Sept. 30, 2014
THE FLATS – Head basketball coach Brian Gregory met with the media Tuesday and touched on a number of topics as he begins its fourth-preseason practice with the Yellow Jackets on Friday.
“We are excited about starting up Friday afternoon. We have a lot of pieces in place, and I think the guys are fired up about building an identity to this team and the process that we will start taking on Friday. We have a lot of new pieces and versatility in those pieces. There’s an opportunity to go very big and physical and there’s an opportunity with length on the perimeter to play four perimeter guys at times as well. I thin this team has some different options that will be fun to coach. Our guys have been tremendous. We had the best summer and fall that we’ve had since I’ve been here in terms of commitment level and work ethic and our guys know that we have some new pieces that have to fit together well for us to be successful. I think our home schedule speaks for itself. It is one of the most difficult that we’ve ever had here, and the overall schedule matches that as well with away games in the ACC/BIG Challenge, going to Orlando, and starting out the season with Georgia is a great challenge as well. I’m excited. Our first recruiting class is juniors now with Marcus (Georges-Hunt) and Chris Bolden. Chris had a tremendous summer and fall and Marcus is really what college athletics is all about. He is a preseason Academic All-America candidate, the Scholar-Athlete of the Year candidate in the ACC, and his role is going to have to obviously expand.”
How difficult has it been to place the new pieces of the team together?
“The difficulty is overridden by the excitement of the build of this team and the pieces we have in place. We have good size inside, good length on the perimeter, and we have guard play that although I think young or new to the program in some spots, will give us the opportunity to play a style of basketball on the offensive end where we are moving the ball, sharing the ball, and making plays for each other which I think is so important for us to be successful. Robert Sampson was with us all last year, and the addition of Demarco (Cox) and Charles (Mitchell) will give us very good size and strength inside. I like our pieces and the key is for us to come together and build that identity. Every team has a different identity and every program has some core things that are important. Ours is going to be toughness, playing physical, defensively rebounding, and offensively moving and sharing the ball. In some of those areas, we need to improve.”
Do you anticipate Ben Lammers playing this year?
“He’s gone two weeks where he has participated in almost all full workouts. His progression as a player was slow due to the injury, recovery, and rehab from that injury. We are going in with 13 scholarship players and everybody is on even ground. There’s an excitement that comes with that, and there’s a competitive flow that I think will make practices great. With the new rules that allow us thirty practice days heading into the first game, everybody able to play exhibition games, and the scrimmage that we’ll have, will give us a pretty good idea of that playing group heading into the first game.
Do you try to find out the backgrounds of your new players?
“Part of building a team and chemistry is having guys who believe and trust in each other. You’re always doing stuff off the court and we are limited at times due to the rules and regulation and so forth. All our guys live together, and it’s developing into a pretty tight-knit group.”
On the physicality of the new transfers
“We definitely hope so, in particular with Demarco and Charles. They have great experiences, they’re new to us but they have great experience. They’ve played in big games and great arenas before, and they have played well. They do bring a much greater physicality to the game than what we’ve had over the last couple of years. That should help us in rebounding, points in the paint, and anchoring around the basket. It will be different than maybe Daniel Miller did because he was more of a shot blocking defender and rotating for blocks. We need to be more full body help with picking up charges, walling off, and things like that, which tends to be more on the physical side.”
On the new Tech assistants
“I think we did a great job in terms of completing the staff and bringing in high quality guys. Our guys know that we have some new pieces that have to fit together well for us to be successful. At this level you’ve got to have the total package and be able to do everything. I think the elevation of Chad (Dollar) to associate head coach is that he’s done exactly that over the past three years. With Mamadou (N’Diaye) that we brought in the spring, he’s traveled a road that all these guys want to travel. Go to college, be successful in college, earn your degree, then have the opportunity to play at the next level. Plus he is a tremendous, tremendous teacher. I think that’s undervalued in this day and age. You’ve got to be able to teach and teach on the fly. You have to have a strong discipline in what you want to get done and what you can live with as a coach and I think Mamadou does a great job of that. Bringing in Tom (Herrion) was great. He’s had head coaching experience in that position and great success as an assistant coach as well. With those pieces together I think we’ve hit the coaching aspect, relationship and mentoring aspect, and the recruiting aspect and those three pieces have to come together if you want to have a great staff.”
What does Abdoulaye Gueye bring to the team?
“He’s got great length and has an unbelievable motor. In this day in age, it’s hard to find guys who play at a high level of energy all the time, and he does that. I think he’s got an unbelievable future because he can step out, knock down shots, and plays with great energy, he’s got a knack around the basket, and he can really run. He can be a defender with his length, and as he gets stronger – he’s gained twelve or thirteen pound since he’s been here – he can switch on any position and hold his own. One of the keys on defense is to have that diversity in your coverages. Plus, he’s as good a kid as there is around. He’s just an unbelievable kid that has great values, and he’s appreciative of everything, which is good to see.”
On Travis Jorgenson and Tadric Jackson
“I think they’ll play a lot together. Travis will have his second full week where he will get limited reps in full contact and full practice reps. We will increase that a little today and then give him a couple of days off. In practice we will have him on a pitch count more or less. He’s been really good. His explosiveness is back, his feel for the game is still there. He learned a lot in that season off due to the injury. I like where he’s at right now, and he needs to get better. We were a much different team without him last year, there’s no question. Tadric as a freshman has shown flashes, which is what we expected. His challenge as with all freshmen is the consistency and ability to sustain performance and discipline over a given time. That is always a challenge with young guys. He does things that you can’t teach. He has knack to be able to score the basketball that, not only this year but down the road, is going to have a huge impact on our team.”
