Nov. 17, 2011
By Jon Cooper
When Brian Gregory took over as head coach for Georgia Tech men’s basketball he pretty much tied the program’s ability to rebound on the team’s ability to rebound.
While it’s only two games into the season, but the Jackets’ ability to take care of business on the glass at both ends of the floor is a big reason they are 2-0 and have yet to be challenged by either Florida A&M or Delaware State.
That will change this weekend when Jackets face their first challenge of the 2011-12 season in the DirecTV Charleston Classic presented by Foster Grant, being held at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. — they’ve already played their first game, against Saint Joseph’s, which hadn’t gone final when Sting Daily went to press.
Gregory is eager to see how his unit performs in the event which will see the Jackets play three games in four days. In addition to the a match-up with the Hawks, a former Atlantic-10 rival of Gregory’s at Dayton, the Jackets will then see either Seton Hall, a Big East squad, or VCU, a Final Four participant last season. The third game will be on Sunday and is to be determined.
While they aren’t officially ACC games, to Gregory they might as well be.
“These are three other conference games. You’re not at home, you’re playing against high-quality opponents, you have a one-day prep,” he said. “So you have to focus on the things that are going to make you a better team and focus on things that are important to your team as opposed to knowing everything that St. Joe’s or Seton Hall or VCU is going to do. You have to really concentrate on the things that you’re going to have to do well. So, it’s a good evaluation tool.”
“Our posts have played well,” said Gregory. “They’re getting touches. We have to keep getting them the ball. They have to keep making good decisions. But the one thing that they’ve done is they’ve been able to get us 8 to 12 points on the offensive glass. So those are plays you don’t have to get them the ball and they’re able to score for us. Those are big points. That’s just them playing with a great energy. We’ve got to continue to have them do that.”
The bigs have been part of a total team effort to play well in the paint. In Tech’s first two games the team has averaged 19.5 second-chance points, 35 points in the paint (a 70-47 edge) and has better than a 2-to-1 edge in offensive rebounds (30-14).
Miller has been especially solid thus far, averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds, including a 14-point, 15-rebound effort against Delaware State.
“It’s just looking inside, looking down low,” said the sophomore, who has started all 33 games of his college career, and has the team’s current longest streak of consecutive starts. “[FAMU and Delaware State] haven’t had our size but if you keep going down low and keep hammering down low you get open shots for the wings and that frees it up for us a little bit.”
Miller is pleased with his start but realizes the tough part of the schedule is ahead starting in Charleston.
“I feel really good about my shot and just going at the guy that’s guarding me. Attacking the post,” he said. “I’m ready for everybody. I’m excited to be out there playing somebody.”
Saint Joseph’s provided the first big test. The Hawks feature a talented trio of sophomores in 6-9, 200-pound sophomore C.J. Aiken, one of the top defensive forwards in the Atlantic-10 (he set a school freshman record with 3.5 blocks per game and had five in St. Joe’s season opener), 6-8, 215-pound Ronald Roberts and 6-8, 260-pound Halil Kanacevic.
Miller believes that the group as a whole is ready for the challenge and to step up and face the enormous challenges that lie ahead.
“From here on out, everyone is going to be big. They’re going to have the bigs, they’re going to be big at all positions,” he said. “We can’t back down. We have to go at them the way we’ve been going at these teams we’ve already played.
“It’s nothing like we’ve seen so far,” he added. “We’re excited and we’re ready to go.”