April 5, 2013
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –
Georgia Tech fans are going to find that ESPN’s breakdown of the Men’s Final Four teams, to be aired over the next couple of days, will have a familiar feel to it.
The Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team took the court Wednesday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion and, directed by expert analyst Jay Bilas, broke down one play for each of the Final Four teams, Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse, and Wichita State.
The blue team (redshirt senior center Daniel Miller, sophomores guard/forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, forward Robert Carter, Jr., and Chris Bolden, and guard Solomon Poole) was on offense while the gold team (senior guard/forward Jason Morris, redshirt senior center Kam Holsey, redshirt junior guard Stacey Poole, sophomore guard Brooks Doyle, and junior guard/forward Aaron Peek) defended.
“This is just to demonstrate what the teams in the Final Four do but it’s fun to interact,” said Bilas. “[Georgia Tech Head Coach] Brian [Gregory] and I have been friends for a long time. We played against each other in college. I’m a big admirer of his and it’s fun to get a chance to see his players and to interact with them a little bit. They were terrific. They’ve obviously been well coached.”
“It was fun,” said Bolden. “Anything we can do to help out people around the basketball world. It’s a great opportunity to help Jay out with the whole thing he’s doing here, exampling plays and stuff. It’s cool.”
It was really cool for Bilas and the editing crew, as the Jackets ran the plays — Syracuse’s ball-screen offense, Louisville’s high-ball screen, Wichita State’s low-post, clear-out and Michigan’s pin-down — to perfection, requiring one take to recreate each.
Gregory, who watched from the side, smiling and frequently cracking jokes, was among the admirers. He was impressed by his team’s ability to so quickly pick up and perfectly run four different plays from playbooks of four very different teams. He insisted he wasn’t jealous of Bilas’ ability to instantly connect with his team.
“I think Jay did a lot better job of keeping things simple,” said Gregory, with a laugh. “Our guys do a good job of picking stuff up. Jay picked out some really good sets that you’re going to see over the weekend in the games and our guys did a good job. It was great. It was a tremendous opportunity with one of the best basketball minds NOT coaching nowadays in Jay Bilas.”
Bilas, who recently authored the book “Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court” (Penguin Group), attended Duke, where he started from 1982-86 (he was part of the ’86 NCAA runner-up) — he also earned his master’s from Duke Law — goes way back with Gregory, and was impressed with the squad.
“They’re smart, they’re well-drilled, they get it and they listen,” he said. “The mark of any good player and any good team is they’re connected and they pay attention. They’re on their way. This is a good group.”
Bolden credits the team’s ability to run the offensive plays so efficiently and so quickly to the group’s maturity.
“This time last year it probably would have taken us five or six times to do every play,” he said. “But we’re learning. We’re stressing paying attention to detail. We’re quickly learning.”
Getting to mimic some of the nation’s top coaches and getting to play some of the nation’s top players also was fun.
“I would have to say, being [Syracuse forward] James Southerland was the most fun for me because I never set screens,” said Bolden, with a laugh. “Setting screens is not really my job but it was fun.”
While it was fun, neither Gregory nor Bolden went so far as to say Tech gained any kind of strategic advantage from getting individual instruction on the ins and outs of the bread-and-butter plays of future rivals Syracuse (next year) and Louisville (2014)
“It’s going to take a lot more than knowing one play when Syracuse enters the league full-time next year,” said Gregory. “But it’s great for the ACC to have two teams that are eventually going to be full members playing in this year’s Final Four. It’s a great weekend for the future of the ACC.”