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Yellow Jackets look ahead to bigger things

Georgia Tech Wrapup

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Jarrett Jack pulled off his jersey, rubbed his bald head and stared quietly at the floor.

No one in the Georgia Tech locker room had much to say _ the expected reaction when a team has just lost the national championship game.

But don't expect these Yellow Jackets to be down for long.

They had the greatest season in school history, winning five nail-biting games in the NCAA tournament before an 82-73 loss to Connecticut in Monday night's final.

Easing the sting of the last game: Four starters and three key reserves will be back next season, joined by a recruiting class that could be one of the nation's strongest.

``Pretty much all our top guys, our nucleus, are coming back,'' Jack said. ``I think we'll be even more deadly next year.''

Georgia Tech (28-10) reached the championship game for the first time, only to get overwhelmed by UConn.

The Yellow Jackets trailed by 15 at halftime and the margin grew as high as 25 before a late flourish made the score respectable. They picked a bad time to have one of their worst-shooting games of the season _ 38 percent from the field, 12-of-21 from the foul line.

Of course, the Huskies had something to do with all those errant shots. They were clearly the better team, blowing it open with the combination of All-America center Emeka Okafor and stellar guard Ben Gordon.

UConn started the season as the top-ranked team in the country, and they fulfilled that promise at the end.

Now, it's Georgia Tech that likely will have to deal with high expectations.

The Yellow Jackets, picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, will be much better regarded the next time they take the court.

They'll have three returning seniors from their starting lineup _ guard B.J. Elder, 7-foot-1 center Luke Schenscher and forward Anthony McHenry. Jack, the point guard, will be a junior.

Not a bad place to start.

And there's more.

Guard Will Bynum and forward Isma'il Muhammad, who played key roles off the bench, will be seniors, as well. Also returning is 6-9 forward Theodis Tarver, who gives the Yellow Jackets another big body in reserve.

Coach Paul Hewitt, who agreed to a new contract before the Final Four, already signed four recruits in November. The Yellow Jackets also are favored to land 6-11 center Randolph Morris, one of the top high school players in the country.

``I definitely feel good about things,'' said senior guard Marvin Lewis, the only starter who won't be back. ``We wanted to put this program back in good position. Now, it's up to the rest of the guys to keep it up.''

Being a team with no real superstars has its advantages, too.

While Jack has heard rumblings that he might enter the NBA draft, he's ``definitely coming back'' for another season. No one else is expected to leave early, either.

Schenscher, the team's most improved player, hopes to play at the Athens Olympics this summer. He'll try out for the team from his native Australia, an experience that should give him a chance to hone his game even more.

``I definitely like the situation we have here,'' Jack said. ``When you get to this point, you want to take it all the way. We'll have even more incentive next season.''

Many of Georgia Tech's former greats _ including Mark Price, John Salley, Dennis Scott, Duane Ferrell, Travis Best and Chris Bosh _ turned out in San Antonio, hoping to celebrate the school's first national title.

It didn't happen, but at least they know the program is in good hands.

After tailing off badly in the late 1990s, the Yellow Jackets are again positioning themselves to be one of the nation's top programs on a regular basis.

``It's good to know that we're the team that put Georgia Tech back on the map again,'' Schenscher said. ``I definitely think, with all the guys we have coming back, that we can keep it going.''

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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