Feb. 2, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
As Brian Gregory continues to try and balance the yin and yang of his team, it’s like the Georgia Tech basketball coach is teaching passive-aggressive behavior.
When the Yellow Jackets play Virginia this afternoon at McCamish Pavilion, Gregory will look for his players to be more aggressive than in the first couple ACC games.
That’s been on his wish list for the past several games, actually, as the Jackets have cut their average possession time by a few seconds and – generally speaking – they have become more effective at moving the ball.
Yet Gregory is also looking for more patience when the Jackets have the ball.
“He says, ‘Make the safe pass. Be more poised, patient, and don’t get out of our game and what he teaches us every day in practice,’ ” freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt explained. “You can keep being aggressive . . . by making a great pass, or drawing the defense to you and kicking the ball out to a teammate for a shot.”
Gregory can live with the Jackets failing to score on an aggressive possession . . . as long as the failure to score comes because it is well defended, or the Jackets just miss a good shot.
He has a problem when a possession fails because the ball is turned over via poor decision, or when a low-percentage shot is jacked up and rebounded by the opposition.
The trick is, pushing tempo tends to lead to more turnovers because the ball is moving more, moving quicker, and players – especially younger ones – are more likely when operating faster to make plays without thinking them through. Then again, the goal is to play the game without thinking, rather to run on instinct.
Tech’s turnovers have gone up with tempo. With three freshmen starting and a fourth playing plenty, there is still too much thinking AND too much reacting on incorrect instincts. And it’s not just the freshmen making these mistakes.
“It’s a fine line because you have to understand that while still playing with the aggressiveness that we want to play with, and the composure that we need to play with,” Gregory said of the never-ending search for passive-aggressive balance.
“That’s the game of basketball, it really is. That’s the art form of having the moxie to play, and to know when it’s time to take the ball to the basket aggressively and when to pull it out. When it’s time to make a play, and when it’s time to just reverse the ball. There’s no greater teacher than experience.”
The Jackets try to approximate game situations frequently in practice to expedite this process. Like Gregory said, however, experience is the best teacher.
Georges-Hunt said the Jackets are growing, developing, building trust in one another. That’s a big part of the process.
“Coach said just run through our plays and just play; don’t play like robots. Make a play for your teammates, make an extra pass,” the freshman wing said. “That’s what we’ve been doing, not so much holding the ball and throwing it around the perimeter.
“It helps knowing what your teammates like, and the personnel. Say for instance, Chris [Bolden] likes to shoot . . .what are his favorite spots on the court? You know he’s going to be here when I make this move, and you’ve just got to know your personnel.”
Gregory will continue preaching the dueling concepts of, “Playing with a little greater sense of urgency [and] playing with a little more composure,” today at 3 p.m.
“It’s hard sometimes for young guys to understand the magnitude of every single possession, especially in this league, and especially with where we’re at,” the coach said. “Experienced teams, or teams that have had great success can get away with that sometimes. We’re at a point where our margin for error is small.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, time is the best teacher of that. You’ve just got to keep believing that if you keep doing that, something is going to break. At this point with where we’re at, that’s what we’ve got to go with.”