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Georgia Tech basketball rebuilding this season
Favors, Lawal bolted for NBA after 2010
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ATLANTA — Brian Oliver welcomes his new role as Georgia Tech's Mr. Everything.

That's good because the Yellow Jackets' hope for a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament could depend on how well he performs.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt needs several players to play more than one position this season, but none more so than Oliver.

With big men Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal now in the NBA, Oliver will work for rebounds as a power forward with an unproven frontline cast that includes Kammeon Holsey, Daniel Miller and Nate Hicks.

As a swingman, Oliver will set screens for guards Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice Jr., Mfon Udofia and Lance Storrs. He will shoot 3-pointers, pass from the perimeter and must play both positions on defense as well.

"I'll be able to create mismatches for most people," Oliver said.

Hewitt likes the makeup of his young team and believes it has adjusted well to a new identity. The Jackets are no longer one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's bigger-sized squads. Their roster is now full of guards.

"We are more experienced in the back court, but are we more talented?" Hewitt said. "Probably not. When you look at last year's team, we were counting on four freshmen to play a lot of minutes. That is tough. This year we are more experienced and are looking at three freshmen, but two of them have been in the program for a year, so they have a better idea. It is not all new to them."

On their way to finishing 23-13 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, the Jackets relied on four true freshman — Favors, Oliver, Rice Jr., and Udofia — either as starters or reserves who played abundant minutes.

This season, Holsey and Daniel Miller begin their careers as redshirt freshmen. Swingman Jason Morris is the only true freshman being counted on to play, though 6-foot-10 Nate Hicks, who signed a scholarship this summer, could earn a role, too.

For Georgia Tech to succeed without Favors, Lawal and departed reserve center Zachery Peacock, it will rely on Shumpert, Udofia and Miller to handle the ball cleanly at the point.

"We're not going to get a whole lot of extra shots like we did in the past off the offensive boards," Hewitt said. "We have to force turnovers and we've got to keep our turnovers down."

The Jackets struggled badly at times last season on perimeter passes to Favors and Lawal and on baseline passes from out of bounds, but Hewitt believes 2010-11 will be different.

"The strength of this team is definitely aligned with our abililty to take the ball off the dribble — spread people out, space people out and throw off the dribble," Hewitt said. "We have to cut down on the turnovers, and a lot of turnovers are coming on chances we don't have to take. The good thing is we're getting great looks at the basket, and we can shoot. "

Oliver, the fifth-leading scorer last season with a 7.1 average, knows Georgia Tech is holding himself accountable to choose shots wisely.

"When I first got here, I did like to shoot the ball pretty much every time," Oliver said. "And at times, after I watched film, there some shots that were just ill-advised shots. If my feet weren't set, I would get into a shot and guys already close out so it's a contested shot."

By playing smart basketball, Oliver believes the Jackets will win over those who project them to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"People are always telling me, 'Well, don't read too much into it,' and I don't," he said. "But I'm just curious to see what people outside the program, fans and what not, have to say. It's kind of disheartening to know that people don't really believe in us, but it just gives us that much more energy to prove them wrong."

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