Random acts of Christian kindness
ATLANTA — Georgia Tech, coming off its worst ACC finish in 28 years, should be well-stocked for a comeback season.
Forward Gani Lawal confirmed on Monday he will return for his junior season and will withdraw his name from the NBA draft. He will be joined by four returning starters and one of coach Paul Hewitt's top recruiting classes, raising hopes the Yellow Jackets should improve after finishing 12-19 overall last season, including a 2-14 record in Atlantic Coast Conference games.
Georgia Tech's 2-14 ACC finish was its worst since 1980-81, when the Yellow Jackets finished 4-23 overall and 0-14 in the league. Bobby Cremins' 19-year run as head coach began the following year.
Lawal, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. He ranked second in the ACC in rebounds and led the league in double-doubles.
Lawal said putting his name in the draft helped him to learn where he needs to improve before moving up to the NBA.
"Going through the process of dealing with the NBA teams was definitely a positive experience for me," Lawal said.
"I learned a lot about my game and what I need to work on, and coming back to school will be very beneficial toward that end. I'll also be a year closer to graduating, and I'm excited about the team we'll have next year."
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt says Lawal should be one of the top players in the ACC next season.
"Gani's return may be the most significant factor for our team's success looking ahead to next season," Hewitt said.
"He made tremendous progress between his freshman and sophomore years and we feel he can make even more progress in his junior season. He certainly will receive consideration for player of the year honors in the ACC."
Lawal is expected to be joined on Georgia Tech's front line by 6-foot-9 freshman Derrick Favors, Scout.com's No. 1 prospect.
Favors was named the Naismith national player of the year after averaging 28.1 points and 13.3 rebounds at South Atlanta High, including 38 points and had 21 rebounds in the school's Class AAA state championship game victory over Westover.
Another highlight of Hewitt's offseason was the news senior D'Andre Bell has been cleared to return after undergoing spinal surgery. Bell had the operation in December to correct a congenital condition known as spinal stenosis. He was a team captain and was regarded as the team's top defensive player before taking a medical redshirt in the 2008-09 season.
Bell averaged 6.6 points and 2.1 rebounds during the 2007-08 season.
Georgia Tech's other returning starters include senior forward Zachery Peacock, junior point guard Moe Miller and sophomore guard Iman Shumpert.