Jan. 13, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– It didn’t take long after Chris Bolden’s season began to feel what many Georgia Tech fans saw: he was off. Way off. Like, dude slipped over the edge of a quarry and fell a long way and went really deep.
The shooting guard who made a notable impression last season as a freshman couldn’t seem to make a shot without luck.
As the Yellow Jackets (10-6, 1-2 ACC) prepare to play new ACC member Pitt (15-1, 3-0) Saturday afternoon, it looks like a good sign that Bolden may be un-earthing his former form.
Those Panthers are ranked 21/22. The Jackets need resurgent players like Bolden.
A three-game disciplinary suspension to start the autumn did not help the young man’s stroke and likely applied anvils upon conscience (i.e., pressure).
Wouldn’t you know it, his first game back prompted some to look away as if to flinch and forget who he was/is in the first place. Bolden shot 1-for-10 off the bench in that Nov. 20 home loss to Dayton.
He slid into the starting lineup after that, somewhat mysteriously, perhaps because he had been a starter for all but one game of the ACC season as a freshman. He went 10-for-43 in the next five games.
“Yeah, I definitely felt it, and mentally it started messing with my head,” the lad said Monday. “I’m starting to get out of that now.”
There were grounds for consternation.
In the second game of last year’s ACC slate, Bolden became a starter for good and that went pretty well. He averaged 9.5 points in conference fashion, and shot 36.5 from beyond the arc.
In his very first start, Bolden scored 20 at Duke. He ebbed and flowed a bit, yet also scored 21 in the regular-season finale at Miami.
Entering the Notre Dame game Saturday, the sophomore had averages of 24.7 percent shooting, 24.2 from distance, and 4.3 points. He lost his starting job a few games earlier to Jason Morris, who’s had struggles of his own.
Perhaps, though, he climbed out of the well Saturday, when he made 4-of-8 3-point shots and scored 14 points for the Yellow Jackets as they gutted out a 74-69 win over the Irish.
Or maybe, just maybe, it was that extra shooting session last Thursday with Gregory, before practice.
Extra shooting sessions are no big deal; most players do that. But this one left Gregory sweating, maybe a bit more invested than what we would all call the norm.
“That’s because I’m old and out of shape,” the ball coach said Monday. “Chris has spent a lot of time. You’ve got to just keep putting in the time.”
It is natural when you are really good as something rhythmic to wonder when you’re not succeeding if you’ve inadvertently changed your process.
Bolden has some talking points in his shot process. He needs to jump, and he needs to fire rather than guide. Gregory and staff talk about that, a little.
Generally, though, he just needs to put his brain on auto-pilot, trigger and rip.
Da Boss says he has the green light.
“You want him confident . . . You’ve got to give him that freedom. His responsibility is to make sure he’s getting in a good number of [practice] shots every week so he’s staying in rhythm,” Gregory said. “You keep it simple.
“With Chris, the most important thing(s) [mechanically are] that he gets lift and he releases the ball. When you shoot it, feel good about taking the shot.”
Really, that’s not what is most important. Eventually, Gregory admits, “I think the most important thing for him is that his coaches and teammates have a lot of confidence in him.”
Bolden looked like he was feeling it Saturday against Notre Dame.
He sounds that way, too. His special session with the head coach may have had a silent and profound effect. Sometimes, a certain kinda knock in the head helps.
“It’s pretty much been all mental,” Bolden said. “Knowing that coach Gregory has my back, and he’s working with me on my shot gives me the confidence going into a game to not really hold back.”
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