ATLANTA -- At Georgia Tech’s basketball facility, where the Sixers practiced Thursday morning, some names from the team’s past adorn a wall filled with former Yellow Jackets who’ve made it to the NBA: Matt Geiger, Matt Harpring, Brian Oliver.
Thaddeus Young’s name is there, too. And he, present for practice, was able to re-live the big rivalry between Georgia Tech and Georgia – even if just for one day.
“I didn’t know how big it was until the game was coming up,” Young recalled of his freshman year. “Of course, football season was first and just seeing that we were like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.’ I think when I played, the football team had to travel to Athens and they ended up losing, but I got my win over them as far as basketball goes.”
Damien Wilkins, a former Georgia Bulldog, has memories of the rivalry as vivid and sharp as an HDTV, even though it’s been 13 years since he was a college student.
“I played well against Georgia Tech every time I faced them,” Wilkins said. “They were No. 3 in the country and 12-0 when they came into our building in Athens, and we won in a double-overtime game. It was a really good game on CBS. Bitter rivalry. Great battles – football, basketball, ballet, everything is a rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech.”
Young, too, hasn’t forgotten anything about the experience.
“I remember the game like it was yesterday,” he said. “Coach Young, the assistant coach at the time, he was like, ‘They take away all the passes. Your first play we are going back-door to you for the dunk to send a statement, and yes, we went back-door for the dunk. I think it is on YouTube. I tried to monkey dunk and everything. I almost fell on my face just to send a statement, and we ended up beating them. It was definitely a fun game.”
Young only played one year at Georgia Tech before the Sixers selected him 12th overall in the spring of 2007. His time on campus was short but meaningful, and the smile on his face as he looked around and soaked in the memories of being young and impressionable was wide.
He remembered being a college kid five years ago, ready to learn and grow, which he did.
“All this wasn’t here. It is much bigger, wider, open space,” Young said. “If you made a lay-up in the practice facility when I was here, you usually ran into the wall. It was definitely much smaller when I was here. Everything is beautiful, and this is definitely where it all started for me, so I am happy to be here and see my name on the wall of fame when you first walk in the door.”