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#STINGDAILY: Working Harder and Smarter

April 11, 2013

Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –

This may not be the part that they signed up for, but Georgia Tech’s basketball players have come to realize that the strength and conditioning and skills development they’re deep into these days is critical. It is also as much mental as physical.

As the third week of a four-week cycle wraps up today, the Yellow Jackets are being pushed hard by coach Brian Gregory and his staff, and they’re pushing each other.

Gregory said several times after Tech finished the season 16-15 with back-to-back losses to Boston College that the Jackets will need to be tougher next season not just physically, but between the ears.

So, they’re going through something that might be compared to boot camp. A lot of the work is physical yet with psychological components.

“We did something similar last year to get stronger, but now we’re focusing on getting mentally stronger,” said rising senior center Daniel Miller. “There is a lot of running involved if we’re not paying attention to details or doing things the way they’re demonstrated. They’re saying it’s all mental, especially in the last five minutes of a game.”

“Everybody is tired, and you’ve got to be able to play through. That’s kind of what we’re doing now. The last 10 or 15 minutes of the conditioning is the hardest. You’ve got to be doing everything that he’s telling you [or there are physical consequences].”

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the Jackets focus on strength and conditioning. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they work on skills development. In everything, they push.

“The staff is putting us in different situations to make us go against adversity,” said rising sophomore forward Marcus Georges-Hunt. “If we do something wrong, we run. That’s a mental thing . . . and something we have to get better at. In your mind you’re saying you can’t do it, but you have to find something within yourself that makes you do it.”

“These workouts are teaching us those in-game-time situations the ref might not give us a call, but we’ve got to move on. That’s something that I think was holding us back last season; we kept worrying about what the refs did and did not do. We just move on to the next play.”

Coaches have different plans for skills development for different players. They’re having Miller, for example, work on aggressive offensive plays to attack the basket.

Strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley has a big role in this part of the year as well, and he has worked closely with Gregory and the entire staff to create drills that improve the Jackets in many ways. Improved team chemistry, hopefully, is a byproduct.

“It’s tough,” said rising sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. “We want to go into next season with a new mentality, working hard, encouraging each other, being more focused, paying more attention to detail.”

That’s already happening.

“It’s kind of bringing us together more as a team because everybody is getting on the same page and cheering for each other,” Miller said. “It does suck, but after two weeks I’ve seen a big improvement. Guys are doing what they don’t want to do.”

With Julian Royal transferring, Miller, Carter and Kammeon Holsey are the only big men in the program right now.

Although the Jackets are “cheering” for each other – chiefly when a player is suffering physical consequences for making a mistake of some sort — there are times when they’re not cheering for each other. Like when they’re going at each other.

Take Miller, Carter and Holsey, for example.

“We’ve been playing a lot of one-on-one, where you let the guy catch [an entry pass from a coach] in the post, and then two or three dribbles and do what you’ve got to do in there, make a move,” Miller said. “If you miss the shot, or if you get scored on you’re the one who has to run.”

“It’s been making it pretty competitive. There are only three of us. It’s a down and back [to the other end of the court], and by the time you get back it’s your turn again.”

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