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Georgia Tech Men's Basketball Preview

I know, I know, why in the world would I write an article about basketball when we are in the midst of an ACC football championship run?  Well, for one, I love basketball just as much as football and I especially love Georgia Tech basketball.  I also wanted to catch everyone up on the team because there have been many changes and I’m very excited for the future of this team.  Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be just as excited as I am.

Click the jump and let the excitement begin!

Georgia Tech men’s basketball has been a roller-coaster affair for most of us over the last decade.  We’ve seen some of the highest highs when in 2004, Paul Hewitt took a team full of non-stars but were perfectly matched to each other to the national title game against UCONN leaving an incredible streak of games in their wake.  Ahh, those were such good times.

We’ve also unfortunately seen some of the lowest lows under Hewitt as well. Since that epic run, Hewitt had a 51.35% winning percentage (114-108) but a horrendous ACC record going 41-71 (36.61%).  Hewitt had a strong ability to recruit top flight talent to Atlanta, but he had no ability whatsoever to coach that talent into a cohesive unit.  After 2005, the offense and defense got progressively worse each year with only the talent of the players seemingly keeping the team above water.  Seasons like 2006 (11-17, 4-12), 2009 (12-19, 2-14), and 2011 (13-18, 5-11) are the worst of those results.

But hey, that’s all over now so let’s talk about the future.  Let’s start with the team.  The Yellow Jackets return 10 players total from last season’s roster, six of which played significant minutes.  Iman Shumpert left for the NBA, Brian Oliver transferred, and Maurice Miller and Lance Storrs graduated.  Glen Rice Jr (JR),Mfon Udofia (JR), Jason Morris (SO), Daniel Miller (SO), Kammeon Holsey (SO), and Nate Hicks (SO) are those returning that will make up the core of the team going forward.  Adding to that core are FR Julian Royal, transfer SO Pierre Jordan and SO Brandon Reed.  As you can easily see, this team is very young.  That youth combined with the coaching and play-style changes should help keep expectations at a moderate level.

Speaking of which, roughly two weeks ago was the ACC Men’s Basketball Media Day, dubbed "Operation Basketball", where GT was picked to finish 10th overall in the ACC.  Neither Coach Gregory nor the players seemed concerned with that and I think that the fan base need not worry as well.

Here’s Coach Gregory’s thoughts:

"In terms of how we're being perceived, I thought the media had a pretty good grasp of where we're at, some of the difficulties that have led to where we are, and they were interested in finding out how we plan to change things"

Meanwhile, Udofia spins the motivational wheel with it:

"We're coming into this season ready to win," said Udofia. "It was more motivation when we heard where we were picked. I told my teammates about it, they got excited about it and it added more fuel to our fire."

"Everybody is excited about the season, and it got me excited. They all wanted to know what it was like to play for [Coach Gregory] and how he's changed things. I told them the same answers all the time. He's a great guy, has a great personality, and that he preaches team first. That's our motto, and that's how we're going to play."

Looking at KenPom’s projections* of 15-13 overall and an ACC record of 7-9, 8th to 10thin the ACC might be just about right.  With as much change as there has been, all of these projections should be taken lightly at the moment.  There are a number of new coaches in the ACC and things could change quickly from week-to-week.

Now, like me, some of you may have put basketball in the deepest darkest corner of your mind lately and not given another thought to who exactly Brian Gregory is.  Sure, there was much discussion about him during the hiring process covering everything from which coaching tree he comes from, his time at Dayton, and how he coaches, but all of those things only go to show what type of coach he is, not really who he is as a person and I think that for many of us, those character traits are of great value to us and to Georgia Tech.  That being said, I’d like to point out an article that was posted on recently regarding two mostly unknown and unused players, Derek Craig and Nick Foreman.

Both Foreman and Craig are Seniors this year and since arriving on the Flats, neither have been scholarship players, which is interesting considering that both had scholarship offers from schools much closer to their home of Texas.  Instead, both players chose Georgia Tech.  Well, that all changed when Brian Gregory arrived and midway through this summer he offered both a scholarship for their final seasons as Yellow Jackets.

Here’s Craig:

"I was just ecstatic," said the 6-foot-4 Craig, who has played 12 minutes for the Jackets while making 3-of-8 shots and grabbing three rebounds. "It felt like a real accomplishment to be a scholarship athlete, a basketball player in the ACC.

"It was a very big deal to me. I called my dad, and he was probably more excited than me because he didn't have to pay any more."

That is a huge gesture that takes class and character from a head coach and I commend Gregory greatly for this deed.  Both of these players showed up and did everything asked of them during their time and now they’ve been rewarded for those efforts.  Another payoff from this is that it gets the coach tremendous buy-in from the existing players on the roster.  I don’t think this gets stressed enough during coaching transitions and that’s why you see some coaches just aren't that successful early on.  You can not come into a new team and think that you can quickly change the players to fit what you want to do with the team and if you don't get that buy-in from your most experienced players, then you most likely aren't going to get it from the youngest players that will make-up the core of your team in the future.  This shows that the coach is going to take care of his players and that even though Hewitt recruited them, they are now truly his players.  It removes any possibility of a divide being created between player and coach.

I love this and right off the bat, Coach Brian Gregory is making me proud that we hired him.  I am fully confident that Gregory will always do things the right way, be it recruiting or coaching, and this is what makes me excited about the future of this team.

Now that we have a coach with a true offensive and defensive system, I’ll have to do some actual research before I can comment on his "shallow triangle".  Hopefully we’ll have more on those soon.  However, a week from now (Nov 11th), we will all get to see first-hand exactly what it is when GT faces Florida A&M at the Arena at Gwinnett.  Keep in mind that it only seats 5,675, so buy those tickets early and fill the Arena out for the good guys.


*SIDE NOTE: will be going to a subscription service by the weekend of Nov 12th.  $20 will get you access to everything, free will get you access to the Overall Ratings and the Blog only.  Just so ya know.