So I am breaking this into two different parts. I want to talk about the scrimmage, obvious changes, and expectations for the season. But, right now we are in a bit of a situation with starting players and the roster that I want to address too. For that, I want to break down the team a bit and walk everyone through the situations. Let's do that first.
Georgia Tech Personnel
There are a few players that I expect to start every single game if they are healthy. These guys have contributed to a lot already and have held their own in competitive ACC play.
#5 Daniel Miller, C (6'11.5", 275lb, r-Sr,)
Daniel ranked 13th in the ACC in Total Rebounds, 2nd in Blocked Shots/Game, and 10th in Offensive Rebound/Game last season. He is one of the top Centers in the ACC and I see his success continuing this season.
As every fan already knows (I really don't want this to turn into a "repeat the obvious" fest), Daniel is really tall. His presence on the court is really important to the Jackets, both offensively and defensively. He has made a HUGE difference in this team on the low block and his leadership during the scrimmage was evident. If the Jackets can continue to feed him and he can establish his position on the offensive and defensive boards, our post play will be a serious threat. Furthermore, the ability to have a beast in the post will open up looks elsewhere on the court. Look for teams to double Daniel often.
#3 Marcus Georges-Hunt, SF (6'5", 219lb, So.)
Marcus was one of the two Jackets invited to try out for the U-19 USA team this year. While he didn't make the final cut, that is quite an accomplishment and very much deserving. Marcus ranked 23rd in the ACC in Total Rebounds season. He is a dual threat SF, with the ability to hold his own in the post and can shoot anywhere on the court.
One of the things that I have realized about Marcus is he doesn't stand out too too much. What I mean is he has raised the bar for himself early and never really falters from that trend. He has always been there when we need him and he is a solid player day in and day out for us. If I remember correctly, he was averaging the most points per game for the majority of the beginning of the season (Stat check has him at 10.8ppg, which led the entire team). He also averages 5 rebounds per game. I'm trying to compare him to someone but I can't think of anything right now... Basically, I don't find myself cursing with his name in the sentence too often. We rely on him every game and he always delivers.
#4 Robert Carter Jr., PF (6'8", 247lb, So.)
Robert is another one of Jackets who tried out for the U-19 USA team. Didn't make it either, but again, impressive. Robert ranked 12th in the ACC in Total Rebounds last season and ended the season 2nd on the team in ppg, with 9.9. He has the mass to really do damage in the post, but also isn't afraid to shoot from outside (we'll talk about whether this is good or not below in a bit).
I really see Robert breaking out this season. From the first moment that I listened to him in a post-game press conference, I could tell he meant business. Never concerned with where the program was going, he always reassured the media that the Jackets were going to do what they needed to in the future. He understands that this is a process and I honestly see him as the glue to this team. His shot selection is questionable at times and he relies heavily on the right handed running hook in the post. I would love for him to square up to the basket and take it to the defense because again, he is stronger than so many opponents who guard him. If he is consistent this season, the Jackets win some of the expected close games.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that three of our key players ranked in the top 25 in the ACC in rebounding. That's very interesting to me. Something that Gregory constantly stressed is actually coming to fruition. While other ACC teams might have 5 solid, nationally known starters who will see NBA stock discussion this season, the fact that Georgia Tech can develop this program in the first three season to where it is deserves acknowledgement.
The next set of players have produced for the Jackets as well. Many even contribute more than the three above and have had some breakout games. However, the fact that they haven't etched their name in the starting lineup quite yet puts these next few players below.
Competing for Starts:
#11 Chris Bolden, SG (6'3", 216lb, So.)
So Chris came on late as a starter for the Jackets, replacing Brandon Reed toward the end of the out of conference schedule. He has great games against Duke, Miami and UNC twice. Think about that, arguably the three best teams last season and Chris scored double digits in all four games. Against Duke he has 20 and Miami he had 21 in the upset win.
The issue is that Chris was suspended for three games at the beginning of the season. He still participated in the scrimmage and I see him being key to the team. With a handful of point guard (will discuss below), I do not know if he will get the starting job every game. However, for ACC play I see Chris starting and seeing significant time. His punishments make me put him on this list, but we will see how things develop this season. Solomon could also play into his starting job (see below).
Point Guard Competition:
#2 Solomon Poole, G (6'0", 190, So.)
Solomon saw significant time last season in the second rotation for PG along with Pierre Jordan. Finishing high school early, he entered the 2012-13 season mid-December with much hype from high school. Unfortunately his lack of understanding of Gregory's offense early on caused him to struggle a bit. Also, while I like his intensity, he has an issue with ball security and gets overly excited at time, leading to poor decision making. This was seen again this weekend at the scrimmage. His type of play leads him to be a better #2 guard in my opinion. I think if he was utilized as such, we would see a better performance.
#10 Travis Jorgenson, G (6'0", 177lb, Fr.)
I did not know much about Jorgenson coming into this scrimmage. I have seen some highlights and have heard that he has become an early favorite for the position, but the fact that he is a freshman holds him back when it comes to running the offense. What I saw was a fundamentally sound, level headed team player that is SO fast. It seems like he doesn't mind not scoring a lot, but rather passing and he had a really good nose for the open man. He has fast hands on defense and saw a few steals in the scrimmage. I think Travis is a contender, especially if Trae doesn't get his NCAA waiver.
