July 22, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Travis Jorgenson and Quinton Stephens haven’t been at Georgia Tech long enough to be certain of much, but the freshmen basketball players are positive that college classes are a lot different than high school. They can already see, too, that head coach Brian Gregory plans for the Yellow Jackets to sport an updated offensive look next fall.
“[Coaches] really want us to push the ball; that’s something that we’ve really been emphasizing in the open gyms,” said Stephens, a 6-foot-9 wing player from Marist. “They’ve been really emphasizing pace. If you need a sub, you can come out.”
Stephens is versatile for his size as he hit 42 percent of his 3-point shots last season for the War Eagles. That v word is critical.
So is the word, “was.”
Jorgenson, who averaged a team-high 13.2 points and five assists for the New Hampton (N.H.) School as a high school senior, was a point guard.
Note the past tense. As Gregory hinted in a Q&A with Sting Daily after the past season, he wants to be less concerned with the definitions of a point guard and a shooting guard. He’s seeking more versatility everywhere. He’s not thinking so much about point guards and shooting guards; just guards.
Jorgenson, Solomon Poole and Corey Heyward (who redshirted last season with a knee injury) best fit the prototypical definition of point guards and they’ll handle the ball the most next season. Yet Gregory and his staff are focusing on improving every player’s ball-handling skills this summer in individual workouts.
And when the Jackets play full-court among themselves in the evenings, they carry from Gregory one message above others.
“I think we’re really going to try to push the tempo more, play with speed,” Jorgenson said. “We haven’t been in much team stuff, but when we do pickup, they want us to push tempo and focus on finding guys in the open court.”
Tech’s incoming freshmen are taking two courses each this summer, and Stephens and Jorgenson are in an industrial engineering class together.
“It’s in a huge auditorium, and they lecture for two hours,” said Jorgenson, who is from Columbia, Mo. “It’s important to coach for us to sit in the first three rows and pay attention.”
At this juncture, the newcomers also are learning basic basketball concepts rather than plays and schemes. That includes defense. Coaches, in fact, are on the road recruiting from Wednesday through weekends, leaving the Jackets largely to strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley and themselves.
“Right now . . . I have the basics, footwork and maximizing your steps,” Stephens said. “They’re teaching me not to lead with `reach’ foot. It’s about shadowing the ball, being boisterous and really irritating the offensive player and keep your head on a swivel.”
With his height and shooting stroke, the lean Stephens – who averaged 19.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.7 blocked shots last season for Marist – may see action everywhere from power forward to the backcourt.
As a matter of fact, “In coach’s workouts, he has me working [in groups] with the big men and then with the guards,” said the environmental engineering major.
Jorgenson will stick with guards, where he’s learning a thing or two about defense as well. The Jackets will seek to be better defending the 3-point shot. “They really want the guards to get up on the other guards and force them to drive,” he said. “We’ll have the other guys helping in the lane.”
It’s not too early to say this: if Gregory has his way, the Jackets — whose week will begin with a 6:30 a.m. lifting session Monday – will plod less and push more with the ball.
“The wings and even [sophomore forward] Robert [Carter, Jr.] can take a few dribbles up court,” Stephens said. “Coach always says hit the open guy, the guy that’s ahead of you. Almost everyone should be able to push it.”
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