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Georgia Tech #ProJackets Basketball Report

THE FLATSJordan Usher looking forward to his homecourt debut with the Perth Wildcats of the NBL in Australia … Josh Okogie’s mental toughness rated his top attribute … Derrick Favors ranks high among all-time Jazz players … more in this week’s #ProJackets Report.

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USHER ‘CAN’T WAIT’ FOR HIS RAC ARENA DEBUT

Excitement machine Jordan Usher can’t wait for his RAC Arena debut next Friday night as Perth Wildcats opener their NBL24 campaign against Tasmania.

After playing everywhere from Las Vegas to Gold Coast, Warwick and Rockingham since joining the Wildcats during the off-season, Jordan Usher will finally get his chance to play in front of the Red Army.

The Wildcats dropped just one game out of eight during the pre-season, something Usher believes will hold them in good stead come the season opener.

“We came out here and we haven’t dropped a game since our jetlag game in Vegas against the Ignite, a couple of days off the plane,” Usher said after Perth completed an unbeaten NBL Blitz with a come-from-behind 93-89 win over New Zealand on Thursday.

“I feel like we’ve got a good bit of momentum coming into next Friday for our season opener at home in The Jungle in front of all our fans. I can’t wait to be there.

More from Wildcats.com.au

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USHER TALKS UP TEAM’S DEFENSIVE WEAPONS AHEAD OF NBL SEASON

Perth Wildcats import Jordan Usher has described his team’s approach to defence as nasty and thug-like as they prepare to open the NBL season against Tasmania on Friday night.

The Wildcats were unbeaten throughout the NBL Blitz and had combined their high scoring style with patches where they totally shut down the opposition. Usher arrived in Australia with a huge defensive reputation but showed off his scoring power with 26 points in the Wildcats’ come from behind win over New Zealand.

More from West Australian (subscription required)

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ONE KEY FACTOR FOR EACH SUNS PLAYER AHEAD OF 2023-24 SEASON

Mental toughness. Josh Okogie did well in 2022-23 when he was given time with the first team. His season started slow, as did his production, but as the injuries and acquisitions occurred and opportunity presented itself, he flourished.

We are not sure yet as to how Frank Vogel will navigate this roster and if Okogie will automatically be slotted as a starter. If he is, expect defensive production. But don’t expect much on the offensive end. With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal around him, the shot opportunities will not be plentiful.

If a Vogel is experimenting with his roster, plugging Okogie in and out of the lineup based on recent production or opposing matchups, that is where the mental toughness will have to come in for the player. Instability drives lack of rhythm, lack of rhythm leads to lack of production and engagement. If you could be mentally tough, which the past has shown us that he can, great things might lie ahead for Okogie.

More from Bright Side of the Sun

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CAN ALVARADO IMPROVE AND IMPACT PELICANS ON BOTH ENDS?

Many NBA fans know Jose Alvarado for his on-court antics, hiding away behind anybody he can find and sneaking up behind unsuspecting ballhandlers for steals. Maybe they remember his iconic mic’d-up performance during all-star weekend. But the Pelicans value his high-impact defense and speed from the guard slot, making Alvarado a valuable role player in their system.

Defense is Alvarado’s main strength, founded on his defensive playmaking; his 2.4% steal rate sits in the 94th percentile among all players last season. Aside from plucking the handle of unsuspecting ballhandlers, Alvarado hounds defenders at the point of attack, pressuring relentlessly.

Screen navigation may be Alvarado’s most valuable skill, as his elite agility, footwork and low center of gravity help him attach to shifty guards sprinting around screens, evading screens like he’s the only one on the field with a portal gun. Modern NBA offense relies on dynamic off-ball motion, so having a specialist to shut those actions down bolsters New Orleans’ perimeter defense.

More from The Bird Writes

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FAVORS RATES HIGH ON TOP 50 ALL-TIME JAZZ PLAYERS

The countdown for KSL Sports’ 50 greatest Utah Jazz players continues and coming in at number 21 is big man Derrick Favors.

Leading up to the tip-off of the 50th season in Jazz history, Jake Scott and Ben Anderson have been counting down the top 50 players in franchise history as voted on by fans and the media.

Acquired by the Jazz in 2011 in the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets, Favors was a mainstay in Utah over the better half of the next decade.

The number three pick out of Georgia Tech, Favors was a strong defensive rebounder and shot blocker in Utah pairing next to Al Jefferson and Rudy Gobert in the Jazz’s frontcourt.

