Today we continue with the preview of the front court with Rodney Howard, Saba Gigiberia, and Jordan Usher. I’ll start with with the experienced Usher.
Jordan Usher really came into his own last year. He got comfortable in Josh Pastner’s system and made some great strides. He became a fantastic role player, making cuts, getting opportunity buckets, and making things happen on defense. When the team needed he often was able to create his own basket.
This year Georgia Tech is going to rely much more on Usher. He’s easily the second best (proven) scorer on this squad and is going to need to be a creator for this team. Defensively he’s going to be in a tough position without Moses Wright on the team. Usher was fantastic at forcing turnovers last year while avoiding fouls. Now he may be tasked with playing some big men which would afford him fewer opportunities for a steal.
Last year Usher wasn’t afraid to take the outside shot, although he wasn’t very good at them. If his outside shot that would help Tech’s offense a lot with spacing which is critical for the small ball lineup that GT will certainly run a lot of this year.
I think Usher has huge potential to take another step forward and challenge for a spot on the All-ACC Teams. He is certainly expected to help fill some of the missing production from Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado.
How Rodney Howard plays and progresses this year could decide how this Tech team does. Rodney is the only center with any real college playing time under his belt. If he can step up and be a solid center, that would leave the team with a ton of flexibility and a lineup that is solid from top to bottom (at least in the starting lineup). If he doesn’t improve, that will leave Tech with a massive hole in the frontcourt. The team would be playing all year trying to find a workaround in the middle and against opponents with size.
Howard played backup minutes last year. My impression of him defensively was that he was ok. He could handle himself against big men, but isn’t going to be able to switch onto the perimeter that well and hasn’t been exceptional guarding the rim.
The real problems have been on offense. He was basically a non-factor there last year. Only 11.6% of possessions with him on the court ended up with him. That’s very low. He’s got to be able to provide at least some cursory offensive game even if it’s just putbacks and putting himself in positions to get a basket when the defense helps on the drive.
Georgia Tech has been good at developing big men and Howard plays hard so I have some optimism he’ll be able to be more than just a bench guy getting sporadic minutes. If he is in the starting lineup on opening day then that’s a good sign.
Saba came into Georgia Tech with fairly high expectations. He was a highly rated big man who has some serious size (7-footer with long arms), had some skill on offense to work with, and was working on a deep shot. The knock on him was that he wasn’t that comfortable in real games and lacked a good game feel. That showed last year in his limited minutes. He looked uncomfortable on the floor and didn’t show much in his limited minutes. The one game that he got real run was his 10 minutes against Delaware State. Saba went 1-6.
I am not counting Gigiberia out. Last year was super difficult for freshmen with Covid severely limiting practice. For a player whose biggest negative was that he wasn’t comfortable on the court, that was a major issue. With a full off-season of work in Pastner’s system and with Eric Reveno. He could come into the season ready of the pace and physicality of top-level college basketball. If he does, there’s plenty of minutes up in the air. That would be a major boost to this team.