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Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets ready to hoop it up

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory

ATLANTA-- It's rebuilding time for Georgia Tech and Georgia.

Each team will open practice on Friday night with only two returning starters.

Georgia Tech's process of starting over is especially dramatic. The Yellow Jackets are launching a new season with first-year coach Brian Gregory, and they'll play their home games in two off-campus facilities while their home gym is rebuilt.

Gregory, who was hired from Dayton, takes over a team that finished 13-18 in its last season with Paul Hewitt.

"I do think that we have some players that are not pleased where they're at right now as players," Gregory said. "That's always a good point to start from, because that means you're driven to improve and get better."

Georgia Tech had Iman Shumpert bypass his senior season to become a first-round pick of the New York Knicks. He was only the fourth player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.

Then came another early exit. Forward Brian Oliver, who averaged 10.5 points per game, transferred to Seton Hall. Georgia Tech also lost senior guards Moe Miller and Lance Storrs.

Gregory inherits two returning starters, center Daniel Miller (6-11, 258) and guard Jason Morris. Both are sophomores.

Junior Glen Rice did not finish last season as a starter, but is the team's top returning scorer at 12.8 points per game. Forward Kammeon Holsey also was a part-time starter, and Mfon Udofia has 36 career starts at point guard.

Two transfers who will compete for time in Gregory's backcourt. Brandon Reed played at Arkansas State in 2009-10 before transferring to Georgia Tech. Senior point guard Pierre Jordan graduated from Florida State this summer and is completing his eligibility this season at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum is being rebuilt on the same site as the McCamish Pavilion. Georgia Tech will play this season's ACC games at Philips Arena, home of the NBA Atlanta Hawks, and its other games at the Gwinnett Arena, about 30 minutes north of downtown Atlanta.

"I think it will be difficult, but I think it is a challenge our guys have been prepared to meet," Gregory said.

Georgia lost Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA draft. Both were selected by the Clippers. Another starter on the front line, power forward Jeremy Price, was a senior as was backup forward Chris Barnes.

That leaves the Bulldogs looking to replace their top scorers and rebounders from the 2010-11 team that won 21 games and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Third-year coach Mark Fox can lean on senior guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware. Otherwise, he said it feels like he's starting over.

"It is like that in many ways," Fox said. "We lost certainly our entire front line, lots of scoring and lots of rebounding. I think this group is more suited to play a little more up-tempo than the last ones were but we are in a lot of ways starting anew because we have so many new faces."

A newcomer to watch is freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is expected to play at shooting guard or small forward.

Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 200), from Greenville High School, is the first Georgia signee since Carlos Strong in 1992 to have been named a McDonald's All-America.

"He's very gifted," Fox said of Caldwell-Pope. "He's a very humble kid. He doesn't act like a kid who carries as many accolades as he does. He's unbelievably coachable. I think that's one of the reasons his teammates have welcomed him with open arms. He's just kind of a quiet kid who wants to be part of a good team. I think his teammates appreciate that."

Robinson averaged 12.2 points and 4.0 assists last season. Ware averaged 8.0 points and 3.5 assists.

"Given the choice, the one thing you would take is some experience in the backcourt, and that is one thing we do have," Fox said.

Fox expects other returning players, including Marcus Thornton, Donte Williams, Sherrard Brantley, Connor Nolte and Vincent Williams, to earn bigger roles.

Junior college transfer John Florveus (6-11, 230) joins freshmen John Cannon (6-10, 245), Tim Dixon (6-9, 225) and Nemanja Djurisic (6-8, 230) as newcomers on the front line.

Fox said Florveus "physically is well-prepared for this level of play."

He said Djurisic, a native of Montenegro who signed with Georgia from South Kent (Conn.) School, "is very skilled and pretty strong for a freshman." Fox said Cannon "is very physical" while Dixon "is very versatile" and a good shooter.

"We are very green," Fox said. "We've got inexperience all over the place."

Meanwhile, Gregory has promised his returning players will have a fresh start after the disappointing season that led to Hewitt's firing.

"To be honest with you, I'm not worried about what happened here in the past," Gregory said.

"For us, it's a waste of time. For the players, it's not fair to them. We just need to move on."