#TGW: Getting up to Speed

Aug. 9, 2016

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

Josh Heath is running again after spring hip surgery, and Georgia Tech’s senior point guard hopes to be right in the middle of everything this fall for the Yellow Jackets as new head coach Josh Pastner plans to pick up the pace.

Everybody has some catching up to do, and the 6-foot-2 Heath has more ground to cover than teammates. He’s still limited in what he can do physically after April surgery repaired a torn labrum in his right hip.

Although Heath has seen much of what Pastner wants in summer workouts, he’s not yet able to join in at full speed.

“I’ve never really played in an up-tempo kind of style,” he said. “Coach Pastner likes to emphasize a lot of driving, penetrating, spacing, ball movement, player movement … those are the things you hear a lot.”

Heath chats with local media during the final week of summer practice.

Heath has battled injuries since transferring from South Florida before the 2014-15 season. Without knowing exactly what was bothering him, he averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 assists in 31 games and then underwent double hernia surgery after the season.

He started 21 games last season before his playing time was limited over the final two months as Marcus Georges-Hunt took over at the point.

Soon after the season, in which he averaged 2.7 points and 2.8 assists, a diagnosis of torn cartilage in his right hip led to his second surgery in as many springs.

Thinking back, Heath believes his injury issues began while he played at Tampa Prep. Hip problems may in fact have led to the hernia.

“I don’t know exactly when it happened,” he said. “I noticed it all season long. I’ve had it for a while, even before last season. I had a hip problem in high school, and it kept getting worse . . .

“I just always thought it was fatigue, which can be caused by injuries. I didn’t know what to think. It was a nagging pain on the right side. I would get tired quicker, and feel beat down after practices and games.”

Full practice is still more than two months away, and all of the Yellow Jackets are going to need to be faster. Pastner has made that clear.

“I want to play fast, with great speed, but that doesn’t mean taking a bad shot,” the head coach said last week. “Short, quick, intense and to the point. In order to do that, we’re going to have to be in great shape.”

With the graduation of Georges-Hunt and Travis Jorgenson’s decision to stop playing basketball after battling injuries himself, Heath and Corey Heyward are Tech’s returning point guards. Freshman Justin Moore has joined the group.

For quite a while, the only basketball Heath could even think of playing was the NBA 2K game that helped him stay sane in the early stages of his rehabilitation. He didn’t walk for four weeks after surgery, and resumed running less than a month ago.

“It was four weeks off your feet. I went crazy,” he said “I played video games; that’s all I could do.”

Heath hopes to reach full speed before the start of full fall practices, and already feels improvement after hip cartilage repaired and debris cleaned from the joint.

On track to graduate in May with a degree in business administration, he may one day try professional basketball and envisions a future like that of his father, Stan, in coaching.

First, he’s got to get his legs back under himself.

“I don’t have that pain at all, but I’m still recovering. I’ve got to build my leg back up,” Heath said. “That’s the main thing: explosiveness and being able to run as fast as I can, my agility and all that.”

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