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#TGW: Focused on Toughness

Oct. 3, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

 

Basketball season is not exactly just around the corner, yet with new NCAA guidelines that allow for practice to begin earlier, Georgia Tech is starting up with a goal of tightening down before the season opener Nov. 14 against Georgia.

As the first of 30, full-squad, full-court practices begin today, one thing won’t change: men’s head coach Brian Gregory and his assistants, including newcomers Tom Herrion and Mamadou N’Diaye, will continue an offseason quest to toughen up the Yellow Jackets.

That word can mean different things to people. In Gregory’s view, the Jackets lost a few games in the waning minutes last season for sake of a loss of focus, or a shortage of toughness between the ears in crunch time.

 “It’s a lot of components,” said junior swingman Marcus Georges-Hunt, the Jackets’ leading returning scorer and the prime candidate to be Tech’s captain. “It could be getting on the floor for a loose ball, communicating, rebounding . . . there are so many things that the word brings to a team.

“To me, having mental toughness is the biggest thing. Mental toughness is where . . . some games you’re going to have to fight adversity. You can’t put your head down.”

Gregory wants the Jackets to be better at staying on task at critical times, to keep their heads up, clear and focused at all times.

“I like our pieces and the key is for us to come together and build that identity,” the coach said. “Every team has a different identity and every program has some core things that are important. Ours is going to be toughness, playing physical, defensively rebounding, and offensively moving and sharing the ball.”

There are plenty of new pieces.

The Jackets have seven new scholarship players in freshmen Tadric Jackson, Ben Lammers, and Abdoulaye Gueye and transfers Demarco Cox (Ole Miss), Charles Mitchell (Maryland), Josh Heath (South Florida) and Nick Jacobs (Alabama).

Also, transfer Robert Sampson (East Carolina) sat out last season, and redshirt freshman guard Travis Jorgenson missed all but the first three-plus games with a knee injury.

Newcomers and returnees alike have heard the same speeches.

“Any time we work out, if [Gregory] is in the gym he’s saying how we need to be a little tougher today, or fight through fatigue or come together as a unit,” Cox said.

Cox, who is 6-feet-8, 276 pounds and stout as all get-out, and Mitchell (6-8, 269) will bring a distinct physical toughness to the Jackets. Gregory said they and Sampson (6-8, 224) enter fall practice with a head start in the quest for playing time in the front court.

“Every coach talks about toughness, but coach Gregory really points it out,” said Mitchell, who played at Wheeler High in Marietta. “We know we have athleticism and strength. It’s more about being mentally tough, coming together.

 

“He talked a lot about not fighting through the end of games last year. They always say the game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. It’s about being mentally tough enough to do the mental things that help win the game.”

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