Dec. 31, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Ben Lammers made the long trips to and from San Antonio to enjoy a couple days with his family on holiday, and he’s covered even more ground since first arriving at Georgia Tech.
The big fella is a whole lot more at home as a Yellow Jacket than last season.
Timid as green timber, the post man was nearly an afterthought as a freshman. He averaged less than six minutes while playing in just 19 of 31 games, and Lammers was sparse with words as well.
He’s making more noise as a sophomore.
Guess who head coach Brian Gregory singled out after the Jackets closed their non-conference schedule Tuesday with a 73-67 win over Duquesne?
That would be a 6-foot-10, less-lanky Texan.
He made no spectacular plays and put up no eye-popping numbers, yet Lammers was steady as an Alamo sniper while pitching in five points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and an assist in 15 efficient minutes.
He pitched in some “hockey assists,” as well, making passes that led to assists, setting screens that led to quality shots for teammates, and rotating the right way time and again on defense to help the Jackets rally from a nine-point deficit to win.
“I thought that [for] as well as Marcus [Georges-Hunt] played, and [even with] some of the shots that Adam [Smith] hit, and Nick [Jacobs] played well, that Ben Lammers was the player of the game,” Gregory said after Tech moved to 10-3.
“That’s the best one-basket performance I’ve seen in 26 years of coaching. The kid has a chance to be a hell of a player.”
Coming off a knee injury suffered as a high school senior, he rarely made an impact last season. He scored a modest 22 points, grabbed a few handfuls of rebounds (28), blocked four shots and registered an assist.
The Jackets are deeper in the paint, yet even with seniors Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs and graduate student James White doing work, Lammers is nearly tripling his playing time (14.1 minutes per game). He’s bumped all his numbers.
Scoring is up from 1.1 to 4.2, rebounding from 1.4 to 3.8, blocked shots from two in 19 games to 14 in 13, assists from one to eight.
If there is to be any hyperbole in his assessment, it’ll have to come from the head coach. Lammers sure isn’t going to boast.
Sure, he’ll acknowledge that he’s more secure. But that’s about it unless you pry.
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Lammers said Tuesday night. “It’s college basketball so it takes a little while to get used to it. I’m a lot more comfortable and confident in offensive and defensive play. I guess it was just my day. Everything was going my way; I was just going with it.”
He’s going at it more, yet coaches want more still. The coaches pry constantly. Lammers weighs about 20 pounds more than he did upon arrival, and coaches prefer that he play like it.
“[N’Diaye] is definitely a big man’s coach,” Lammers said. “I always have a problem with getting down low and being physical. In high school I was more of a finesse player. It’s still a work in progress as far as using my body as a weapon to create a shot . . . I’m not a small guy. I’m 235.”
Gregory is looking for strength in numbers in the post, and it helps that his tallest player is stronger.
“We’re going to need him. We’re a team that we have to count on different guys every night,” the coach explained. “James White, last game or two games ago, had a double-double, and we needed that. Tonight it was Ben. That’s important; that’s our best chance to be successful.”
Size aside, Lammers brings a little more touch to the post. He’s not nearly as brutish as Mitchell or Jacobs, nor as athletic as White. He’s unique, though, and has made 14 of his 24 shots. That’s scored him time at center and power forward.
“He played exceptionally well, playing both the 4 and the 5 spots,” Gregory said. “He read some ball screens, now he’s guarding a guard. He just did a great job.”