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Aug. 28, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

The message came early and it was emphatic. Last week, even before the first sneaker squeaked, Georgia Tech, men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory made something clear.

Julian Royal described it this way: “As soon as we started workouts, he said, ‘If you guys haven’t guessed, we’re going inside more this year,’ We’re going to be more inside-out.”

Tech’s sophomore forward, whose basketball evolution began to warrant notice from time to time over the second half of last season, will be just part of the new baseline (See what I did there?) for the Yellow Jackets.

While acknowledging that Gregory hasn’t been consulted on this theory, it doesn’t seem a stretch to suggest that his first Tech team did not have a distinct offensive personality. The Jackets were challenged on that end of the court last season, a recurring problem compounded by the unpredictability of their most talented scorer – Glen Rice Jr.

That’s not a theory, really; it’s reality. Tech was neither a slick shooting team, nor dependable in the paint. The Jackets weren’t much for the dribble-drive game, either, and neither were they consistent playing pick-and-roll.

With the Jackets’ three primary bigs from last year returning and the addition of talented freshman Robert Carter, Gregory’s goal is to run the show through juniors Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey, Royal and Carter.

This doesn’t mean they’ll always lead the way statistically, but that the goal will be not only to move the ball around but to move it through the post as well as around the wings.

These four are not entirely alike.

Carter, like Royal, will be just as likely to pop a spot-up jumper from outside as to grind through the paint. They’re both 6-8, and their versatility will hopefully create mismatches for opposing defenses. Royal made 43.5 percent of his shots last season even when including early-season struggles, including 37.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Coach says, if we all did the same thing we’d be easier to defend,” Carter said. “But because we do different things and we feed off each other, which will make us harder to defend.”

The paint will be busier both because the Jackets will try to score more often inside and they’ll also endeavor to pass more crisply from the blocks when the defense dictates as much.

“That was one of the big things when I was being recruited, that we were going to change it up a little more,” Carter said. “Daniel and Kam are back-to-the-basket guys. Julian likes to spot up a little more. Everybody’s got their skill set. I try to do a little bit of both.”

It is not yet easy to see this at practice. NCAA rules allow no more than four players to work at a time with their coaches, and so the four bigs work simultaneously with coaches feeding the post. They bang on each other, they practice making outlet passes and hauling down the floor, they work under the keen eye of assistant Billy Schmidt on their post moves.

And they wait. Practice, the real stuff, cannot begin until Oct. 12. “I’m eager to get started for real,” Holsey said.

Holsey may be the most gifted of the four athletically. He’s long-limbed, agile and quick off the floor. He’s got some moves under there, and he’s not afraid to use them.

His 9.4-point scoring average was third on the team behind Rice (13.0) and point guard Mfon Udofia (9.9) and he averaged 12.5 over the Jackets’ final eight games. While making 59 percent of his shots he was Tech’s most reliable scorer.

“Last year we saw that Kam could score just about every time he got the ball, and . . . I know I try to get it to him,” Miller said. “I’m very excited.”

Miller will be required to be more aggressive, more like Holsey. Sometimes, he needs to trust his skills more. When he did get to the free throw line, he made 76.2 percent.

His 8.1-point scoring average was fourth on the team, and he scored in double figures in eight of Tech’s 10 final games. There were signs.

These Jackets are eager to get back to the real thing not just because they figure to be more involved but because Tech has good reason to believe it will be better.

Beyond the influx of talent – including freshmen guard Chris Bolden and freshman wing Marcus Hunt and the transfer of guard Stacey Poole – but because they’ll have a building in which to play home games. And it will be on campus.

The McCamish Pavilion will debut on Nov. 9, when the Jackets will play Tulane.

That’ll be big, like the Jackets. Bobby Cremins spoke last week of bringing the Buzz back. Tech’s bigs say they can feel it coming. They have been to sense a different vibe already in classes, and the season is still two months away.

“People are excited; they missed that whole year of home games,” Miller said. “Like coach was saying that’s two years of students that haven’t been able to see games on campus, the freshmen and the sophomores.”

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