a career game one night, like he did against Michigan State (24 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots), only to play so poorly seven days later against Georgia (five points, one rebound, one block) that coach Paul Hewitt removed him from the starting lineup.
His inconsistency came up often in the talk with Fredrick.
"Sometimes he just doesn't feel like doing stuff," said Fredrick, who played with Dickey on a summer league team when they were in high school. "I told him, 'You can't feel like that.' And I tried to tell him in a way where he'd respond."
In other words, the conversation was more man-to-man than heart-to-heart. Fredrick and Dickey argued. They yelled. They admonished and challenged each other.
Something got through. Dickey has since turned around his season, and possibly his career, and leads Georgia Tech into this weekend's Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. The Jackets open play at 9:30 p.m. today against Maryland.
When asked whether the conversation was a wake-up call, Dickey said, "You could say so. I just knew I could play much better than I was."
Much, much better. Since the talk, he has raised his scoring average by three points, from 10 to 13 per game. He posted four double-doubles - the first four of his career - in Georgia Tech's final 14 regular-season games. He shot 65 percent in his past 10 games.
Dickey still lacks intensity at times, particularly on defense. But he is playing the way Hewitt imagined when he recruited Dickey out of Marlboro County High School in South Carolina.
"I knew it was going to happen because I know his talent level and I know what he's capable of," Hewitt said. "But when he was in the rut he was in, I didn't know if he was going to work his way out of it."
Hewitt and others helped Dickey find his way mentally.
Dickey is opening up, too, both in his game - he's added a midrange jump shot to his repertoire - and his personality.
He characterizes it as maturity.
"I knew they were right," Dickey said. "When the person is right, they're right. You can't put nobody at fault but yourself or be mad at nobody but yourself."
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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