Oct. 1, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
There will be faces from far-flung places when basketball practice begins Friday at Georgia Tech, yet the twin towers who figure to wind up in the middle have hooped it up locally for years.
Senior post men Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs share more than Atlanta as a hometown. They knew each other long before Mitchell transferred from Maryland and Jacobs from Alabama last year, and both will bring new looks to the court with dramatically re-sculpted physiques.
Mitchell hardly looks the same. He weighs about 255 pounds, and while the 6-foot-8 forward is still plenty big, he not all the burly bear who led the Jackets in rebounding last season (7.0 per game) in his first season at Tech.
The former Wheeler High School standout wants to make his final college season memorable, and he’s counting on his 6-8, 260-pound buddy from South Atlanta High to help.
“We’re best friends off the court so it automatically clicks,” Mitchell said of Jacobs, who sat out last season. “Having somebody that plays [center] that you grew up around in Atlanta, somebody that you’ve been friends with for a long time, the chemistry is already there.”
Mitchell, who was Tech’s second leading scorer (9.8) behind senior swing man Marcus Georges-Hunt (13.6), and Jacobs – who averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 rebounds as a junior at Alabama before leaving the team – will form a new combination for the Jackets, but they’ve played together before.
The Jackets will have three brand new players, although two are old hands.
Like Mitchell and Jacobs, Smith and White have come home.
They’re both from the south Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro. Smith graduated from Virginia Tech and White from Arkansas-Little Rock.
Fans won’t have as much to compare them against, although Smith faced the Jackets in ACC action for three seasons before coming to the Flats in the summer.
Mitchell and Jacobs have been around a while, but look different.
“One of the things that we assessed was that certain guys obviously needed to gain strength and weight, primarily the younger guys, and some guys needed to get in better condition,” Gregory said. “Charles has lost approximately 23 pounds and is down an incredible amount in terms of percentage of body fat.
“Our conditioning is going to be a big key for us. Also, I say that it’s not just the weight that’s lost. The weight is a by-product of becoming more disciplined and becoming more committed to what you need to do in order to be successful.”
Mitchell is sounding the right chords, and playing more like a cat than a bear.
“I wanted to get my body bigger, stronger faster. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m happy,” he said. “I’m running the floor more, I’m not getting out of breath, I’m playing defense more and rebounding out of my area . . . It’s amazing.
“This is my last year, and I want to leave a legacy. I’m giving it all I’ve got. It’s not just that we tried, we did.”
White, whom Gregory said is, “our best athlete by far,” Ben Lammers (6-10), sophomore Abdoulaye Gueye (6-9) Ogbonda and will add different skill sets to Tech’s post play. Lammers is a high-post option with passing and shooting tools.
Mitchell and Jacobs have slimmed down, but they’ll be the most physical.
Jacobs averaged 23.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in Tech’s final two games during a summer trip to the Bahamas. He may be the most active Jacket around the glass, and Gregory is counting on him to become more consistent as a rebounder.
“In the last game, he had 31 points in twenty minutes of play,” Gregory said. “He gives us a bonafide low-post scorer, and he’s got great size and strength. The red shirt year helped him in terms of his transition into how we do things.”
“He’s going to be counted on, and he needs to be a dependable force for us both offensively and defensively.”
Jacobs, who is left-handed, came to Tech weighing about 270 pounds or 10 more than he weighs now.
“I’ve been working on my body. I’ve put in the work . . . running, getting in shape,” he said. “I shed almost 15 pounds, and put on a little more weight but good weight. I’ve worked on my right hand a little bit.”
The Jackets are ready to go.
“I think we’re in really good position to start practice,” Gregory said. “We’re excited to get going.”