Have any of the bigs separated themselves?
“I think because of the experience and despite never playing for us, knowing enough about them from watching them on film and so forth, just the experience that Demarco and Charles have puts them in a good position, as does Robert Sampson. Things shake out differently, but heading in those guys have the experience, played in the games, come from good programs where they’ve been well coached, and our hope is that our opportunity for them helps their game to be elevated. There are times where we could go very, very big with maybe three at one time. I like to have that versatility in that lineup to take advantage of what we do or respond to what’s going on in the game as well.”
How big is this year for you?
“Where we are at in our program, everybody has been brought in by us. I’ve been through this process before, and this is where we started kicking it in a little bit at the University of Dayton, where we won 97 games over the next four years when we had all our players. Those guys that stuck around for us I owe a lot to. Daniel Miller and Kam (Holsey) and so forth, and we brought in Trae, and Jason Morris due to injury was never really able to get to where he wanted to or where we needed him to. Everybody here now has come in knowing what we have to do for me and for our staff for what culture we want to make at Georgia Tech. The first class being juniors and only two seniors on the team, we have a relatively young tram. With that comes the excitement of coaching your guys and getting them out there and starting to build and create the identity of this program.
On how the pre-season prep changes with Georgia as the opener
“Not really. Especially with new bodies who we have, to make sure understand what we’re trying to do. It’s different if you have everybody coming back. This year it’s more than last. Two years ago when we opened it up, we played a pretty good Tulane team. Your preparation during that time will change a little bit, maybe the last week. We are only concentrating on Georgia Tech and what we need to do to improve, and we have a good scrimmage and exhibition game set up. We will use those as an evaluation tool. We will have a pretty good feel of where we are at going into that Georgia game.”
On Tech’s summer
“We had another great summer in terms of school-wise. A disciplined and committed approach usually covers most aspects of your life. The work the guys put in, the chemistry piece, and the leadership piece, and the price never decreases. If you do the same work you can never expect to move forward, you’ve got to pay more and more and more. That’s the nature of athletics and I think our guys understood that and did a great job of attacking that.”
On Marcus Georges-Hunt as the leader of the team?
“I certainly hope so, and that will be one of his challenges heading into this year. Leadership is always a big question and debate. Can guys turn into leaders, are they born that way? It doesn’t really show until the season starts and adversity hits. That’s when you need the leadership, that’s when you need the direction, that’s when you need one voice in the locker room making sure everybody is on the same page and that is one of Marcus’s main jobs this year, no question about it.”
No star guy on the team? Thoughts on being an underdog?
“Marcus is the seventh leading returning scorer in the ACC in total career points. I’d put him in a pretty high category. Our guys understand for us to be successful we need to play great team basketball. The last three champions in our league – Virginia, Miami, Florida State – on those three teams there were maybe three draft picks combined so it is usually the best team that is the most successful. Our guys understand that and for us to do the things we want to do we have to have a total commitment to the team, total unselfishness on defense and offense. We have some pretty good pieces and our guys understand for us to be successful those pieces have to fit together well but I don’t think that is different than just about anybody.”
Goal for the team this season?
“This is our team now. These guys were brought in by us so there is an excitement that comes with that. With that we need to take another step. We won five more games in year two than in year one. I thought there was a chance last year for us to accelerate the process, not skip a step but go through the third step faster than I originally anticipated. Unfortunately do to a number of different things we weren’t able to do that. If some of those adverse situations occur – I think four key players missed 65 games last year – so as a program we need to have enough depth to fight through that and to get through those situations, and now I think we do.”
Who do you want to see step up on offense in key situations?
“Marcus, Trae hit a lot of big shots last year. But in terms of who we were going to, most of the time we were going to Marcus I don’t think anybody didn’t know that. Even the opponent knew that we were going to get him the ball and put our trust in him to either make a play for himself or for someone else. But I think with Travis, Josh, and Corey with the amount of minutes he was able to play last year, Tadric, we have some guards on the court that can make plays for other people, make the game easier for other people and I think that is one of our big keys, are we moving the ball, are we creating shots for other guys, I think that was one area that last year we made a slight improvement on but weren’t able to sustain it in critical situations where we were able to create an easy basket for someone else and I think that’s a big key for us, sometimes that’s getting the ball in the post where we are one-on-one in the post, sometimes that’s getting the ball in the post creating a double team and kicking it out. I think our ability to throw the ball in and have those guys be very aggressive to make plays is going to be a key for us and our guard play in terms of creating easy baskets and open shots for other people is going be key.”
Are you expecting that Ben Lammers will be cleared?
“Yeah he is more or less cleared now. He is almost in the same situation as Travis where he has been cleared for contact and has practiced but we are limiting some of the reps right now. Our hope is to do that, not set in stone, but the game plan for the first couple weeks is to continue that, the next two weeks to make that 80-90 percent, and then the two weeks heading into the start of the season full going, of course that always depends on how Ben’s leg and Travis’s knee respond to the workload that they are going to do over the next six weeks.”
How did the new uniforms with Buzz watermark on the back happen, and what are your thoughts about it?
The watermark on the back came about because we showed it to Marcus, Robert Sampson, and Chris, and when we showed them a design of it they thought it was pretty cool. When it comes to uniforms it is all about what the guys like to a certain extent, and they need to look sharp, and I think those uniforms look sharp.”