One constant of the Josh Pastner era has been his propensity for playing a very small rotation. Part of that is that he hasn’t much depth in any of his years on the Flats, but part of it seems to be his philosophy. He runs with his best players. This year we haven’t fully seen this happen, in large part because Tech has plenty of players with little experience who run hot and cold. If some of these players show themselves more reliable then we could see the rotation shrink even more. Heading into ACC play (Tech has one more non-conference game against USC Upstate on January 2nd before starting ACC play at home against Wake Forest on the 5th).
James Banks III
These are the three players that Pastner is looking to have on the floor as much as he can, particularly Alvardo and Banks. 5 of the 6 most common Yellow Jackets lineups include thise 3 players (the other doesn’t have Devoe). Alvarado provides a ton of leadership and scrappiness to the team as well as his willingness to take shots when the offense is stalling. Banks provides an occasionally dominant presence down low and a scoring threat. Devoe has a lot of talent (particularly offensively) and has improved a bunch since the season began. All three of these looked locked into the rotation.
The Right Side of the Bubble
Curtis Haywood II
All five of these guys look to play significant minutes in nearly every game. Moses Wright and Khalid Moore are in the starting lineup next to the three players listed above. That being said, Pastner doesn’t seem to differentiate much between the starters and bench players on the wing. Haywood and Alston could certainly play more than Wright or Moore in any given game. These four players look to be in the lineup for now, but if they play poorly for a stretch then they could find themselves losing minutes fast.
Abdoulaye Gueye’s minutes largely depend on how James Banks is playing. If Banks is having a great game, then Gueye will probably see fewer minutes. Pastner is also very aggressive about playing players in foul trouble so even if Banks gets early fouls he may still play over Gueye. It is hard to imagine Gueye losing his minutes unless Banks steps up his play and shows himself capable of playing 35+ minutes a night a la Ben Lammers.
Wrong Side of the Bubble
Shembari Phillips is so far the most disappointing player on the team. The transfer from Tennessee started the season in the starting lineup, but by now seems to be playing only in garbage time. Against in the three game stretch against Gardner-Webb, Arkansas, and Georgia (all games that Tech had a chance to win until very late) he played one minute against Gardner-Webb and had two healthy DNPs against Arkansas and Georgia. When he did play he was a total non-factor on offense and was not a defensive stopper to make up for that. He could still play his way into the lineup, but for right now he is behind several young wings and the experienced Alston.
Evan Cole has barely played in his sophomore season. A large part of that has been a sprained ankle that caused him to miss 5 games, but even when he’s been healthy he has spent most of his time on the bench. He was healthy for the Florida A&M game, but in the next four games he only compiled 14 minutes. I do think he has a better chance than Phillips to make it back into the rotation. With his injury he was out of practices as well which could have contributed to his drop in play time. He also plays power forward which hasn’t been definitively claimed by anyone.
Barring an injury to Banks or Gueye, it is hard to see Ogbonda getting meaningful minutes. He is barely playing even in garbage time. Dang near everybody got 10 minutes in last week’s rout of Kennesaw State, but Ogbonda was just put in for the final 2 minutes.
Kristian Sjolund has actually started getting a few minutes here and there, even in competitive games. He got some minutes in the middle of a competitive game against Georgia when the team needed an offensive boost, but then he only got a few minutes against the Owls. Right now it looks like he is mostly out of the rotation, but Pastner clearly thinks he can be a part of the lineup.