THE FLATS – Returning four starters from last year’s fifth-place Atlantic Coast Conference team, Georgia Tech began its official preseason practice Friday in preparation for the 2020-21 season with its most experienced and deepest roster yet under head coach Josh Pastner.
Leading scorer Michael Devoe, a 6-5 junior who averaged 14.6 points and connected on 44.2 percent of his three-point shots in ACC games, and 6-foot senior point guard Jose Alvarado, who led the Jackets in conference play at 16.1 points and 4.3 assists, return to form one of the top guard tandems in the league and the nation. Also back are 6-9 senior forward Moses Wright, one of conference’s most improved players a year ago, averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and 6-7 senior wing Jordan Usher, who started 23 games after becoming eligible at mid-season and averaged 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Tech also returns a pair of veteran reserves in 5-10 senior guard Bubba Parham, who averaged 25.3 minutes and 4.5 points in ACC games, and 6-7 junior forward Khalid Moore (3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg).
Supporting this group are a pair of transfers in 6-2 guard Kyle Sturdivant from Norcross, Ga., who played his freshman year at Southern California, and 6-10 post Rodney Howard from Alpharetta, Ga., who spent last season at Georgia. Both were granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA and have three seasons of eligibility. More depth comes from a strong freshman class that includes 7-1 center Saba Gigiberia (Tbilisi, Georgia), 6-2 guard Tristan Maxwell (Charlotte, N.C.), the 2020 North Carolina prep player of the year, and 6-8 forward Jordan Meka (Yaounde, Cameroon by way of Marietta, Ga.).
The biggest task for Pastner, entering his fifth season on the Flats, is finding a post player to replace the departed James Banks III, who made the ACC’s all-Defensive team the last two years. Howard, Gigiberia and Meka are all in the mix.
- Four of Tech’s five starters from the 2019-20 season return for 2020-21. With the exception of senior night, when Jose Alvarado deferred his start, the group of Alvarado, Michael Devoe, Moses Wright and Jordan Usher comprised 4/5ths of Tech’s starting lineup for the final 23 games. They combined to score 66.4 percent of Tech’s points for the season and played 53.5 percent of the minutes.
- They carried Tech to an above-.500 record (11-9) for the first time since the 2003-04 season (finished 9-7 before advancing to the national championship game). Tech has finished above .500 in the ACC only seven times in its 41-year history in the conference.
- Tech finished the regular season in fifth place in the ACC, the Yellow Jackets’ highest finish since tying for fourth place in the 2004-05 season. Tech once again outperformed pre-season projections, in which the Jackets were 12th in the poll of ACC media. In 2018-19, Tech finished 10th in the ACC after being projected to finish no higher than 13th. Tech also outperformed projections in 2016-17, finishing 11th after being picked to finish 14th in Josh Pastner’s first season.
- Tech’s incoming freshman class of center Saba Gigiberia (Tbilisi, Georgia), guard Tristan Maxwell (Charlotte, N.C.) and forward Jordan Meka (Marietta, Ga.) – ranked No. 51 in the nation. The Yellow Jackets added a pair of transfers – 6-2 guard Kyle Sturdivant from Southern California and 6-10 forward Rodney Howard (Georgia) in the spring, both of whom are immediately eligible and have three years of eligibility remaining.
- Tech finished the regular season No. 17 in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, and with its best rankings in offensive efficiency and adjusted tempo in the Yellow Jackets’ four years under Josh Pastner. Tech improved its overall field goal percentage in ACC games over 2018-19 by 3.6 percent, and its three-point rate by 3.5 percent.
- Tech has ranked (from most recent backward) No. 33, No. 20, No. 108 and No. 13 in the nation in field goal percentage defense over Josh Pastner’s four years at the Yellow Jackets’ head coach.
- Tech has ranked No. 7 and 11 nationally the last two years in three-point percentage defense. The Jackets finished last season with a program record at 28.5 percent, beating the 2004 Final Four team mark of 29.74 pct. ACC foes shot 29.2 percent against the Jackets last season, just shy of the mark of 29.0 percent yield by the 2007-08 team.
- Tech’s 2019-20 scoring average national ranking jumped 75 positions over 2018-19, and was 41 spots higher than its previous best under Josh Pastner in 2016-17.
- Tech’s defensive scoring yield has ranked among the nation’s top 100 every year under Josh Pastner (51-57-53-93).
- Tech hit 51-of-136 (37.5 percent) of its three-point attempts over its final nine games. The Jackets hit 34.1 percent from distance in ACC games last season, which ranked No. 6 in the conference.
- Over its last 11 ACC games (8-3 record), Tech averaged 69.7 points, shot 45.7 percent from the floor, and 34.7 percent from three-point range. The Jackets also had a plus-4.4 scoring margin and a plus-5.1 rebound margin, and scored 15.1 points per game from the foul line. Opponents shot 39.6 percent from the floor, 24.1 percent from three-point range.
- Tech returns two players – guards Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe, who earned All-ACC recognition in 2019-20. Moses Wright was among the top vote-getters for the ACC’s most improved player.
- Jose Alvarado, Michael Devoe and Moses Wright all ranked among the ACC’s top 25 in scoring average in conference games and among the top 15 in field goal percentage. Among the ACC’s returning players for 2020-21, Devoe ranks No. 2 and Alvarado No. 5.
- Jose Alvarado ranked No. 8 in the ACC in scoring, No. 6 in field goal percentage, No. 8 in assists and No. 1 in steals in conference games.
- Alvarado begins his senior year No. 10 in career steals at Tech (152), No. 15 in three-point field goals (126), No. 21 in assists (278) and No. 42 in points (1,034).
- Michael Devoe hit 42.6 percent of his three-point tries, the highest rate since Anthony Morrow hit 44.8 percent in 2007-08. Devoe connected on 44.2 percent in ACC games.
- Devoe enters his junior year needing 242 points to reach 1,000 for his career. Alvarado reached the mark late last season, and Bubba Parham surpassed the milestone during his two seasons at VMI before coming to Tech.
- Alvarado and Devoe combined to score 40.7 percent of Tech’s points and sink 39.3 percent of their three-point attempts in ACC games, 47 percent overall from the floor. Over the aforementioned 11 ACC games, they accounted for 44.3 percent of Tech’s scoring, shot 48.7 percent from the floor, 40.6 percent from three-point range and 79.8 percent of their free throws collectively.
- Moses Wright doubled his scoring and rebound averages over his sophomore season, one of the most improved players in the ACC, and reached double figures in all but eight games. His 33 points at Syracuse was the third-most for a Tech player in an ACC road game in program history.
- Jordan Usher scored in double digits eight times last season. Tech went 6-2 in those games. Four of those double-digits games occurred over Tech’s last seven games. He returns for 2020-21.