Four on the Floor

Oct. 29, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– The first time you think about it, the idea of Brian Oliver working in the land of the giants seems a little silly. The more you hear Oliver and Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt talk about him playing power forward, the more you look forward to basketball season.

As is well known by now, the Yellow Jackets are going to be under-sized this season – especially relative to last – and there are going to be some eye-opening personnel deployments.

With just three players taller than 6-feet-6, and all of them being freshman, this is a must.

Oliver, the only other Jacket taller than 6-5, will be among players most affected. He’s 6-6, which makes him a candidate for blue-collar work on this team.

A streaky shooter during his freshman season, which was marked by a few torrid shooting streaks from 3-point territory, the shooting guard/small forward will not so much be a power forward in reality as in theory . . . and chiefly on defense. And this will not be full-time work, by the way. Oliver, like nearly every Tech player, will play multiple positions.

He’s bulked up a bit for those turns he’ll have to take down in the salt mines, and he sounds like he’s looking forward to the action while sporting 220 or more pounds.

“It’s something I’m definitely used to,” he said. “I like setting screens. I like to hit people. I guess it’s my dad’s football background. I’m working on my angles and screens, trying to stay firm when I set the screens. I’m going to be banging down low, getting rebounds.”

Oliver’s father, Robert, played football at Iowa.

Once the Jackets’ season begins Nov. 12 with a home game against Charleston Southern, Oliver will be in for a more rugged tour than what he went through last season, when he averaged 7.1 points while shooting 39.4 percent, and 38 percent on 3-pointers. He led the Jackets in treys made and attempted (63 of 166), and started five games.

While he will invariably find himself trying to post up from time to time, he will not play offensively as a prototypical power forward in those situations where Hewitt’s asking him to play the position. Sure, he’ll set some screens, but more often he’ll be on the move while trying to drag a bigger defender out into space. From the wings, he should be able to drive, fake or shoot if his defender backs off.

“It’s a lot like Anthony McHenry playing the [power forward spot on Tech’s last Final Four team] only he’s a better shooter,” Hewitt said. “Maybe he’s not the passer Anthony was, but definitely he can shoot the basketball.

“You look around at the rest of the teams, some of the post players in our league . . . we were abnormally big [last year].”

The Jackets will be no such animal this season with the departures of post players Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors to the NBA, Zachery Peacock to a pro league in Germany and Brad Sheehan to graduation.

There will some different price paying this season, some fellas getting bonked on from time to time. Senior guard Moe Miller’s been bonked on, suffering a broken nose and a couple concussions as a sophomore.

“Nobody really cares what position they have to play,” Miller said. “For example, Lance Storrs (6-5) may have to play [power forward] or even [center] sometimes and bang, and he’s been a shooter all his life. The guys crack a joke or two because they have to gain weight to play down low. Nobody pays as much attention to it as the media does. We don’t care about that.

“The five on the floor play hard, rebound, run, defend, play basketball. A lot of us before we came to college never played with a player bigger than 6-5.”

Oliver is looking forward to this. There will a lot more running, a lot more spacing, perhaps more shooting. There will be more basketball, less brawl ball, as Oliver said, “We should definitely be able to create some mismatches.”

Thoughts on basketball to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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