Thursday, February 05, 2004

Another article on Will Bynum from the Chicago Tribune

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Willing success at Georgia Tech
Former Crane star Will Bynum dreams of making the NBA and buying his mother a house

By Avani Patel
Tribune staff reporter
February 4, 2004

ATLANTA -- He is an adult now, who lives a 10-hour drive away from home and successfully combines schoolwork and sports. But when Rose Robinson hears her youngest child talk of new homes and greener pastures, she is taken back to when her son was a young boy hammering a crate to a tree to practice shooting a basketball.

"He would bounce the ball day and night," Robinson said. "He would go to sleep with the basketball in his hand." Back then, Will Bynum would tell his mother that someday he was going to buy her a house, away from the tumultuous neighborhood where they lived on the South Side of Chicago. Now, with every shot he makes, every rebound he gathers, every eye-catching, mind-boggling, behind-the-back and between-the-legs drive he takes, the Georgia Tech junior who starred at Crane is working on making that childhood dream a reality.

Just 14 games into his Yellow Jackets career, Bynum is making his presence felt in his first season since transferring from Arizona. In seven ACC games before Tuesday's 81-65 loss at Florida State, Bynum was averaging 14.1 points as a reserve. His 44.4 percent success rate from behind the three-point arc was fourth best in the conference, though he made only 1 of 4 attempts Tuesday night while scoring five points.

But Bynum's influence extends beyond the numbers. Generously listed at 6 feet, Bynum is the spark that makes the 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets go. Explosive and elusive all at once, Bynum can deftly maneuver through packs of defenders.

"When things bog down he can create scoring opportunities for you," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.

On Jan. 17, for instance, Bynum scored a career-high 25 points in a victory over Maryland. He followed with a 20-point effort three days later, helping to hand Wake Forest its first home defeat in nearly two years.

"Everybody knows Will is capable of being a starter on this ballclub," starting point guard Jarrett Jack said. "Coming off the bench he gives us an added lift as far as scoring."

Playing with Bynum, center Luke Schenscher said, requires extra focus.

"When he's in the game, I'm definitely waiting for a pass from him because I know it can come at any time and in any way," Schenscher said.

Bynum's game-breaking ability is hardly news to Hewitt, who recruited Bynum when he was at Crane.

"We saw him in high school, in particular in the summertime at the Nike Peach Jam in Augusta (Ga.), and he's very good with the ball," Hewitt said. "He puts a lot of pressure on the defense with his ability to penetrate and shoot the three as well. He does some things that are eye-catching."

Robinson felt the same way about the Georgia Tech program.

"I loved them," she said. "It's an outstanding school."

The problem: When Bynum was looking at the school, the Yellow Jackets had an outstanding point guard in Tony Akins. Not wanting to waste time riding the bench behind a locked-in starter, Bynum chose Arizona. Bynum averaged 6.4 points in 18.8 minutes per game there as a freshman.

"I started right off the bat," Bynum said. "But I was too far away from my family, didn't have a family presence."

The loneliness, after a life spent in the company of eight siblings and 14 nieces and nephews, was especially acute after games. In 1 1/2 seasons at Arizona, his mother saw him play once: a Dec. 15, 2001, contest at Michigan State. The summer after his freshman year, Bynum had to rush home from the Wildcats' 10-game tour of Australia when he received word that his mother, who suffers from diabetes, had become ill. So by January of Bynum's sophomore season, as Salim Stoudamire and Jason Gardner began to take over his playing time, making the decision to transfer came easily.

Rose Robinson's health is much better these days. Saturday, she and her husband William Robinson, Bynum's father, were in the stands at Alexander Memorial Coliseum as the Yellow Jackets took on Duke.

"At least somebody from a part of my family is at every game," said Bynum, who uses his mother's maiden name.

The rest are gathered around television sets in the Chicago area--from Calumet City to Des Plaines to William and Rose's Back of the Yards home, where one whole room is given over to 26 of Bynum's basketball trophies. Can Bynum's talent elevate him to greatness in college, and beyond? Crane coach Anthony Longstreet, who was an assistant at Farragut when Kevin Garnett played there, believes so.

"He's the most talented I've ever been around because he's an exceptional ballhandler, and he's also an exceptional leaper," Longstreet said. "He's very explosive. He can get to the rack anytime he wants to."

For Bynum, basketball was always a refuge and a road out of Chicago.

"I don't feel pressure on the basketball court because growing up in Chicago, you face so many tough decisions as far as gangs and everything," Bynum said. "You can make a wrong decision in Chicago and it's your life. On the basketball court it's just playing the game that I love."

Still, the pull of his hometown is strong. "I like the cold weather," Bynum said. "Sometimes I feel like that's needed a little bit so you don't get satisfied."

An NBA logo tattooed onto his left forearm advertises Bynum's goal. If he improve his defense, especially away from the ball, he has a shot at making it, Hewitt said.

"He has all the individual talent in the world," he said.

Bynum hopes to capitalize on that talent and also to look after his family. Before every game, Bynum talks on the phone with his 2-year-old nephew. After hanging up, he dreams of what his talent may someday allow him to do.

"When I'm playing basketball, when I'm in the gym working out alone, I always end up thinking about my mom, and it just drives me to work harder, as hard as I can, because I know that one day I want to be able to buy my mom a house," Bynum said. "I just want to take care of her."