UGA, Tech hoops look to experience

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech and Georgia are counting on large numbers of returning starters to lead turnarounds from disappointing 2011-12 seasons.

Each team opens practice today.

Georgia Tech is the only Atlantic Coast Conference team to return all five starters. The Yellow Jackets were 11-20 in their first season under coach Brian Gregory, including a win at Georgia. Georgia Tech will open its new arena, McCamish Pavilion, after not having a true home court last season.

Gregory hopes the new arena, built under the roof of the old Alexander Memorial Coliseum, helps to bring fans back to Georgia Tech home games. Home attendance was declining before his hire, and the Yellow Jackets played their home games at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta and the Gwinnett Arena near Atlanta last season.

"Our home games won't seem like away games anymore," junior center Daniel Miller said.

Georgia Tech was only 4-12 in ACC games last season. It averaged only 58.6 points in conference games, a record low for Georgia Tech in the shot-clock era. The dismal average didn't include a 54-36 loss to Miami in the ACC tournament.

Georgia, which finished 15-17 last season, returns four starters. The Bulldogs' only departed starter is guard Gerald Robinson, who led the team with his 14.2 points per game. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was close behind Robinson in scoring with 13.2 points per game as a freshman and is expected to be the team's top player this season.

Also returning are forwards Marcus Thornton, Donte Williams and Nemanja Djursic. Senior Vincent Williams will compete with freshman Charles Mann at point guard.

Last year's team, which finished 5-11 in Southeastern Conference games, couldn't overcome the departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA.