Jan. 1, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
With three wins in the past four games, there are signs that most of Paul Hewitt’s players are settling into their roles and the timing is solid. Today’s game against surging Charlotte will be Georgia Tech’s last before they begin ACC play.
Any number of talking points grow out of each game, and here are a few that seemed relevant after Tech’s 87-78 win Friday over Mercer:
# Kammeon Holsey is getting it, and that’s big not only for the redshirt freshman post player but for the entire team. Holsey started Friday, as Hewitt opted to try scuffling sophomore Brian Oliver off the bench, and with 13 points and five rebounds, he gave yet more evidence that Holsey is coming to understand his rotations on offense and defense.
His presence alongside redshirt freshman center Daniel Miller makes the Yellow Jackets bigger, and enables them to play more straight up on defense. The more time the Jackets spend with two legitimate bigs on the floor, the better their chances of not only defending the goal, but extending offensive possessions and scoring second-chance points.
Holsey redshirted his freshman season after injuring a knee while playing with other college players and pros in an pro-am summer league, and the combination of working his way back from the injury and learning to play in more sophisticated systems than he was used to in high school left him an uphill climb. He’s approaching level ground.
“His knee is getting there. He still has some days where he has to step out of practice because it is just so sore,” Hewitt said. “There are still some times defensively where he does some inexplicable things. He will just stop, run and go chase the ball and trap but he is going to be a good player. He just needs to get healthy, understand what we need to do defensively and the rest will be easy for him.”
# When Glen Rice has it going, he can be very good, but Iman Shumpert remains the main man. I still believe that Shumpert is Tech’s linchpin and Friday supported my theory. Tech trailed by six after a first half in which Shumpert did not score or grab a rebound, yet the Jackets won the second half 46-31 as Shumpert scored all 15 of his points and grabbed all seven of his rebounds.
Rice is plenty capable of being the Jackets’ leading scorer on many nights, as he was Friday when he scored a career-high 24 and made four 3-point shots. But the ball is going to spend more time in Shumpert’s hands most games, and he needs to assert himself more often – whether that’s his personality or not.
“There’s a big hole in our team when he’s not on the floor,” Hewitt said of Shumpert. “He’s got to understand if things aren’t going well offensively, he’s got to make sure he stays on the floor.”
# Moe Miller may not be as quick as Mfon Udofia, nor quite the threat to break down an opposing defense, but the Tech offense generally runs more efficiently when Moe is on the court.
# Oliver may eventually prove to be a great offensive boost off the bench, but he’s struggling something terrible. Perhaps if Holsey – and to a lesser degree Nate Hicks – keep performing well in the post, Oliver will come to spend more time playing a swing position, where he appears far more comfortable than when playing a “power forward” spot. For now, the young man is searching for a sweet spot.
Holsey’s gone scoreless in four games this season, but sure seemed to get into the action working as a starter. Oliver didn’t appear to find a vibe as a reserve, making just 1 of 7 shots, but that was an extension of a huge slump. Oliver made 13 of 60 shots (21.7 percent) over the past six games, including just 4 of 27 3-point shots (14.8 percent).
Tech will need his stroke to do damage in the ACC, even if the encouraging play of freshman Jason Morris (career-high 13 points in just 13 minutes Friday) continues off the bench.
One more warmup: Charlotte (7-6) has won three straight games, including a win at then-No. 7 Tennessee, and a one-point victory Thursday at Mercer. The 49ers will offer a nice litmus on where the Jackets are before they travel to Boston for Saturday’s ACC opener.
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