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Big Men On Campus

Jan. 24, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn

Sting Daily

They’re still not as loud as they need to be in the box score or when yelling, but Georgia Tech’s three freshmen post men are making more noise all the time.

As the Yellow Jackets prepare to take on Virginia tonight in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, the trio of Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey and Nate Hicks will be counted upon for more than what they provided earlier in the season, and more than what fans see in the box score.

They’re the blue-collar workers, the behind-the-scenes guys. And they’re getting better.

Over the past four games, their points are have been modest (32 between them), their rebounds are up (42), their blocked shots are steady (nine), yet their defense and the screens they set are considerably more effective and well timed than they were a couple months ago. Their word counts are up, too.

“Against North Carolina and Wake, Daniel did not put up big numbers, but he graded very well,” said Tech assistant Robert McCullum, who spends a lot of time working with the Jackets’ post players. “His impact . . . was huge. They’re graded differently because the expectations are different. The staff tries not to throw too much of the playbook at them.”

Holsey missed Tech’s loss Saturday at Virginia with a stomach bug, and the Jackets missed him.

He scored a career-high 18 points in Tech’s ACC opener at Boston College, and his athleticism in the post gives the Jackets an occasional mismatch advantage on offense.

Overall, Miller’s balance between offense and defense earns him the most playing time of the three, and he has become better at communicating – which is important for the post players, because they typically can better see the floor defensively. Of the three, he and Hicks are least likely to raise their voices, but they have little choice. Miller is adapting. Sometimes, it requires yelling, or at least what feels like yelling to him.

“Sometimes, you have to scare your teammates into doing what they need to do: a push, a hedge, maybe an X call, a switch,” Miller said. “I was soft-spoken. I’m still getting there, but they can hear me more. A lot of times I would get confused on what needs to be said.”

That’s happening less frequently, but the Jackets – all of them – still have frequent problems on defense when they spend too much time watching the ball and not enough watching the offense they’re trying to slow down.

There has been improvement in communication over the past three games on defenses, or since senior Lance Storrs called a players-only meeting after a bad loss at Clemson.

But for all the improvement in communication from the bigs, the Jackets are still inconsistent defensively when switching out to guard perimeter players, and some of that can be attributed to the young post players either not being loud enough in letting teammates know what’s going on, or them not being right, or teammates being caught out of position.

“I have a better understanding of the game, and what coach wants me to do,” Holsey said. “Our team is getting close. The more you play, the more comfortable you get.” McCullum said the young post players’ biggest adjustment has probably been more about understanding the importance of communication rather than a change in physical skill level.

“Talking’s not normal for big players [in high school],” McCullum said. “You usually see the most talk coming from your guards.”

Hicks, who had seven rebounds in Tech’s big win over Wake Forest, said, “I’ve always been a pretty quiet person so it doesn’t really come natural to me, but I’m doing the best I can. I get yelled at every now and then for mental lapses, but I’m getting better.”

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