As has been well-documented, Georgia Tech had a season better than anyone could have anticipated under first-year head coach Josh Pastner. The Yellow Jackets got many contributions nobody would have expected at the beginning if the season, so we wanted to recognize some of those and give out some postseason awards.
Game of the Year: North Carolina
Before we get to the individual awards, I waned to recognize the best accomplishment of the team this year. With wins over North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame and Syracuse, this could have gone a number of different ways. But, I don’t think any of those wins were as surprising as the effort the Yellow Jackets put forth in Josh Pastner’s first ACC game.
As you may recall, Georgia Tech was also playing a football game - sup, Kentucky - at the same time of this basketball game which we all expected to be a blowout. But as the Jackets defeated yet another SEC opponent on the football field, phones around Atlanta started buzzing with messages that the Tech basketball team was leading North Carolina in the second half.
And lo and behold, Josh Pastner’s squad would scrap and claw to beat the eventual national champions and start 1-0 in the ACC.
Most Improved Player: Ben Lammers
This is a no-brainer. Coming into the season, I don’t think any fans knew what the Jackets had in Ben Lammers. But by season’s end, he had turned himself into Georgia Tech’s offensive focal point, as well as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and one of the nation’s most prolific shot blockers.
In the 2015-16 season, Lammers averaged just 3.6 PPG and 4.0 RPG, scoring in double figures only twice.
This year, Lammers averaged 14.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG, as well as 3.4 blocks per game. Lammers also shot 51.6% from the floor and recorded 16 double-doubles on the season.
Rookie of the Year: Josh Okogie
“Goat-kogie,” as he would come to be affectionately known - at least by the FTRS staff - was a revelation and a crucial part of Georgia Tech’s success in his freshman season. Josh Okogie was not a largely heralded recruit. His only other Power 5 offers were to Tennessee and Kansas State, and Okogie nearly went to Knoxville to play with his AAU teammate Grant Williams. But Josh Pastner convinced Okogie to stay with the Yellow Jackets, and we’re all glad that was the case.
As a freshman, Okogie averaged 16.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Okogie also came up big when the Jackets needed him most, scoring 35 points in a win over #6 Florida State and 25 in Tech’s win over #9 North Carolina. He also set the Georgia Tech freshman scoring record with 38 points against Tulane.
Okogie’s contributions were a critical part of Georgia Tech’s success last season and he has a very bright future.
Sixth Man of the Year: Tadric Jackson
While one team can only have one sixth man, Tadric Jackson’s contributions off the bench last year deserve recognition. While many would have anticipated Jackson to be in the starting lineup before the season, he developed into a spark plug off the bench for the Jackets.
Jackson averaged 12.1 PPG, scoring in double figures 23 times on the year. His season-high 29 points came in Tech’s win over Boston College, and he also added 25 points in the Jackets’ win against #14 Notre Dame.
Some issues plagued Jackson’s relationship with Josh Pastner at the beginning of the season, but Coach Pastner eventually got Jackson to play to the level of which he knew he was capable and it was a huge help for the Yellow Jackets.
Most Valuable Player: Ben Lammers
Josh Okogie made this one difficult, but this team went as Ben Lammers went. After playing a combined 646 minutes in his freshman and sophomore years, Lammers played more than 1300 minutes last season. Josh Pastner’s offense ran through the big man and he was the defensive stopper for the Jackets in the middle.
Lammers’s play was the story for Georgia Tech all season, and if he can improve even marginally before his senior year, the Jackets could have something special in 2018.