March 10, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
In the event you’re a regular, a die-hard fan, the evolution of the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team has been steady enough that your perception might be quite a bit different than that of someone who has tuned in periodically.
If you watched the ACC basketball tournament last week after not seeing the Yellow Jackets play for a while, surely you agree that some things are different and better, including the scoring touch of Metra Walthour.
The timing could not possibly be better.
Roles are more settled and predictable than all season, even as one significant change – freshman Ty Marshall coming off the bench – is still fresh.
Entering the ACCs, head coach MaChelle Joseph moved her budding superstar into a reserve role to punch up the offense of reserves, a sore spot. That meant some starters would have to pick up some slack as well.
Enter Walthour, the junior point guard from Hinesville, Ga.
She averaged 14.7 points in the ACC tournament, north of her season average of 8.7, and did it in large measure from long distance. She made 11 of 22 3-pointers in those three games for a team that made 23 of 54.
“I’m trying to play with more confidence, play more loose. We’ve been talking about how we need more from role players,” Walthour said. “A lot of us have been trying to step it up. We’re trying to step up and help the team, help [leading scorers] Alex [Montgomery] and Ty carry the load.”
At 5-feet-6 and as the slightest member of the team, she’s tasked with perimeter defense and frequently has the assignment of making sure that if Tech misses and the opponent rebounds, that doesn’t turn into a fast break.
She did not have a rebound in three tournament games; that’s not her job. Her job is to spread the ball around, shoot it, and play that defense.
Tech’s most glaring imbalance last season was that Alex Montgomery made nearly twice as many 3-pointers (59) as all of her other teammates combined (30).
Beyond Marshall’s fascinating emergence as a slasher deluxe, Tech’s been more balanced from afar this season, if not prolific. Montgomery (71) and Walthour (50) have helped the Jackets make 59 more treys than last season, and the season is not finished yet.
Walthour made just 8 of 48 3-pointers last season, so this has been a big change for her. The past three games have represented a really, really big change.
In the first 30 games of the season, she averaged 3.7 trey attempts per game. Since Marshall moved to the bench and Chelsea Regins into the starting lineup, Walthour has more than doubled that, trying 7.7 longballs per game.
The nature of the Tech offense is different with this approach. Marshall, after all, has tried just 13 treys all season, making four.
It’s not cut and dry; Marshall still spends time on the court with Montgomery and Walthour, but at least for the ACC tournament and presumably beyond, Walthour’s role has grown.
“[Joseph] always says I have to take open shots,” she said. “A lot of times with double-downs on Alex and Ty it leaves me open. I have to take and make those shots.”
Tech is 23-10, having tied the school record for wins in a season set last year.
The news will get better Monday evening, when the squad will host an NCAA Tournament selection show gathering at the Edge Center. The Jackets are a lock to land their school-record fifth consecutive bid.
Greed will not be part of the equation. It would be preferable to not make yet another trip to Iowa City, Iowa, as the Jackets have a couple times of late, but . . . “I’m hoping we’re not back in Iowa, but we’re going to take what we get, take it one game at a time,” Walthour said. More importantly, “We know we’re a good team. It’s a matter of putting it out there on the floor. We know we’re good, but we have to play like it.”
I was going to write about Iman Shumpert, but since the men’s team played so late Thursday night it wasn’t workable. Tomorrow. firstname.lastname@example.org