April 8, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
With all the glory of their preferred world unfolding over the past few days just a mile or so from campus, Georgia Tech’s basketball team will work today – just as the Yellow Jackets did yesterday, and will tomorrow, Thursday and Friday.
Basketball season ended a few weeks ago. Basketball did not.
The Jackets are lifting and conditioning three days a week, and working on skills development two more as part of a four-week post-season push. It is not, you are safe in assuming, as scintillating as the Final Four in the Georgia Dome.
It is an essential part of coach Brian Gregory’s rebuild, however. If the Jackets are to continue trending upward, as they did in the past season with a 16-15 record that included a second consecutive win over Georgia and a memorable victory at Miami, this work is mandatory.
Attendance at games was up, and so were wins. Yet there is plenty more work.
“I think the trajectory is on the right path. It’s never as fast as I want it, but at the same time it’s solid. I think where we were at two years ago, solid was not a word we could use,” Gregory said recently. “I feel we have a good platform to move forward from, and it took two years to get that platform built. It’s all different pieces.”
Beyond skills and strength development, Gregory and his staff continue to work on ever-elusive chemistry. There will be many different approaches to that (a stand-alone story for later).
“In the fall prior to one season at Dayton, we pulled out clips from the, ‘Band of Brothers,’ series. That seemed to strike a nerve,” he said. “We’ve done the Friday morning workouts at a boxing gym. We learned how to box, and get hit a few times.
“I think we’re at a point where you start to implement other things to drive home points. The [Jay] Bilas book [about toughness] is good, but our guys have enough schoolwork for now. Video clips are big. That ESPN 30-for-30 always has good stuff . . . the one on Jim Valvano and N.C. State was fantastic. Those guys genuinely cared for each other.”
One of Gregory’s goals is to get some of his players to be a bit chattier.
“The key is you just can’t show it, we have to communicate much better. We’re good guys, quiet guys sometimes,” he said. “You’ve got to get guys to talk.”
Gregory is not down on his players for being too quiet, but rather he believes that they can help each other on and off the court even more with increased familiarity. Truth be told, he was pleasantly surprised in some ways by the progress of his team, especially since the Jackets started three freshmen in the ACC.
It’s just that a little better can be a lot better, he thinks, by continuing to grind away.
“I’ll give our guys some credit. They’ve had to do some work, and put up with some crap,” the coach said. “We’re not perfect yet, but that’s why it’s still a platform. I’m always cautious about saying pleased because I don’t want anyone believing I’m pleased with 16-15, but we’re trending in the right direction.”
We’ll visit later this week with players to get a feel for what specifically they’re working on, and to check in on these team-building principles. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org