Though Favors never developed into the All-Star many had hoped for when the Jazz acquired him, he was a steady force in the starting lineup helping the franchise qualify for five trips to the playoffs in his 10 seasons in Utah.

More from KSL Sports

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Eurobasket #ProJackets Report

Courtesy of Eurobasket LLC

Adam Smith (6’1”-PG-1992, played in 2015-16, plays pro in Spain) led Bilbao to a victory over the 13th-ranked Andorra (0-1) crushing them 95-73 in the Spanish Liga Endesa on Sunday night. He was MVP of the game. Smith recorded 15 points and added 6 assists in 28 minutes. It was his first game for Bilbao this season. His team is placed in the Liga Endesa.

Ben Lammers (6’10”-C-1995, played in 2014-18, plays in Spain) could not help Gran Canaria (1-2) in their last game. Despite his good performance Gran Canaria was crushed88-64 on the road by the leading Girona. Lammers was the second best scorer with 10 points. But this is still an early stage of the season and everything may happen. This year Lammers averages 7.5ppg and 4.0rpg in two games he played so far.

Joshua Heath (6’1”-PG-1994, played in 2014-17, currently in Belgium) contributed to a Spirou Basket Charleroi’s victory against the 11th-ranked Kangoeroes (0-1) 90-84 in the BNXT League last Friday. Heath recorded 10 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 25 minutes. Spirou Basket Charleroi (2-0) is placed first in the BNXT League. But the season just started, so everything may happen. It’s Heath’s first year with the team. This season he averages 7.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 5.5apg and 2.0spg.

Robert Sampson (6’8”-F-1992, played in 2013-13, plays pro in Vietnam) was not able to help Nhatrang Dolphins in their game against Heat (14-4) in the Vietnamese VBA, despite his very good performance last Thursday. Sampson had a double-double by scoring 22 points and getting 13 rebounds. He also added 3 assists. But Nhatrang Dolphins lost 76-81 in Saigon to the leading Heat. Sampson has individually a very good year with high stats. He averages 21.1ppg, 14.7rpg, 2.1apg, 2.1bpg and 1.8spg in 24 games. He is a former Eurobasket Summer League player, which is considered top summer league for players who want to play basketball overseas.

Abdoulaye Gueye (6’9”-C-1994, played in 2014-15, plays in Turkey) was the major contributor in Sigortam.net’s victory against the 16th-ranked Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 2nd team (0-2) 95-90 in the Turkish TBL (second division) in Saturday night’s game. He scored 19 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished 3 assists in 24 minutes. Sigortam.net Istanbul (2-0) is placed third in the TBL. There are only three games left until the end of the Regular Season. So now every game will be critical. This season Gueye has very high stats. He averages 16.5ppg, 6.5rpg and 2.0apg.

Experienced Gani Lawal (6’9”-F/C-1988, played in 2007-10, currently in Mexico) helped Plateros de Fresnillo win their game against the seventh-ranked Freseras 98-81 in the Mexican LNBP (second division) last Sunday. Lawal recorded 14 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. Lawal has relatively good stats this year 11.3ppg and 8.2rpg in 14 games. He is a naturalized Nigerian.

Other former Georgia Institute of Technology players, who play in pro basketball:

  • Josh Okogie (6’4”-G-1998, played in 2016-18) plays for Phoenix Suns in the NBA
  • Jose Alvarado (6’0”-PG-1998, played in 2017-16) plays for New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA
  • Thaddeus Young (6’8”-F-1988, played in 2006-07) plays for Toronto Raptors in the NBA
  • Jordan Usher (6’7”-SF-1998, played in 2019-22) plays for Perth Wildcats in Australian NBL
  • Khalid Moore (6’7”-F-2000, played in 2018-22) signed for Lavrio in Greek GBL
  • Ja’von Franklin (6’7”-F, played in 2023-23) signed for Borac CA in Serbian KLS
  • Charles Mitchell (6’8”-F/C-1993, played in 2014-16) signed for Obera in Argentinian La Liga
  • Michael Devoe (6’5”-G-1999, played in 2018-22) plays for Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Summer League
  • Moses Wright (6’9”-F-1998, played in 2017-21) plays for Toronto Raptors in the NBA Summer League
  • Glen Rice Jr. (6’6”-F-1991, played in 2009-12) plays for Power in the Big3

The list above includes only some of alumni playing currently in pro basketball. Check complete list of Georgia Tech basketball alumni.

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