Feb. 21, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Josh Heath finally broke out a grin late during a recent interview, just as Travis Jorgenson came nearby. There’s something to be said about the timing of Georgia Tech’s point guards, and these two have been notably more on point recently.
When the Yellow Jackets take on North Carolina Saturday, Tech’s playmaking tandem figures will play a leading role whether by scoring, distributing or both.
There’s reason to believe they’ll show up.
Over the Yellow Jackets’ first seven ACC games, the two young guards made a combined 27.1 percent of their shots, went to the free throw line just six times, and banked 33 assists against 23 turnovers.
In Tech’s last seven ACC games, they have shot 58.5 percent, made a combined 24-of-29 free throws, and turned in 47 assists and 21 turnovers.
As Jorgenson has become more comfortable with his surgically repaired knee, he’s pushed the pace and the Jackets have all benefitted. He doesn’t say much, and he doesn’t speak loudly, but his play is doing more talking.
“[The knee] feels better out there now. I have explosiveness,” he said. “[Head coach Brian Gregory] wants me to keep pushing the ball. We need to get in transition. We’ve got some guys who can really run. I’m trying to be a little more aggressive.”
Jorgenson’s 1.92-to-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio ranks eighth in the ACC, and if Heath – the backup — had enough assists, his ratio of 2.26-to-1 would rank higher.
“We’re best when whichever one is out there is completely fresh,” Gregory said. “Those guys have done a really good job playing off of each other. Everybody wants to play more, and maybe down the road I can see those guys playing together.”
Overall, Jorgenson has a team-high 82 assists with 43 turnovers. Heath is second with 77 turnovers and 34 turnovers.
These are not huge scorers, although Heath’s career-high 14 points were big in Monday’s 63-52 win over Clemson. Yet Jorgenson and his point partner are critical in the Jackets’ offense.
They’re each averaging 4.1 points per ACC game (seventh on the team) with Jorgenson playing an average of 21.8 minutes per contest, and Heath 19.4. Jorgenson has 47 assists and 29 turnovers in conference games, and Heath has numbers of 33 and 15.
Considering they combined for just 21 games of college experience before this season (Jorgenson four and Heath 17), they’re ramping up on schedule.
“I’ve come to know what to expect. I think I kind of know where people are stronger, and their weaknesses as well. I just try to put them in good positions,” Heath said. “I think we’re similar. We both are pretty unselfish. I would say Travis is fearless; that’s a big part of his game. We both look to try and push the pace.”
Jorgenson’s career high of 14 points came Jan. 31, in an 81-80 overtime loss to N.C. State. He made 5-of-7 shots that day, both his 3-pointers and both his free throws.
That was, in a way, his breakout game.
“I felt really good in the N.C. State game,” he said. “My mom came up for that game, which was cool. I told her after the game I felt good.”
Gregory’s deployment patterns are hinged upon a combination of pre-determined playing time benchmarks, and the way his players are playing.
As Heath made 4-of-5 shots and all six of his free throws against Clemson, he went on to play 22 minutes. Jorgenson played 20.
“You get to a point in the game where a little of it is feel,” Gregory said. “With what we ask those guys to do, at about the five- or six-minute mark is about the max. Then, their efficiency drops. They’re both younger players. As they progress they will get stronger, which will make those minutes be extended.
“I think Travis, the pace he plays at has made a huge impact on our team in the last month. I think his confidence level is greater. He’s more explosive. I think that leg is getting stronger. Josh is back to being Josh Heath, making assists and taking care of the ball.”