#23 Trae Golden, G (6'2", 205lb, Sr)
Trae transferred from the University of Tennessee and is currently waiting on an NCAA waiver which would allow him to skip his one year of ineligibility, being able to play this season. At UT, he averaged over 13 points per game and shot well from the field, 3pt, and charity stripe. He looks like a very strong guy and was very quick. In the scrimmages, he always got to the outside early on a rebound and provided a quick outlet, commonly converting an easy opportunity on the other side. His court IQ is very high and I think he provides something that the Jackets might have been missing last season. I enjoyed watching Mfon play, however Trae has better vision and strength that really helps him.
#30 Corey Heyward, G (6'1", 221, r-Fr.)
Corey was injured last season and is coming back this season healthy. In the scrimmage, he saw significant time running point and I would consider him another contender for the #1 position. While he has seen the offense for a year, he is still untested in ACC or college gameplay which brings a bit of concern. I really enjoy watching Corey play defense- he provides this intensity to the court and really hypes his teammates up on the defensive side of the ball. He seems to be confused at times running the offense and doesn't run the offense as easily as the others.
So where does that leave us? Four competitors for one spot. One of which hasn't been cleared to play and two other that have never stepped foot on a basketball court. If readers stopped right now, they would be ruining the comment section below about "how awful this is" and "how GT is screwed", etc. The thing is, I was concerned until I watched the team this Saturday. This situation is honestly a good thing, potentially better than last year. First off, it creates competition. Secondly, all players are capable of running the offense which gives up options and creates havoc for preparing opponents. So what do I think will happen? Two scenarios:
1.) Trae Golden clears to play. He gets the start for the opener and shares minutes with Travis Jorgenson, 25 minutes to 15 minutes. Solomon switches to #2 and starts the season there. When Chris comes back, he trades time with him and they are played for different situations/defenses. I was going to say that Chris was the better shooter, but that isn't true. Solomon would be a NASTY #2 guard. He can shoot and has the ability to tear defenses apart when driving and passing. Again, the issue is ball security and consistency. I think that the consistency catches up to him, and he either gets better and continues starting, or Chris starts and Solomon comes off the bench for a large amount of time.
2.) Trae doesn't clear. Travis gets the start and rotates with Corey and Solomon. Georgia Tech's first ever PG committee?? We shall see. I have heard of the Jackets running a two PG sort of scheme and think it would be interesting. I will need more time to think about this option.... Interesting.
#24 Kammeon Holsey, F (6'8.5", 234lb, r-Sr.)
Kammeon was the best #6 man in the ACC last year. He saw significant time and was always an important contributor on both ends of the floor. He is a great defender and free throw shooter. At times, he had issues rotating to the middle of the court and taking the ball hard to the rim. This year, look for Gregory to rotate Kam, Robert and Daniel in a three man rotation at the 4 and 5 spot. This is a solid crew, and Kammeon is a vital component to this teams success.
#1 Stacey Poole, Jr. G/F (6'4.5", 199, Jr.)
In my opinion, I think Stacey has the raw talent necessary to be a starter on this team. He has competed at the highest level, transferring after his first season from Kentucky. Highly recruited, this was a big pick up for the Jackets. I don't know what is going on here. He must not be impressing Gregory in practice because he isn't seeing as much playing time as you would expect. Granted, he played minimally at Kentucky. He has an explosive drive and can shoot from behind the arc. If Stacey can be more consistent he will see quality time as well. He needs to be more disciplined, take care of the ball and run the offense rather than doing what he wants to do. Look out for Stacey this season if he gets things in order.
#14 Jason Morris, G/F (6'5.5", 231lb, Sr.)
Jason has been with the program a while. He seems to be a quieter contributor to the team, but he has been clutch in a handful of situations. I think that Jason will continue his supporting role, especially for Marcus Georges-Hunt. He has the ability to compete with the best of the ACC, which is exactly what we need of him. I am really excited about these bench players.
#12 Quinton Stephens, F (6'8", 184, Fr.)
Quinton 6-8, but only 184. Coming into the scrimmage, all I heard was that he can't bump in the post with the big boys. Well, Robert and him were matched up and to be honest, he did just fine. This is very similar to John Henson with UNC. He received flack for being skinny... well if you ask me he's doing pretty well now. Quinton might have the best mid-range jumper on the squad. He can shoot from everywhere (seen in his recruiting videos) and again, he's 6'8". This is an opportunity for Tech to get a dual-threat mismatch in games. I see Quinton seeing limited time at first, but will move into an important role, especially against the right team.
Before I sum this thing up, I want to take time to mention two different people. To save time, I am not going to cover Robert Sampson, the ECU transfer. He can't play this season per NCAA transfer regulations... stay tuned for next season.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge Brooks Doyle, Colin Gurry, Aaron Peek, Rand Rowland, and Ron Wamer. These walk on's have a huge role on the team. Check out the RamblinWreck.com article on the "Iron Five" here. Also, I was really impressed with these guys during the scrimmage. They play great defense, really good defense. I was very impressed.
Alright, so to keep this as short as I can now, I have a few last things to say.
1.) We have a PG committee!! This isn't a bad thing. Healthy competition is good and I am excited. Let me know if you disagree.
2.) The 3 man post rotation of Miller, Carter Jr. and Holsey will really be helpful to keep everyone fresh. They are all capable and are really going to give teams trouble and put points on the board when opponent's starting post players are resting.
3.) Daniel Miller will be a great leader, but this team is full over young leader. Georges-Hunt and Carter Jr. are high caliber players. They are on a different level and you can really tell. Expect these young guys to step into key leadership roles. We are creating a program that will have continuing success, not just one year performance.
4.) Major criticism for this team is that there are a lot of questions to be answered, but I think they will work themselves out by ACC play. They haven't be tried, especially as a team. When you have a PG issue, problems seem much bigger than they really are. Don't fret quite yet Jacket fans!