Nov. 26, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– Quinton Stephens hasn’t been doing what you’d expect him to do, and that cost him some playing time. He’s doing more than Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner might have expected, though, and for those reasons he’ll be in the middle of everything tonight when the Yellow Jackets play Tulane.
The 6-foot-9 forward from the Marist School hasn’t found his shot yet. He’s always been a streaky shooter, but hasn’t gone hot in four games while shooting a modest 27 percent (10-of-37). His long ball has been nearly AWOL, as he’s made 4-of-18 (22.2 percent).
Stephens, though, is bringing more to the court.
After scoring 10 points and tying his career high with 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s 81-73 win over Sam Houston State, he’s the Jackets’ fourth-leading scorer (10.0), second-leading rebounder (6.8) and he leads Tech (3-1) with five steals. He had four in that game.
“When he’s playing like that in terms of the way he’s on the glass and hustling and stuff like that, I can play him through those times when he’s not making shots, because he’s doing other things,” Pastner said. “He’s having a good floor game outside of shooting, so I can let him play through that stuff.”
Stephens isn’t dwelling on his shot. His goal in his final year with the Jackets is to win, and there are myriad ways he can help.
He and fellow seniors Corey Heyward and Josh Heath – who is expected to see action tonight for the first time after serving a four-game suspension for violating team rules – task themselves with bringing energy.
That mission was accomplished early Tuesday, when the Jackets ran to a 40-20 halftime lead.
The second half was another story, as Sam Houston State scored 53 points and twice cut the Tech lead to seven points late. Stephens was more concerned with the Jackets’sagging than his shot.
“I think it was a little stale. We have to take it upon ourselves to set a standard,” he said. “It’s just a mindset.”
Stephens has changed his mind, or at least his game.
A shooter above all else upon arriving at Tech, he’s thicker and more physical than ever.
With career averages of 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds entering this season, he’s doing much more of both even without his shot falling the way he’d like.
Now nearly 200 pounds, Stephens plays at times more like a power forward than a stretch. That’s earning him many more trips to the free throw line.
He’s made 16-of-21 (76.2 percent) through four games. Previously, he went to the line 16, 19 and 30 times in each of his first three seasons.
Against Sam Houston State, Stephens made 2-of-5 3-pointers, yet just 3-of-11 shots overall.
He kept playing, though, in part because Pastner learned something of a lesson in the previous game when he benched Stephens for a stretch in the second half against Ohio University.
“Q” can play some defense, and his long arms work to Tech’s advantage.
Stuck in a 1-of-9 shooting night, he played a modest 28 minutes. While he was out, Ohio senior forward Kenny Kaminski warmed up, and scored all 15 of his points in the second half on 3-pointers as the Bobcats rallied to win.
“Going back to Quinton in the Ohio game . . . he wasn’t making some shots, but I subbed him out in that second half in that stretch, and he did such a good job on Kaminsky,” Pastner said. “When I stubbed him out, Kaminsky got hot.”
Stephens finds ways to help. His five blocked shots are tied with Josh Okogie for second on the team behind Ben Lammers’ 24, and his average of 3.3 assists per game is second on the team to point guard Justin Moore’s 5.0.
“Looking back on it, I should have just let him play through his misses [against Ohio], which I did [Tuesday] night,” Pastner said. “He kept a good floor game, and that was a good opportunity for us to help up get the win.”