July 3, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
With the flurry of players coming and going quieted down and most everyone now on campus together, Brian Gregory met the media Wednesday for the first time this summer. Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball coach was ready for questions about the four transfers heading to The Flats.
The Yellow Jackets will have seven new scholarship players next season, and with four of them being transfers his program finds itself riding herd on a new trend.
More than 600 NCAA players have transferred to different schools since last season ended in the spring, and Gregory is quick to suggest to college basketball fans get used to this.
He believes college hoops mirror life in a way.
“I think it’s here to stay,” Gregory said of the fast-growing tendency of players to transfer. “I think it’s the society that we live in . . . I don’t see our culture or our society changing much because if you want something, you want it right now.
“We want to be able to go through the drive-thru, we want to be able hit one minute on the microwave and it’s the same thing with careers. I think you’re going to see it happening more in other sports too.”
Gregory and his staff had no choice but to jump on board. His three “bigs” from last season are gone.
Carter’s departure came at mid-spring, when nearly all conventional recruiting was finished.
Add the fact that the eligibility of guard Trae Golden expired, that guard Solomon Poole was dismissed from the program, and that swingman Stacey Poole, Jr. has left the program, the Jackets found themselves short-staffed with just two recruits signed up at that time.
So, coaches got busy (or stayed busy, as Gregory said recruiting never ends).
In the post, a late recruit, 6-foot-10 forward Abdoulaye “AD” Gueye of Senegal, should help, as will incoming freshman post Ben Lammers, who also is 6-10.
Guard Tadric Jackson may have the best shot of all newcomers to play immediately, certainly among freshmen.
Plus, Tech will add four transfers – three more being bigs – to flesh out the roster.
Atlanta-area natives Nick Jacobs and Charles Mitchell, as well as Demarco Cox once he graduates from Ole Miss later this summer, will give the Jackets as big a body count among bigs as they’ve had in a while.
Don’t forget that forward Robert Sampson, who transferred last season from East Carolina, is eligible.
Plus, rising sophomore point guard Josh Heath is on board.
Heath has received a waiver from the NCAA that will allow him to play without sitting out a season, although there is no guarantee that he won’t redshirt. He comes to Tech after his father and head coach, Stan Heath, was fired at South Florida.
Jacobs, who played with former Tech single-season standout Derrick Favors at South Atlanta High, is 6-8. He was released from his scholarship at Alabama, and will sit out the 2014-15 season before playing his senior year in 2015-16.
Mitchell has applied for a waiver to avoid sitting out, contending that his transfer was predicated on a need to return to home to be near his ailing grandmother.
With so many newcomers on board (with the exception of Cox, all of Tech’s new players already are working out on campus while attending summer school), Gregory has to modify his approach to team building. He and his staff are not alone in that.
“It’s part of the job. Difficult wouldn’t be a word I would use. It’s a challenge,” he said of adapting to so many changes in so short a period of time. “This is not isolated to one particular program; this happens quite a bit.
“You just have to make sure you have really good leadership among the guys, and you have directed them on the path that you want them and they understand.”
Gregory’s job is not as simple as teaching all players to fit his philosophies, especially when so many players are new to the system.
To some degree, he will bend his systems to fit the skills of the players. He knows quite a bit about the new guys, but is still learning as NCAA rules currently allow coaches two hours a week on court with players.
“I don’t think there’s ever a time when you’re not evaluating, analyzing, and trying to see exactly where each player is at individually and where they fit in down the road,” Gregory said. “You recruit and bring guys in that fit the general mold of what you’re trying to do, but there is a lot of tweaking that comes.
“Two hours a week is not enough time to get enough feel for whatever [tweaks] each team needs. That usually comes during those first three weeks of practice . . . We’re in July. We’re not putting in offensive sets, and defensive schemes. The summer is the time for guys to work on their weaknesses, accent their strengths.”
At this time of year, much of the Jackets’ team-building is guided by strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley. He spends six hours a week with players.
Players are busy building relationships with each other, and much of that comes with sweat.
“You lay some of the groundwork down during this time of year, no doubt about it,” Gregory said. “It’s that way every year; guys’ roles change. When you have a good group of kids who want to work hard, the chemistry is built more times than not in the locker room, walking up and down to class, in the dorms.
“The most important thing is that [players] start learning the things that we’re emphasizing . . . their competitiveness . . . there’s no greater place to build toughness than in the weight room.”
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