Jan. 28, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
There were plenty of positive tangibles to be taken from Georgia Tech’s 20-point win over Wake Forest on Saturday, and as the Yellow Jackets go for their second consecutive ACC victory tonight at Clemson it turns out here is some high-quality intangible news as well.
Tech’s freshmen are emerging quickly, yet upperclassmen remain on board. It was graduate student Pierre Jordan, whose playing time has been seriously parsed by the mid-season arrival of freshman Soloman Poole, who had the sense to call a player’s-only meeting the other day.
And Brandon Reed not only played Saturday against Wake, but contributed significantly with no sign of pouting.
That was notable because after starting Tech’s first 15 games, the redshirt junior guard was replaced by freshman Chris Bolden and didn’t play at all at Duke. Reed then saw a modest seven minutes of action at North Carolina.
He could have gone a few directions, including south. Reed could have checked out mentally. Or, he might have over-reacted and played wildly out of control while trying to do too much.
Instead, he meshed with the game’s tempo, and in 19 minutes pitched in eight points (including a couple 3-pointers), five rebounds, an assist and two steals. He wasn’t perfect, as a couple of his post-feed passes were ill-advised, but he was on the right wave length.
“I think it’s more maturity,” Reed said Monday when asked how he’d kept himself plugged in despite disappointment about his reduced playing time. “I could have easily not been into the game. I was going to do everything coach wanted me to do, and just be confident in myself and know that you might not have a great game every game, but to give everything you have.”
No matter the makeup of a team, and this one has a disproportionate percentage of youth eating up major minutes, it is important that everybody keep rowing in the same direction.
In his “down” time, Reed spoke with coaches, teammates, and family to help keep his chin up. That helped. “They were basically telling me to keep my head up, keep working, don’t get down on myself, and don’t let the situation control how you act,” he said. “Regardless of how things are going, be professional and just cheer your teammates.”
Tech did not play horribly in a five-game losing streak to start ACC play. The Jackets played four of the top teams in the ACC, and a youthful inattention to details was problematic.
Indeed, “The guys have been doing everything I’ve asked,” head coach Brian Gregory said.
Jordan didn’t call the players-only meeting last Thursday because he didn’t like what he saw. He called it because he wanted the Jackets to keep doing what they’d been doing, to keep rowing. It was a depression prevention intervention.
“We had a team meeting without coaches . . . and we went down the line telling everybody to stick together knowing that it’s a longer ACC season with 18 games now and we can’t get down on ourselves,” Reed recalled. “We had played pretty much the top teams in the conference already. We just got to keep our heads up. I think [the meeting] paid dividends for us.”
Saturday, against Wake Forest, “I think everybody in the gym could see the vibe was different,” Reed said.
Gregory saw it this way: “It kind of all came together. The intensity was there. The energy was there. We were sharing the ball on offense, and you can’t build a lead like that [30 points in the first half] without playing pretty good defense.”
The Jackets cannot maximize their potential without all players and coaches on one boat. The flotilla plan won’t work.
Reed said he’s on board: “I just wanted to go out there and help my team win. The previous two games I didn’t get a chance to play so I figured the next chance I got I was going to give it everything I had. I’m playing for my teammates, and . . . most of all, I just wanted to get the win and get off the schneid.”
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