Feb. 24, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn | Sting Daily
The question was not one frequently asked, but it felt right in speaking with Brian Gregory the other day when the subject was a mixture not only of Georgia Tech’s next opponent but the possibility that the Yellow Jackets are an opponent of their own.
When a team scuffles the way the Yellow Jackets have at times this season, the issue of who’s next on the schedule may be less important than who’s still on board.
When Tech plays Maryland this afternoon in Philips Arena, the Jackets will be short-handed yet again. Glen Rice Jr. is still suspended, Nate Hicks is still not back from mono and Jason Morris mid-foot sprain is better but may not be improved enough that he’ll be able to help the head coach and his team in a substantial fashion.
So coming off a 56-37 “home” loss to Clemson in which the Jackets hit their lowest point total in 32 some years, it wasn’t difficult to wonder about Tech’s frustration level and the impact it might have on an already handicapped team. The Jackets are short-staffed when fully staffed.
What are they now?
“There’s going to be the emotional aspects of rebuilding. It’s not just physical,” Gregory said. “You’re always concentrating and working around that. From that aspect our guys have grown a lot in terms of being able to handle the frustration with the understanding of where we’re at. That doesn’t make it any easier.”
There have been exceptions this season, but more often than not the Jackets have put into games what they need to in order to appease the head coach. Against Clemson, in fact, Gregory wasn’t disappointed in the collective energy level.
The not-so-magic question, then, was: “Sometimes, a lack of energy and/or focus can be lifted as explanation for a poor performance, but is it particularly frustrating when the effort level is there and the on-court results are nonetheless well below acceptable?” More simply put, how do guys feel when they’re busting their butts and still getting so little in return?
“It’s difficult to say that guys weren’t putting forth effort. You don’t get 15 offensive rebounds unless you’re playing hard. Guys might not have played well, but did Mfon [Udofia] play hard in that game? Yeah,” Gregory said. “You just hit the definition of rebuilding. That’s why it’s hard. Everybody would like to snap their fingers and make changes and do things differently and have everything work. The guys are doing everything they possibly can but because of matchups. It may not work every night.”
The Jackets are, as Gregory has said several times, being asked to do things differently.
Udofia is a point guard, but he’s being asked to play the position differently than he has dating back to high school and AAU ball. He’s being asked to think less about scoring than he’s accustomed to and more about running the show. The proportions requested of him are different than his prior experiences.
That said, the Jackets need Udofia to scratch. He was scoreless against Clemson, the third time in ACC action that’s happened. For a young player who has long been more a scorer than a playmaker, that likely has an impact on his psyche to the point where his playmaking abilities are further impacted.
Udofia’s struggles are not alone in the equation, not by a long shot.
The Jackets’ most talented player is out, their depth in the post is nearly nil, they have very little play-making ability even when all pieces are intact anyway and instead have several players who need to be set up by playmakers to be more effective.
This is a very tough deal. Yet Gregory said the Jackets are going to keep plugging with the hope, the idea, that better days are coming and this is all part of the process of setting a foundation for future successes.
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