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#TGW: The Iron Five

Feb. 3, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

There has been and is so much going on with Georgia Tech’s basketball team that it is difficult to know where to begin the process of delivering an update, and that is somewhat like the way Ron Wamer felt before playing Saturday at Wake Forest.

He recalled Monday that he was in a bit of a daze at Wake, where Wamer became the second Tech walk-on to play meaningful minutes in the past two games because injuries have so wracked the Yellow Jackets.

Tech’s “Iron Five”– comprised of walk-ons Wamer, Brooks Doyle, Aaron Peek, Rand Rowland and Colin Gurry — is getting some burn. Doyle saw action last Wednesday against North Carolina.

Don’t be shocked if one of them gets a nod tonight when the Jackets (12-10, 3-6 ACC) play tonight at Clemson (14-6, 5-3).

Head coach Brian Gregory had eight scholarship players available at Wake, and soon after starting point guard Trae Golden was lost in the first half to a groin pull, Wamer – a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard who was cut as a freshman – got a tap on the shoulder.

He was nervous. His heart was racing. And he didn’t remember much of what happened in the early moments after he entered the game.

“Sweaty palms and everything,” Wamer said. “[Teammates] were definitely excited for me. They actually made me more nervous. I was calming myself down as the time was getting closer, and they’re patting me on the back, saying, `Let’s go. You got this.’ “I honestly did not even know I had a rebound. I went back and looked at the stats, and said, `When did I get a rebound?’ Those two minutes were nerve-wracking.”

Wamer also played in the second half of the Jackets’ impressive 79-70 win at Wake, where the Demon Deacons were 12-1 prior to Saturday with a loss only to No. 1 Syracuse. He logged five minutes and scored two points on free throws.

Those five minutes were critical as the Jackets are so thin.

# Guard Travis Jorgenson was lost early in the season to a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament.

# Guard Solomon Poole was dismissed from the team recently for, “conduct and accountability issues,” Gregory said, and had not played since Jan. 7 at Duke.

# Swing man Jason Morris had surgery Monday on his broken foot.

# Forward Robert Carter Jr. missed his ninth straight ACC game at Wake, and may play tonight at Clemson for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery last month to repair/remove damaged knee cartilage.

Add to all that Golden’s injury, Marcus Georges-Hunt and Quinton Stephens fouling out, and Kam Holsey fighting foul trouble and it was difficult at times to recognize who was playing what. Before Georges-Hunt finished with 23 points, he spent time at power forward.

“I’ll be honest with you, I could never have fathomed at the beginning of the year in terms of who was out there, and combinations and so forth, but it’s amazing when a group of guys are together and I think these guys have proven that over the past month or so,” Gregory said.

Fans in McCamish Pavilion get amped up at the sight of a walk-on entering home games, and players likewise get excited for their less heralded teammates when opportunities arise. It’s like a morale boost for the entire team.

“I don’t think one guy worried about it with him,” the coach said. “The guys were fired up. It does kind of give you a lift because it kind of confirms what we’re talking about; you just keep working hard and keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and when you get an opportunity you’re ready for it and you make the most of it.

“Those guys, the, `Iron Five,’ with the work they put in . . . they improve tremendously as players.”

Doyle, who also played Jan. 14 against Pitt, said that all the injuries and personnel issues the Jackets have endured have helped them bond. A walk-on himself, he was among those excited to see Wamer get the nod Saturday.

“Absolutely. When we get in there and contribute, I think it’s good to see. It’s kind of motivating for the other guys,” Doyle said. “With injury comes opportunity. I think Ron and I have done well enough to hold our own.

“You have to come together because we’ve had major, key players missing. Without those guys, we’ve had to be even more united to get the job done.”

By the time Wamer got his second call at Wake, playing had become old hat.

He said, “When they called my name in the second half, I was like, `This is real; I’ve already been in so I know what it’s like. Time to produce.’ “

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