Nov. 6, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
With the season opener one day away, Georgia Tech basketball fans may be more curious about the Yellow Jackets than in recent years because most of the players central to last season are back and there has been chatter about Tech cranking up tempo.
There may be no two players more interesting to watch than sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt. They were invited last summer to the USA Basketball training camp for the U19 squad that competed in the world championships.
Neither made the squad, yet the fact they were invited reflects something that Tech head coach Brian Gregory is counting on this season: their versatility.
Neither Carter, a 6-foot-8 forward, nor Georges-Hunt, a 6-5 swingman, can be pigeon-holed into a certain spot.
Carter has the frame of a prototypical power forward, but enough of an outside shot to be considered a legitimate threat from afar. Georges-Hunt may wind up spending as much time slashing through the paint as he will operating in the open court and popping jumpers from everywhere.
When the Jackets open Friday night with Presbyterian, don’t be surprised to see Georges-Hunt triggering a lot of transition offense. Gregory expects him to crash the glass with reckless abandon. That should lead to more long rebounds in his hands. Those, in turn, should become opportunities to run. He was a ball handler in high school.
“He thinks that I can be one of the best in the country at going to the offensive glass because of my size and strength,” Georges-Hunt said of Gregory’s aspirations. “He wants me to go every time.”
That might be just a slight exaggeration.
The Tech coaching staff places emphasis not just on offensive rebounds gathered, but also effort to win those rebounds. When they grade game films, they chart those efforts. The coach said last season Georges-Hunt crashed the glass on 60-some percent of the shots that he and his opponents put up. He wants more this season.
“As a wing, Marcus has got to be over 80 percent. That means eight out of every 10 shots that are taken, he’s got to be going to the glass,” Gregory said. “If he does that, he’ll get one or two more rebounds a game.
“If Robert gets one or two more as well . . . you’re just emphasizing a key aspect of what we want to be known for and what our identity is supposed to be built upon in terms of being relentless on the glass.”
Carter offers a less glowing review of the USA Basketball experience. He was released sooner than this teammate, in part because he fell ill. Still, he believes he’s a much better basketball player now than he was at this time last fall.
“Oh, of course. Way better,” Carter said. “My conditioning is probably the biggest thing. I feel better, and I think the better my conditioning the better I’m able to showcase all my skills.
“We weren’t out there long, but I guess it was a good experience. I felt like we were two of the better players out there. Of course, you want to make the team . . . but it didn’t happen and you come back and use that as motivation to work harder.”
Georges-Hunt led Tech with a scoring average of 10.8 points last season and Carter was second at 9.9. Both figure to be near the top of that heap again. Transfer guard Trae Golden may have something to say about that.
Scoring ratios seem likely to be impacted by which players get out and go best. Carter’s continued working hard at conditioning with that in mind. Georges-Hunt has worked more on tweaking a mindset – go to the glass.
He sounds quite secure.
“I feel so much more confident. I know what I’m about to get into. I know the style of play that he wants,” Georges-Hunt said. “I got the feel for it, the rights and wrongs and little things that I need to know. I learned to better myself, and do what I do. I felt pretty good out there. I feel better, feel light.”
Gregory is confident both players will help shape the image of the new-look Jackets.
“They’re better players not only by the minutes they gained as freshmen, but going out there this summer and competing at that level,” the coach said. “They’ve been very coachable. They’ve worked extremely hard. They play with a greater poise about them.
“They went through a lot last year. [They were] called on to make game-winning shots, game-winning rebounds and things like that. I think all that is going to pay off. For us to become more efficient on offense, we need to get more easy baskets . . . one or two more offensive rebounds.”
Get Sting Daily in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register hereto get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.