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#TGW: Road to Success

April 14, 2017

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

– Josh Pastner’s not about to slow down, and he’s still not ready to let his assistants go golfing even though Georgia Tech men’s basketball added a couple more players this week when Curtis Haywood II and Moses Wright signed letters-of-intent with the Yellow Jackets.

There is still recruiting to be done.

Haywood, a 6-foot-5 wing from Yukon, Okla., and Wright, a 6-8 forward from Raleigh, N.C., will join 6-foot point guard Jose Alvarado of New York City as newcomers this summer. Alvarado signed last fall.

They likely will not be the only fresh faces to a program that went 21-16, 8-10 in the ACC before falling to TCU in the NIT championship game in Madison Square Garden.

With seniors Quinton Stephens, Josh Heath, Corey Heyward and Rand Rowland having graduated or about to, and no more eligibility for graduate student-athletes Kellen McCormick and Jodan Price plus Christian Matthews planning to transfer, Pastner’s still looking for players.

“We need to get multiple guys. I would like to get three more guys who can help us next year and one or two to [redshirt],” the coach said even before Haywood and Wright signed. “The only route that’s out is junior college because we couldn’t get them into school.

“High school, grad transfer, undergrad transfer, international … they’re all up for grabs … we are so far from being out of the woods. We’ve got to keep fighting and scrapping and pushing forward. To me, the season’s over, and I’m full-speed ahead. Vacation? When you can take a chill pill and relax is when you’ve got a well-oiled machine.”

.@GTJoshPastner discusses his spring class and what lies ahead in recruiting #FutureJackets

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— GT Men's Basketball (@GTMBB) April 13, 2017

In a way, the Jackets will add without adding as fourth-year junior Abdoulaye Gueye is expected to return from the broken wrist that sidelined him early in the ACC season. The 6-9 forward played in 20 games, starting three, and lent defensive presence and rebounding.

“AD’s injury hurt us, because it hurt the opportunity to rest Ben [Lammers],” Pastner said. “He was really turning the corner, and I think it really hurt us in the stretch because we didn’t have that guy there. I think [6-10 redshirt sophomore] Sylvester [Ogbonda] can be a good player, but it’s going to take time.

“I don’t play a lot of guys. I don’t like playing more than seven. With AD out, it was really only five-and-a-half.”

Wright is an interesting prospect. With a wingspan that stretches to 7-2, he averaged 22.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game for William G. Enloe High School, and get this: he hit 41 percent of his 3-point shots.

His skill set may place him at stretch power forward, or on the wing.

The Jackets last season worked out of a single-post offense, the first time in Pastner’s eight-year career as a head coach that he’s called for that.

It doesn’t mean that he’s averse to adding a true “big” to the roster, whether through transfer, high school or internationally.

“I love our offense, but I would also fit to our personnel, fit to whatever we need to do to win,” Pastner said. “But you’ve got to have a [power] guy next to [Lammers] to be able to play two in-three out.”

Haywood is a lengthy perimeter player who averaged 12.0 points, 4.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals for Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Pastner suggested recently that the Jackets in the future might not switch defenses as frequently as they did in his first season if they accumulate more defenders who on stingy on the ball, in man-to-man.

Offensively, he will continue to push players to share the ball, although if future Jackets happened to be more talented so as to run some plays in isolation, allowances will be made.

“I will say we were right as a staff in terms of what we needed to do to have any success and that was we needed to be great at ball movement,” he said of strategy formulated with his staff heading into last season. “I had felt all along, we had felt all along, that we weren’t a good shooting team.

“We didn’t have guys that could just go get us buckets off the dribble, and for us to have success offensively was all going to be about ball movement, player movement and the pace of the cut, how hard we cut.”

The Pastner press is beginning anew, as the head coach and assistants Eric Reveno, Tavaras Hardy and Darryl LaBarrie are meeting with players to map out plans for improvement in spring and summer workouts.

“They’re all going to have to get better,” said the head coach. “The telling tale was how we played against TCU. This is still a major rebuild, but we have a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng way to go and every guy has to get a lot better.”

In his preference to deploy a tight rotation, much like former Tech head coach Bobby Cremins, Pastner is keen on players who can play more than one spot.

“Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech calls it ‘switchables’ because they can switch and play multiple positions, but yes, we need to have guys who can play multiple positions,” he explained.

“And to win at the level we all want to win at, your guard play has to be excellent. Josh Heath was a senior. [Sophomore] Justin [Moore] has to get better, a lot better, Jose [Alvarado] has got to come in and be able to perform. We’ve got to increase our guard play.”

That includes senior-to-be Tadric Jackson and sophomore Josh Okogie, the returning scholarship guards other than Moore, and probably Haywood.

Perhaps there are more players out there who can help. Pastner and his staff are looking, traveling, texting, calling. Time off? Seriously?

“I’ll probably take a little something when we’re in a dead period in May or August, but all I’m going to be doing is thinking about what we need to do,” he said of possibly getting away with his family. “We had a great year, a good year, a fun year. We over-achieved.

“That’s in the record books now, and we’re focused on ’17-’18 and we’ve got to continue to move the needle. This is a major rebuild job, and the only way to get this is multiple years of recruiting classes.”

And in the fall, even before basketball practice begins, Pastner will continue hitting the bricks on campus and the recruiting trail.

“I’ll go out in the fall and speak to as many student groups again, and get them revved up and jacked up and enthused. We need them,” he suggested. “We had 17 home wins this year, a record. The only reason that happened was because of this crowd, and it starts with the students.”


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