Sep 5, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
The start of full-on basketball practice is still three weeks away, but Georgia Tech players don’t need to wait that long to learn that they’re going to be playing a different brand of ball. They already know.
Dating back all the way to spring workouts, through summer workouts, and in ongoing instruction, head coach Brian Gregory has made it crystal clear that he wants the Yellow Jackets to play not just with a sense of urgency, but more urgency, period.
That will mean fewer instances where it is clear who is playing point guard, and who is playing shooting guard. Gregory is looking for more versatility in his backcourt and believes that with Solomon Poole, Chris Bolden and Travis Jorgenson he has the bodies.
Should the NCAA rule transfer Trae Golden eligible to play as soon as this season, he will factor as well, and if Corey Heyward stays on course while recovering from his second knee surgery, the Jackets may run five different guards out there in a game.
“It’s a really important trend . . . to have multiple guards who can be playmakers,” Gregory said. “We have made it a big point of emphasis to become more efficient offensively. To do that you have to score easy baskets. We’ll do that in transition, playing at a faster pace . . . by attacking the basket more with penetration and having guys make the game easier for each other.
“Having three guys on the perimeter [including a swing man] who can be interchangeable really helps put people in position to play off of one another instead of feeling like the load is on their shoulders to do this or this. We want to create a more well-rounded perimeter player.”
Poole is all for it.
“The whole point is to be faster,” he said.
The Jackets are not completely scrapping the concept of a point guard, but their new goal of getting the ball up court faster means that Tech will less frequently trudge up court with the ball in the same player’s hands time and time again.
“It’s not football, where there is one quarterback,” Gregory said. “There will be times when in the traditional sense a point guard will be out there, but I think in this league with the way teams pressure and force turnovers and get into you defensively, you have to have multiple ballhandlers on the court. I think we have that personnel now.
“Chris Bolden, Corey when he’s healthy, you have Trae, you have Solomon and you have Travis. You could play three of those guys at any one time,” Gregory said. “The key is to have those wings make guard play easier. Jason [Morris] is a senior, and [sophomore] Marcus [Georges-Hunt] played a ton of minutes. There could be times when you have four guys on the court who would be considered perimeter players.”
Bolden, who like Georges-Hunt started as a freshman, believes the Jackets will be easier on the eyes this season.
“Our tempo will be a lot quicker. Anybody on the floor who gets it, we want to push it,” he said. “Everybody is going to be running. The bigs are going to be running, we’re going to be in tremendous shape. Fans, I think, will like it more because there will be more alley-oops and dunks.”
Practice begins in full on Sept. 27, but Gregory has seen enough in individual sessions to have opinions on several matters.
First, Heyward is still not cleared for full-contact practice, and may still not be by the beginning of practice. It has been about nine months since he had a second surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate knee ligament.
There is no known timetable for the NCAA to render a decision on Golden, who transferred from Tennessee and is seeking a waiver of the usual protocol that would require him to sit out a year of competition.
Poole’s recovery from shoulder surgery has gone well enough that he was cleared a couple weeks ago to go full. Bolden, however, is a bit behind physically after a summer groin injury, and swing man Stacey Poole, Jr., was slowed by a hamstring.
Jorgenson, meanwhile, is on track to be in the mix right away as freshman.
The first game is two months away, Nov. 8 against Presbyterian at McCamish Pavilion.
“Oh yeah. I think he’s going to earn quality playing time,” Gregory said of the freshman from Columbia, Mo. “He has a chance to have a tremendous career here, and I think he’s ready to compete at this level. He’s got great quickness, a great feel for the game, he shoots the ball well, very good free throw shooter.”
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