Will Bynum and Jarrett Jack are teammates again.
And now roommates.
More than 12 years have passed since they were a part of Georgia Tech’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament national championship game, a berth earned when Bynum scored in the final seconds of a thrilling semifinal victory. Each went on to have productive NBA careers.
Their basketball paths have merged in Atlanta again.
Bynum recently signed with the Hawks on a non-guaranteed deal, a long-shot chance to keep his NBA dream alive. Jack signed as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Several days ago, Bynum moved in with Jack for training camp. The living arrangement has allowed the friends to reminisce.
“We are talking about everything,” Bynum said. “It’s crazy, along our paths when you are chasing trying to be great and mastering your craft, you kind of lose sight of what you done during the process. It’s crazy to talk to Jarrett about some of the things we’ve done together and the memories that we have together. To have the opportunity to play with him again is amazing.”
Certainly, talk turned to 2004. Bynum drove the lane, after taking the ball from Jack, and scored a layup with 1.5 seconds left for a 67-65 victory over Oklahoma State. Georgia Tech lost a 12-point lead when John Lucas hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with 26.3 seconds left. Bynum’s game-winner was the Yellow Jackets’ first basket in 3:40. Georgia Tech lost to Connecticut in the title game two nights later.
A group of former players from that team, including Bynum and Jack, recently reunited at the school for a football game.
“People were saying it was the biggest shot in Georgia Tech history,” Bynum said. “History? I thought about it. History? It’s crazy hearing that.”
Bynum played eight NBA seasons with the Warriors, Pistons and Wizards. There were also stints in the NBA Development League and overseas. He played much of the last two seasons in China. This summer, Bynum was home in Chicago working out and hoping for another chance in the NBA. He was also tending to his wife, seven months along in a high-risk pregnancy. Returning overseas was not an option.
Then the Hawks called. Bynum came to Atlanta for a two-day workout and left with a training camp invite. The guard knows the chances are slim of making the final roster but he has been here before.
“It’s a unique situation,” Bynum said. “But I’m prepared. My mentality, I pretty much live with my back against the wall. This is nothing new for me. I’ve been to camps with Chauncey Billups. Allen Iverson, Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight. This is something similar. It’s nothing new to me. I’m extremely comfortable. I’m on the edge. I play on the edge. That’s my mentality.”
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Bynum has contributed early in training camp. He praised his experience and grit.
“He’s tough and makes those loose ball, winning type plays,” Budenholzer said. “I think he understands the pick-and-roll game. He’s been throwing up some nice passes to Dwight (Howard). He has played a lot of basketball between the NBA and internationally. You can see it.”
Bynum said he hasn’t reflected on the whole of his basketball career. There will be time for that when he is done play. But Bynum’s recent conversations with Jack have spurred memories of their days at Georgia Tech. He shared one of their favorites.
Bynum said that then-coach Paul Hewitt got the team to the outdoor track at 4:30 a.m. on a rainy start to the day. The mission was timed runs, four 400 meters, six 200 meters, eight 100 meters and 10 50 meters. Bynum didn’t make it. He passed out and fell during one of the runs. After teammates Mario West and Jack jumped over him they returned to help him to a nearby ambulance where Bynum was treated for severe dehydration. They can laugh about it now.
“He is like a brother to me,” Jack said. “A guy that went through a tremendous amounts of ups, downs, highs, lows. Back in college, going to the Final Four. Will hit the game-winning shot that sent us to the national championship. It’s a bond that we have with each other that is forever cemented. For him to be standing next to me in an Atlanta Hawks uniform, couldn’t be a better story so far.”