Favors takes the next step in ACC play

The 6-foot-10 power forward from South Atlanta tabbed the top high school player in the country by USA Today and Parade Magazine was not immune to ACC freshmen initiation.

On Dec. 20, Favors was muscled around by the Seminoles, who welcomed him to conference play by halting his streak of nine consecutive double-digit scoring games to start his Tech career.

Favors looked lost against Duke, when he had more traveling calls (three) than field goals (two). He disappeared altogether against North Carolina, playing only 19 minutes because of foul trouble.

But after using 12 points against Virginia to show glimpses of progress, Favors heads to Tallahassee on Sunday to take on the front line of Florida State with the confidence of his team-high 17 points against Clemson.

Ask Favors what's changed and he says adjusting to the physical play in the ACC.

"It was just hard work paying off," he said. "Go hard, practice hard, lift weights, get your body ready for all the punishment that goes along in the paint."

He has followed junior Gani Lawal's lead, lifting weights after every game. He'll do push-ups in his room.

"In high school, he had some guy leaning on him who was about 6-3, 185," Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "Now he's got a guy like [FSU's Solomon] Alabi who's 7-1, 250. It's a big difference."

Hewitt said Favors' added strength translates into a better position down low, which made him a better target against Clemson.

"He understood what he had to do to hold position," Hewitt said. "When we threw the ball into him, he made sure he grabbed it and made a strong, decisive move. I thought there were times early in the year when we'd throw him the ball, and he didn't really go to it strong or didn't present a big-enough target. So our guys were a little afraid to throw it in."

Now guards Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia don't mind going in, or up. Favors has put together a highlight package of dunks, including a reverse alley-oop finish against Clemson.

The question circling now is whether Favors still is prepared to make a quick exit to the NBA, as most expect. In a mock draft at NBAdraft.net, Favors has fallen from No. 2 to No. 6 in a month.

Len Elmore, a former standout post player at Maryland and the NBA, has watched Favors in Tech's past two wins, over Clemson and North Carolina, as an analyst for ESPN.

He thinks another season or two of college play would benefit Favors, though admittedly, he believes that's true for all players coming out of high school.

"[Favors] is obviously a big, strong, athletic young man that has a great deal of potential," Elmore said. "The upside is almost unlimited in what he may be capable of doing. The question is understanding and learning the game."

Elmore thinks Favors could use more time to work on his footwork, his man-to-man defense, his face-up jump shot, and overcoming foul trouble.

"I think the most important thing is he appears to be a solid individual," Elmore said. "He's not so totally in love with himself and his skills that he can't work to get better."

For his part, Favors is focusing on the season.

"One of the things I tell him is don't worry about that," said South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick, who talks to Favors at least once a week. "Play as hard as you can, learn as much as you can, and when the season is over, you can evaluate that and make a decision whether you play another year or two or declare. Right now I want him focusing on Florida State."

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