Oct. 29, 2013
THE FLATS –
Head coach Brian Gregory met with the media Tuesday to talk about the Yellow jackets as they prepare to face Young Harris in an exhibition game Friday night at 8 p.m. in McCamish Pavilion.
The Yellow Jackets have been projected to finish anywhere from ninth to 11th in pre-season magazines and by the ACC’s media organization, and to reach the post-season (NIT) in Gregory’s third season.
Tech returns four starters from last year’s 16-15 team, and five of its top six scorers, including 6-11 1/2 center Daniel Miller, a senior who made the ACC’s All-Defensive team a year ago, and 6-8 sophomore forward Robert Carter, Jr., who was tabbed to the ACC All-Freshman team. Marcus Georges-Hunt, a 6-5 forward who led the Jackets in scoring last year, also returns along with 6-3 sophomore guard Chris Bolden and 6-8 senior forward Kammeon Holsey, one of the ACC’s top sixth men.
Here is what Gregory had to sat Tuesday:
“Four weeks in and we are two weeks away from opening up officially. We do have the exhibition game on Friday which will be a good test for us. Young Harris is a quality team and has a coach I know very well. What we would like to do with the exhibition games from here on out is to get one a year and play all of the different teams from within the state of Georgia. All of the division two schools and schools like that. Young Harris is first up. It’s great for Georgia basketball and it’s great for the teams that we play. It’s also great for us because we are playing throughout the state. I’ve been very, very impressed through the clinics I’ve done with the college coaches throughout this state. Young Harris is no exception. They are extremely well coached and while they have some inexperienced guys who are new to their program I think they are going to have a heck of a year. It’ll be a good test for us. We had a scrimmage on Saturday against a high quality opponent in Florida and we did some really good things. We are progressing well right now and these next two weeks are going to be important as we look at the things we did and didn’t do well on Saturday. We will try to tighten up the things that we need to get better at and expand upon the things we have improved in. We are a much improved team, but that’s on October 29th. That’s not be good enough down the road so we need to keep attacking every day and keep getting better every single day.”
How big a relief is Trae Golden’s eligibility to play this season?
“We were happy. First and foremost, we were happy because this is the best thing for his family and when that’s at the top of your priority list the other stuff flows from that. Obviously, he has been able to spend a lot of time at home and it’s a great situation for his family. As a program and as a team, we have been able to bring in a veteran perimeter player who has been through a lot of battles and has had great success. He understands what it takes to be successful at this level in terms of playing against great competition. So nothing really rattles him. He’s been great for our host of young guards. And as I mentioned before, it wasn’t making any difference in practice whether he would be eligible to play or not. I think that actually helped us. He did a great job with the younger guards and the younger guards did a great job of listening to his advice and seeing how he does things. I thought it helped everybody. It’s also given him a little shot of energy as well because sometimes as seniors things can get monotonous. But it’s also new for him too. He’s learning and e’s excited about learning our system and our style of play and he fits in really well.”
With the exception of Chris Bolden, how healthy and available is the team right now?
“First on, Chris we are disappointed that he’s not going to be able to play in the exhibition or the first three games. But there are repercussions whenever you make a bad decision and those repercussions don’t only affect you, they also affect the team. That’s one of the lessons that not only Chris but our entire team needs to understand. What we are trying to get done is too big for one person, it takes a whole team to get it done. And it’s going to take our whole team. Health-wise, Jason is in week two now following his surgery. He will get out of the cast this week and be put in a boot, which allow him to do more rehab and some cardio. So when he is able to get back on the foot it won’t take him as long to get back into action. I believe that Travis Jorgenson will be able to come back and be limited today in his reps. so we will have to see how that knee injury that he had progresses. It’s a little bit more of a hamstring than a knee injury, but it’s the tendon that attaches the hamstring to the back of his knee. But he’s missed seven practices plus the scrimmage. So it will take him a little while to get back. He’s not a veteran so everything is new. So when you miss it’s hard to stay involved and catch up. Hopefully over the next three practices before Friday night’s game he will be feeling 100% and he’ll be able to get some reps in on Friday.”
