After what amounted to a rebuilding year in 2011-2012, on several levels, Georgia Tech is ready to open the new season with a new home, a new roster, and a new attitude.
Coming off a 11-20 season (4-12 in the ACC), Tech is looking to be a more competitive force in the ACC and have Jacket fans thinking of postseason basketball again. Coach Brian Gregory landed the 16th best recruiting class in the nation (according to Rivals) in 2012 featuring 4 players from the state of Georgia. In addition, Tech will get Kentucky transfer Stacey Poole at the start of 2013 to bolster a much deeper squad for the 2012-2013 season. A summary of the personnel changes are summarized here...
Newcomers - Stacey Poole (SG, transfer), Robert Carter (C-PF), Marcus Georges-Hunt (SF), Chris Bolden (SG), Corey Heyward (PG)
Who's Gone - Nick Foreman (SG, graduated), Derek Craig (PG, graduated), Nate Hicks (C, transfer), Glen Rice, Jr. (SF, transfer - THANK GOD)
After spending this past season shuttling between campus and either Philips Arena or Arena at Gwinnett Place (in front of hundreds on some nights), Georgia Tech opens the new, plush 8,600 seat McCamish Pavilion on campus. Whether you still call it The Tit, the Thriller Dome, AMC^2, or (as I call it) the place I graduated from...this new arena is nice! And...it sold out days ahead of the season opener this Friday night against the Tulane Green Wave.
It isn't difficult to explain Tech's overall record last year (11-20)...the Jackets were flat-out lousy on the offensive side of the ball. With GRJ out for 10 games last season (suspended, injured, or arrested), the scoring was picked up by Mfon Udofia on the outside and Daniel Miller in the inside. But let's be honest...CPH's departure (along with the early departures of Derrick Favors, Iman Shumpert, and Brian Oliver within a 12-month span) left a fairly large talent gap that Tech was ill-equipped to overcome. Out of 338 Div I teams, here's where Tech ranked statistically in some significant categories...
60.2 points/game (313th)
11.0 assist/game (302nd)
.76 assist-to-turnover (A/T) ratio (300th)
65.4% FT% (281st)
30.2% 3-pt% (259th)
14.0 turnovers/game (243rd)
However, offense is about talent, and that you can replenish. Defense is about effort and that must be culturally ingrained...and this is where CBG and Tech surely didn't disappoint. Some encouraging stats that CBG is certainly sure to build on, given his lineage to Coach Tom Izzo's relentless defensive style, was (ranked again out of 338 Div I teams)...
4.9 blocks/game (26th)
40.3% FG% allowed (35th)
62.6 points/game allowed (59th)
Tech scored some terrific upsets last year...winning for the first time in Stegman Coliseum since the 1970's (they played several COFH games in the old Omni in the 1980's - but still) in beating the DWAGS, a thoroughly dominating performance at Raleigh against a good NC State squad, and several close calls mixed in. With good, came some more bad in the form of losses to Tulane, Fordham, Mercer...as well as some absolute beatdowns against some quality squads.
Enter the new season, and you get a feeling that this team is miles apart from a year ago. Tech's revamped roster is almost completely comprised of players from Georgia (the exception being Stacey Poole), which probably hasn't been the case in a long time. But as I mentioned...Georgia has played some terrific HS basketball in the last 5-10 years (Dwight Howard, Derrick Favors, Tony Parker, etc.), and CBG has certainly scored on local talent. Carter, Georges-Hunt, and Bolden should be immediate contributors this season, and have been described as "physically ready" by CBG already. Heyward (son of the late former Falcon Craig "Ironhead" Heyward), unfortunately suffered an ACL tear in summer practice, which will certainly hurt our depth at the point.
Mfon Udofia (6'2" 195) returns for his Senior year as Tech's floor general. As Tech's only competent ball-handler last year, he was relentlessly pressured by opposing defenses, and truthfully more effective as a scorer than as a distributor (A/T of barely 1.0). Watching him play last year, he took incredible strides in breaking down defenses and finding shooters...the shots simply weren't falling. I hope CBG can take advantage of his flexibilty as a scorer and find other players to run the offense through. Pierre Jordan (6'0" 160) also returns for his Senior season. The former transfer from FSU, Jordan was instrumental in helping Tech land their tremendous 2012 class through his father's AAU team. Corey Heyward (6'1" 214) will make his first contributions in 2013.
Tech made significant strides this offseason in shoring up talent at the 2 position. Enter Kentucky transfer Stacey Poole (6'5" 200), a 4-star recruit from 2010 who seemed to get lost in the shuffle and "age out" of John Calipiari's one-and-done machine (he will be a Sophmore this year). Due to transfer rules, he must sit out until January, but will most likely compete for minutes (or more) once Tech gets into ACC play. Chris Bolden (6'3" 209) looks to be the true Freshman that will get the most minutes early on, and has been described by CBG as having a "high basketball IQ" and could possibly be a future defensive stopper. Junior Brandon Reed (6'3" 182), the former transfer from Arkansas State, looks to provide depth and experience. In addition, Tech will have the flexibility to put 3s in at SG because of their athleticism.
So here's where it gets interesting. Tech is all of a sudden loaded at the 3s and 4s with flexibility to play big or small. Junior Jason Morris (6'5" 224) returns and will most likely start the season at SF, but has the shooting ability and experience to log minutes at SG. True Freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt (6'5" 218) has a versatile game and can create his own offense.
Junior Kammeon Holsey (6'8" 231) returns as Tech's consummate effort player at the PF position...wreaking havoc with his aggressiveness in the paint, leading the team in offensive rebounds and FG%. Sophmore Julian Royal (6'8" 243) earned accolades for his effort plays on the court as well, and looks to log increased minutes inside and and take opportunities to face his man up (where his range and touch can play).
Daniel Miller (6'11" 257) returns at the starting Center, and has developed a face-up game (range out to 15-feet) to compliment his post-up arsenal. True Freshman 4-star Robert Carter (6'8" 245) will likely see significant minutes at the 4 and 5 positions, and has tremendous range and passing ability for his size.
Tech will have the ability to effectively go 10-11 deep (when Poole is eligible) with tremendous flexibility and range at several positions. They will be able to go small (with for instance, Carter at the 5) and run the floor. They will be able to go big (Royal, Holsey, Miller or Carter) and exploit inside matchups. And as always, CBG teams will play relentless team defense and challenge everything on the inside.
There's a lot to be excited about with Georgia Tech basketball, and it starts tonight at the new McCamish pavilion against Tulane. On Cremins Court, halftime will feature a roll call of about 170 former players and coaches throughout the previous decades. The biggest cheers might be reserved for the man who put Tech basketball on the map...Coach Bobby Cremins.
Now it's your turn! What are your predictions for Tech basketball this year?