#BUZZ: Building Blocks

Nov. 17, 2013

By Adam Van Brimmer
Buzz Magazine

– As trios go, Chris Bolden, Robert Carter Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt make an unassuming bunch.

They lack the flair of musketeers, the slapstick talents of stooges and the pipes of tenors. They shoot, score and rebound without snap, crackle and pop-like hype and they’re often good, sometimes bad, but never ugly.

Yet in a quiet and understated way, the threesome is on the verge of making an impact on Georgia Tech basketball not seen in two decades. The last trio to generate such excitement in the Yellow Jackets went by the moniker “Lethal Weapon 3” and lifted the program to national prominence.

“Cornerstones is what they are,” said head coach Brian Gregory of the three members of his first recruiting class. “They came here with the understanding they were expected to have an impact as freshmen and give this program something to build from. They did that, and it was just the beginning.”

Bolden, Carter and Georges-Hunt have revived interest in Yellow Jacket basketball. Led by the three freshmen starters, Georgia Tech posted a 16-15 record last winter, the program’s first winning season since 2010.

Georges-Hunt led the team in scoring at 10.8 points per game, while Carter averaged 9.9 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds. Bolden averaged 10 points a game once he joined his fellow freshmen in the starting lineup during Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Surprisingly, not one of them made the ACC’s All-Freshman team. The snub meant nothing to them beyond serving as motivation to improve their skills going into their sophomore seasons.

“We really didn’t have a clue what we were doing; we just went out and played as hard as we could and learned as much as we could as fast as we could and didn’t worry about the rest of it,” Georges-Hunt said. “We met or exceeded the expectations others had for us. But we could have been better. We’re looking forward to showing it.”

The 2013-14 season tips off Nov. 8 against Presbyterian at McCamish Pavilion. The sophomore trio anchors a team that returns five of its top six contributors and adds transfer Trae Golden, a two-year starter at the University of Tennessee. Improving on last season’s success will be a challenge, though, as the Yellow Jackets face a grueling schedule made more difficult by ACC expansion. Former Big East heavyweights and perennial NCAA Tournament contenders Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join the league.

Yet when it comes to strength of schedule, Bolden insists he and his fellow cornerstones “prefer it tough.”

“Lots of big games against teams used to playing in the NCAAs are what competitors play for,” Bolden said.

Constant Competition

The Georgia Tech trio bonded through their competitive natures.

The three roomed together as freshmen and challenged each other everywhere in everything: grades in shared classes, food intake in the cafeteria, victories on the video game console.

“We’d even compete to see who could tie his shoes the fastest every morning,” Carter said. “We’d argue over who was better looking and why. It’s ridiculous but fun at the same time.”

The competitiveness carried over to the practice court. All three hail from metro Atlanta, and they started playing and working out with their future teammates before they graduated from high school.

Their intensity set a tone that became a standard by the time preseason practice started in October, 2012. They fed off each other’s efforts, and the Yellow Jacket veterans quickly followed suit.

“Those guys battle every single day,” senior center Daniel Miller said. “They came in with the attitude that they were going to be starters. It didn’t matter to them that they were freshmen. They weren’t hesitant at all.”

For the trio, familiarity bred chemistry. Georges-Hunt played AAU basketball with both Bolden and Carter at separate times and understood their strengths. All three played against each other in high school and in pick-up games.

And the bond they forged in their first few weeks on campus resulted in a willingness to push and challenge each other.

“There is a tremendous amount of mutual respect between them,” Gregory said. “Chemistry comes easy from there.”

Tough Challenge Ahead

Gregory doubts much will come easy for his fantastic freshmen in their attempt to be super sophomores.

Opponents, particularly those in the ACC, adjusted their game plans to account for Bolden, Georges-Hunt and Carter as last season progressed. Bolden attracted more defensive attention on the perimeter while opponents squeezed Georges-Hunt on the dribble and put him on the foul line more often. Carter, meanwhile, saw fewer and fewer open jump shots.

Each responded by showing other sides to their offensive repertoires. When opponents took away Bolden’s 3-point shot, he became more aggressive off the dribble and looked for more jumpers in transition. Georges-Hunt, meanwhile, never got frustrated or forced shots, choosing instead to set up his teammates while taking advantage of scoring opportunities when presented with them. Carter worked the boards and looked for spot-up shooting chances off Bolden or Georges-Hunt drives.

“Everybody watches film and they think they know what you are going to do,” Carter said. “The key is to be one step ahead.”

The trio worked this offseason to get several steps ahead – literally. Physical conditioning was the focus. Georges-Hunt improved his endurance, Carter dropped approximately 20 pounds and Bolden added strength.

Gregory compared the three to race car mechanics, always tinkering to squeeze more performance from their machines, or bodies in a basketball player’s case.

“Their mission this year is to become consistent contributors and evolve into go-to guys,” Gregory said. “Being consistent is about maintaining energy and performance level. They are very, very dedicated young men, and I expect them – and us as a team – to take another big step.”

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