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Nothing But Hoops

Dec. 19, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

On the cusp of a rare four-game road swing, there is comfort for the Georgia Tech basketball team to be found in the absence of class.

The Yellow Jackets will play at Vanderbilt Saturday, at Charlotte Dec. 29, at Maryland Jan. 4 and at Duke Jan. 7. The first three come when school is out, as it is now, and the Yellow Jackets have campus almost to themselves. There is more time to do everything.

“It’s a great time knowing that you don’t have to wake up early in the morning and go to class,” said sophomore Marcus Georges-Hunt. “You just wake up, breakfast, basketball, lunch, basketball, sleep, wake up, basketball.”

While the Jackets have more opportunities to truly enjoy their apartments and dorms and the beds in them, they also have more time to fine tune their games beyond scheduled practice.

“The great players at this time of year thrive. They love it because this is the ultimate objective, to do nothing but play basketball: wake up in the morning, and everything you do during the day is to make you a better basketball player,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “The reality is that as a college athlete it’s not the same thing.

“I’ve always found that the players who are really self-driven and self-motivated the love this time of year. They practice hard, they come in they get extra shooting, come in and watch 10 or 15 minutes of film and they still have plenty of free time.”

Tech (8-3) has won three straight games, and Vanderbilt (6-3) has won a couple back to back. Eight of the Commodores’ nine games have been decided by single digits, including a two-point win over Austin Peay earlier this week.

“They can hurt you in a lot of ways. They have one of the best young big guys in the country in Damian Jones, and with McLellan they’ve really added a new dimension to that team, the ability to score,” Gregory said. “They’re a veteran team, a lot of guys who’ve logged a lot of games. They’re very good in the open court.”

The Jackets have improved significantly in several ways over last season, although the schedule has not approximated what lies ahead.

Tech is shooting nearly 45 percent, and has out-rebounded opponents by an average of 7.6 per game while assists are up and turnovers are down.

Coach says he’s not taking precautions to shield players from overconfidence.

“At times you have to do that. If our guys are doing that, then we have serious issues,” he said. “We’re in a good spot because we’ve won and we’ve played a little better the last couple weeks.

“I’m a believer that you fix the roof when the sun is shining; you don’t wait for the storms because they’re coming. In this league, they’re coming. If you’re thinking about what’s happened in the past, the present is going to get you. The 20 games we have left, it’s basically 20 ACC-caliber games with 11 on the road.”

The first four road games are coming up.

Senior Kam Holsey says bring it: “Without any school, the only thing you have to do is play basketball. You don’t have classes to stress you out. Having no school and no class, you have a clear head. [Four straight road games] makes us stronger. We’ll see who we are and what we’re made of.”

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