Countdown to Tipoff: 43 Days
While often going unnoticed, the role of walk-ons in a college basketball program cannot be overstated enough. They provide bodies to practice against, motivate their teammates to work hard on and off the court, and are often the first guys on their feet when the team needs a boost. Head coach Josh Pastner knows first hand how important the role of the walk ons is, given that he was one himself at Arizona. That may have been one of the motivating factors for Pastner awarding Rand Rowland, who wants to be a college coach himself, a scholarship last year for his final semester. Rowland has now graduated, along with other fan favorites such as Brooks Doyle and Aaron Peek, but a new group of walk ons has entered the mix, bringing a ton of pedigree to the flats with them.
First on the list is Evan Jester. Despite having numerous offers from Division II schools and even a couple low Division I schools, Jester chose to attend Georgia Tech as a non-scholarship player. During his senior season at nearby Sandy Creek HS, the 6-6 wing averaged nearly 20 ppg and 10 rpg, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. As a two year captain with an academic record like his, there is no question Jester will be a positive influence in the locker room. Whenever you can get a non-scholarship player who had an opportunity to be on scholarship elsewhere, you know you’re getting a talented individual with a strong desire to work, both on and off the court.
Next up is point guard Jon Brown, who somehow might have received even more college interest than Jester. According to his RamblinWreck profile, Brown held offers from numerous Division I schools including Saint Louis, Tulane, and Columbia. What ultimately may have sealed the deal for Tech? He’s the nephew to one of the greatest to wear the white and gold, Kenny Anderson! Not impressed enough yet? Brown started his own sneaker business and co-authored a book with his brother. If that doesn’t convince you he has a crazy work ethic, then I’m not sure what will. He certainly is another welcome addition to the team.
Also joining the Jackets is a 6-8 big man, who recently represented Japan at the U19 World Cup in Egypt. Avi Schafer, who just started playing basketball a few years ago, played alongside fellow freshman Curtis Haywood at Brewster Academy, where together they went 33-0, winning the national prep championship. For someone who has only played basketball for a few years, Schafer has a pretty impressive resume, competing both at the prep level and international level against some of the top players in the world for his age group.
Last is point guard Malachi Rice, who comes from a private school in Indiana, where he earned all-conference as a senior. During that senior season, he averaged nearly 12 points per game, leading his team to the conference championship game. Active in the community, Malachi is a Tech guy through and through and like all the walk-ons, there is no question about the work ethic he will bring every time he steps on the court.
While it’s rare to see a walk-on earn any significant playing time, with a group this talented it is not out of the realm of possibility. Even if it never happens, this talented group will surely be major pieces to the Jackets success next season and will be working tirelessly to make everyone on the team better. While not as well known as others on the roster, the Jackets success this year will be in large part due to these four players!
What are your thoughts on the incoming group? Let us know below!