Aug. 6, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
It’s not often that the opportunity comes along to go to an exotic island resort with the express purpose of developing one’s craft as well as getting the chance to build camaraderie within one’s group.
For the Georgia Tech men’s basketball program such an opportunity hasn’t come along since 1991.
Head coach Brian Gregory believed that was long enough.
He set up a seven-day, six-night excursion for his team to Nassau in The Bahamas, where the team will combine business with pleasure and even some community service. They’ll play three games against local teams, perform a community service project and, when they’re not doing that, can bond at the luxurious Atlantis Resort.
The idea behind the trip is simple. If you want to be like the big boys then think and act like them.
“That’s what great programs do,” Gregory said. “Every four years you make an international trip.
“I think this is a great opportunity for our team and for our guys, not just from the basketball perspective because really some of the practice and the workouts that we’ve had have been beneficial but time spent together as a team,” he added. “It’s a place where schools like Kentucky, Pittsburgh go. West Virginia is going over there at about the same time we are. So it’s a great destination and it’s a great opportunity for our guys to grow and learn a little bit and put in a couple of new things to see how it works out and use this as kind of a springboard for our fall workouts.”
The trip is something of a reward for the team after going through its 10 allotted summer practices, but also is a working trip, as they’ll test how well they’ve absorbed the concepts they worked on during those practices against real competition. The games also will test the team’s character, as neither Marcus Georges-Hunt, the team’s leading returning scorer and the ACC’s sixth-leading returning scorer, nor two key grad-student transfers, sharpshooting guard Adam Smith, the conference’s fourth-leading returning scorer and last season’s leading three-point shooter at Virginia Tech, and Arkansas-Little Rock forward James White will see action.
Smith and White, both Georgia natives, should play key roles during the season but their being unavailable this week, opens the door for some younger players to get floor time. Gregory is interested to see just who kicks that door open.
“This is about us playing a lot of different guys and giving guys an opportunity to suit up and actually go against somebody else,” he said. “It’s not really going to be who we’re playing. Obviously, the three different teams that we’ll be playing against and those teams have played these other schools I mentioned either in the past or this coming year. So it should be good for us. Hopefully we’ll be able to use some things, pick up some things and at the same time, hopefully grow as individuals and as a team.”
Sophomore center Ben Lammers plans to take advantage of the opportunity for prime time minutes.
“I’m looking forward to getting more comfortable playing in actual game situations,” said Lammers, who averaged 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 5.9 minutes in 19 games as a freshman, but who has worked hard to put on 10 pounds (and counting) of muscle. “We’ve been doing scrimmage kind of stuff in practice but it’s not the same as playing a real game. So I think it will be good to get more experience.”
A wrinkle that the Jackets will face in their three games will be use of a 24-second clock. That’s 11 seconds fewer than last season and six fewer than once the season starts.
“That’s fast, man, 24 seconds,” said Gregory. “As I’ve said, I don’t think the five-second difference (35 to 30) will make a huge impact on the game but that next six really does. We’ve been practicing with it the whole time, so, obviously, you’ve got to play a little faster, you have to be much more aggressive offensively and I think that’s been good for us.”
“One of the keys in that is composure,” he said. “Just because it gets down to eight or nine you can’t panic. You can’t try to force something or make something that is not there. You need to make sure that you’re keeping your composure and still creating a quality shot. We’ve worked with the 24. I think our guys are starting to pick that up. You want to follow that old adage, play fast but never hurry.”
“We have to do more quick-hitting stuff,” said Lammers. “You can only do like two or three screens before you have to take a shot. It’s a little more fast-paced but it’s the same basic plays, really.”
Georges-Hunt will not see action but will be around the team.
“I can impact my team in a lot of ways even though I’m not playing,” said the senior guard. “I can lead them, talk to them, give them advice, cheer for them. There are so many different things I can do without my ability on the court. I can help my teammates in a lot of ways.”
Georges-Hunt, who Gregory said could have played on the trip but will not being rushed back — he will begin running full-speed shortly after the team returns — is eager to see the team take its first steps together. While he admitted that he feels like he’s missed out on the summer by not being out on the court with the team, he has high expectations for them and believes they will account themselves very well.
“They put in a lot of hard work [this summer]. They can go out and show what they’ve been working on,” he said. “I feel like they’re ready for it. Just because I’m not playing that doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “I feel like they’re going to take care of business and still improve throughout the time there.”
Another important element of the trip, and one Gregory does not want to be understated, is the community service project scheduled for Friday, the off-day in their three-games-in-four-days schedule.
“We’ll do a community service project while we’re out there,” he said. “This is an unbelievable opportunity for our guys, but they also have to realize that giving back is every bit as important as taking.”
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