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50 Days to Tipoff: Player Previews - Curtis Haywood and Evan Cole

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The newcomers could carve out roles in the rotation right out of the gate

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The men’s basketball season preview series continues with a look at two of the members of Tech’s 2017 freshman class. Neither was a very highly-touted recruit, but both are intriguing prospects on film and each of them will get an opportunity to contribute in the 2017-18 campaign.

Curtis Haywood II

Height/Weight: 6-5, 198

Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK (Mustang HS; played senior year at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH)

247Sports Composite Rating: Three-star (0.8636)

The second player to commit to Tech in the 2017 class, Haywood is a welcome addition to a wing rotation that has limited depth behind sophomore Josh Okogie and senior Tadric Jackson. The Oklahoma native visited Tech in December and committed three days later, choosing Josh Pastner’s program over offers from SMU, Texas Tech, Western Kentucky, and a few other mid-major schools, and he had reported interest from Missouri, Texas, and Wichita State, according to 247Sports.

Haywood’s biggest strength is his shooting ability. His form is already strong—he has a very fluid and consistent shooting motion and a high release point, and when he’s locked in, he can’t miss. Here’s a brief clip of him hitting several threes in rapid succession during a high school game. His film also shows an ability to drive to the basket, and he has great length for his size, which enables him to guard bigger opponents more effectively and to snag more rebounds on both ends. While his biggest asset will be his play on the perimeter, Haywood could easily emerge as a well-rounded player for the Jackets.

Outside shooting was a major weakness for the Jackets in the 2016-17 campaign. Most of the team’s three-point attempts came from Jackson and the departed Quinton Stephens, and the duo combined to shoot just 31.9 percent on those attempts. The team as a whole shot 32.9 percent from beyond the arc, which was last in the ACC by a large margin. Haywood will be battling graduate transfer Brandon Alston for playing time as a reserve wing, but if the freshman proves to be a reliable outside shooter at the collegiate level, he could easily carve out a spot in the rotation on a team that needs that sort of range badly.

(One interesting addendum: one of Haywood’s teammates at Brewster Academy last year, forward Avi Schafer, joined Tech as a walk-on this offseason.)

Evan Cole

Height/Weight: 6-9, 211

Hometown: Cumming, GA (South Forsyth HS)

247Sports Composite Rating: Three-star (0.8274)

The lone Georgia native in Tech’s 2017 class, Cole became the fourth and final freshman to commit to Tech when he announced his commitment in early March. He had previously signed a letter of intent with defending Colonial Athletic Association champ UNC-Wilmington, but after their coach (Kevin Keatts) left for the head coaching job at NC State, Cole requested and was granted a release from his LOI. According to 247Sports, he received offers from several high-major programs after re-opening his recruitment—including Clemson, Vanderbilt, and NC State, where Keatts had ended up—but in the end, the Metro Atlanta product chose to remain close to home.

Cole is raw in some ways as a prospect, but his athleticism shines through in his film. He can do a little bit of everything: fly down the court and throw down a dunk, swat away an opposing player’s layup attempt, and hit a long jumper from outside. That last one is particularly interesting—he seems to have an uncanny long-range shooting ability for a player of his size and build. The big thing that’s missing is film of Cole working in the post; even in a larger sample, he spends much of his time on the offensive end on the perimeter, leaving the post to the team’s center. The combination of great offensive talent and post play being a question mark would seem to suggest that Cole could find a home as a stretch four.

Frontcourt depth behind center Ben Lammers was a major issue a year ago, with Abdoulaye Gueye dealing with on-and-off injuries and Sylvester Ogbonda struggling to play consistently well in his rookie campaign. Those two are back and are the favorites to fill out the frontcourt rotation, so if they stay healthy, it’s unlikely that Cole makes a major impact as a freshman. That said, he will be given every opportunity to work his way into the rotation, and since Stephens is gone, it’s possible that Cole takes on a similar role: a forward who stretches opponents defensively but can step inside on either end when needed. It might take time, but he has the raw talent to be a useful contributor for this team.