What is the toughest adjustment for young players coming in?
“One of the two hardest things that they face is the intensity that you have to have when you do everything at the college level. Even the toughest and mentally strongest kids as high school players don’t have to be at this level in everything they do academically, socially, or basketball-wise. In college you have to. Every practice is important. They’re not the best player anymore so they can’t coast through a practice any more. But that’s just human nature at times.
“Obviously the same thing academically; you can’t take a day off. And developing those habits during this transitional phase is important. In a purely basketball sense, it’s different for every position and for every kid. A lot of times it’s on the defensive end in terms of understanding the importance of actually guarding somebody for a one. I’ve had freshman in the past that I have had to tour campus to try and find somebody that they can guard. Luckily with our guys right now that hasn’t been the case.
“Travis (Jorgenson) and Quinton (Stephens) have been well coached on the defensive end. They both played in high school or prep school programs with college type coaches and the same thing with their summer basketball. Both of those guys were coached in summer basketball by former college coaches. That’s helped them. One other thing, on the offensive end is that you just can’t play. There has to be a purpose in everything that you’re doing. You have different set plays, different baseline inbounding, and all of those different things that new guys have to grasp. And execution is really important. Having a two-step set up before you get screened for instance. If you don’t do that in college, they’re just going to bump you off of the screen. Little things like that become very, very important and difficult for young guys to grasp. Again, I’ve mentioned it before with those two guys. Corey is a freshman as well, but he has been in the program and played for a college type coach in a prep program. So when it comes to those three they are very, very good at those little details compared to other freshman.”
On Marcus Georges-Hunt’s ball-handling
“We have a couple phases of our transition game, advantage breaks, long rebounds, deflections, steals; we’re emphasizing that whoever gets that has to push the ball down the court and try to score in the open court by making good decisions. Marcus is one of our better players at doing that, and I think he needs to embrace that. Again, the result is those guys get to make some plays with the ball in their hands in an open court. From the coaching perspective it’s also getting them more active on defense and on the glass with them understanding the reward for doing those things is to be able to make some plays in the open court so I think we’re getting better at that.”
On the maturation of Solomon Poole, where is he now?
“He’s a much different player than he was last year in terms of his maturity and so forth. The biggest thing is that we have to take care of the basketball and we have to make good decisions. It’s a responsibility as a guard to execute the offense, make plays for each other and do that while taking care of the basketball. The maturation of a guard is he’s able to make quality plays on every possession. It’s not just Solomon, I tell everybody if they have a 50/50 shot, they have to shoot it. If they have a 50/50 pass, don’t throw it. And if we do that and take care of the ball, our offensive efficiency is going to be much improved.”
The importance of young players to have good coaches and how that plays in to recruitment?
“It’s a big factor. It’s part of the equation you’re looking at when you’re deciding between players or pinpointing top priorities and so forth. In three years now of recruiting in this state, I’ve been impressed. We see a lot of games but I like to go to practices because one of the things that was important in our process here is, do we bring in kids that love the game and compete every day? We knew where we were at as a program and where we wanted to get to, and the in-between has to occur with the daily habits. So if I go to a practice and it’s not a well-run practice or not a lot of teaching is being done or the guy isn’t working very hard I’m not sure he’s going to fit in very well with what’s important. The good thing about being a head coach and the good thing about where we’re at is we get to determine what things are important to us, and those things are important. So in terms of our evaluation, that stuff is up there. Now if the player is a four but is in a great program and works hard, but he can’t play at this level, then honestly it doesn’t matter. but if it’s a deciding factor between two players then a lot of the times we go with who’s been better coached, who’s more coachable, who’s been placed in a situation that will make that transition better. And again, you bring in someone who has to play right away or you bring in someone that has a couple years to understand what this is all about. But then it goes back to all the character stuff and it’s important to evaluate that.”