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#TGW: Blue-Collar Physicality

Sept. 3, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Brian Gregory has to wait nearly two more weeks before NCAA rules will allow the Georgia Tech basketball coach and his staff to gather his entire squad on the court all at once, but he’s seen enough to have a good feel for 10 new players and returnees – especially point guard Travis Jorgenson.

The point guard’s freshman campaign ended four games into last season, when he suffered a torn right anterior knee ligament against Dayton.
After surgery, rehabilitation and a lot of work, Jorgenson is on track to compete for a starting spot once practice begins Oct. 3.

“He’s full-go in everything that we do except still no contact,” Gregory said. “That will probably be in two weeks, but it’s only September 2nd. He’s chomping at the bit. He does every minute of every workout both in the weight room and on the court. I think he feels good. He looks good.”

Gregory has had a good look at all of his players, though not all at once.

It’s too early to be certain what the Jackets will be like as a unit, yet not too soon to say that some familiar faces will appear considerably different to fans.

A few players will be bigger, and others will be lighter – or much lighter.

Count third-year guard Corey Heyward and junior swingman Marcus Georges-Hunt at the top of the less-is-more [hopefully] list.

“Corey is 206 [pounds]. He was 230. Marcus is 212. He played at 230 as a freshman,” Gregory explained. “He’s off the charts with [conditioning].”

On the other end, forward Quinton Stephens – who last season flashed potential when he wasn’t being bounced around — has worked to make himself less of a human pinball. The 6-foot-9 sophomore weighs nearly 190 pounds.

“I think he’s 10 pounds heavier, but it’s just a fact that he’s a guy who’s never going to put on a lot of weight,” Gregory said. “He’s gotten remarkably stronger, which is important. He needs to make sure to compensate for any strength differences with skill.

“I noticed in the last week or so, a physicality in [6-9 freshman forward Abdoulaye Gueve of Senegal], his ability to take a bump and still do good things. He’s probably only put on six pounds, but he’s getting stronger.”

Players change year to year by choice (theirs and those of the coaching staff) and necessity. Georges-Hunt, the team’s leading returning scorer (11.7 points per game) is expected to move into an expanded role.

“With only two [transfer] seniors on the team, our first [recruiting] class is juniors and guys like Marcus have done a really good job of not only changing himself and growing and maturing, but impacting other guys,” the coach said.

In keeping with a change in roles, big men Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey are graduated, and about to play in Spain and is playing in Colombia, respectively. Forward Robert Carter Jr. transferred to Maryland.

The new primary men in the middle figure to be transfers Robert Sampson (East Carolina), Demarco Cox (Ole Miss) and Charles Mitchell (Maryland).

They’re all 6-8, and weigh in order (approximately) 224, 276 and 269.

Sampson is going to be a swing player.

Cox, Mitchell and freshman center Ben Lammers (6-10, 241) definitely will not, and new assistant Mamadou N’Diaye is making sure of it while working the bigs.

“Mamadou has done a good job keeping it simple,” Gregory said. “This is what we’re going to do: we’re going to post with great physicalness, and we’re not screwing around; we’re going right after the rim. With those guys’ size, if they get an angle they don’t have to gimmick shots up.”
Where change is underway, coaches sometimes make a special effort not to tweak too much.

Freshman Tadric Jackson is the Jackets’ top recruit, and the 6-2, 214-pound guard is a work in progress on one front, but not so much on another.

Don’t be surprised if the noted scorer is given considerable latitude to do his thing on the court, somewhat like departed guard Trae Golden last season.

“Tadric right now still needs to lose some weight,” Gregory said. “Every new player, especially the freshman, has to gain weight or lose weight. That’s just the natural progression.

“Tadric as a high school kid had a knack for putting the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. You don’t want to put him in that box where, ‘You’re a this, or you’re a that.’ He just needs to be a good guard for us, make guard plays and guard decisions.”

With the start of practice about one month away, Gregory is amping up.

“I think we had the best summer that we’ve had in terms of the guys putting in the time not only with us, but on their own,” the head coach said. “We’ve made it a point of emphasis to play with much more physicality, be tougher, be a little more blue-collar type and I think our guys have responded to that.”

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