Now we get to what looks like the stronger part of this Yellow Jacket team. The backcourt has three proven players (covered today) and four players who have serious talent and potential to contribute this year (covered tomorrow).
Devoe got the 6th most votes in the Preseason All-ACC voting. This is for good reason. The last two years he’s been a very good offensive player. This year with the departure of Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright he is expected to be handed the reigns to the offense. He’s improved as a player and will now have the opportunity to put up the stats required to make that team. He’s played 35+ minutes per game in both of the last two years and I expect that again this year, even with a crowded backcourt.
He’s shot over 40% from three each of the last two years with a decent amount of those shots off the dribble. That outside shot was key for the team last year, but his ability to create shots will be more important this year. He averaged 15 points last year and with an increased workload he could average 20. One point that may work against him this year is defense. Due to the frontcourt situation I expect Devoe to play small forward basically the whole year and maybe even some small ball power forward. Playing up in size could prove a challenge for him and may even hurt his energy on offense.
There are two things I’d like to see him improve. The first is vision. He looked better last year, but still too often he’d make a drive and only look for the pass once it became obvious he didn’t have a shot. By then the defense would have recovered from the help and Tech would have to reset instead of putting pressure on the defense. The second is consistency, both in his three-point shooting and not letting the defense get in his head. Devoe had a couple of 3 game runs last year where his shot just wasn’t hitting. This team can’t afford that this year. Additionally, certain defenses seemed capable of totally shutting him down. In his two games against Virginia last year Devoe shot just 2-18 for a combined 5 points. This team can’t afford him disappearing at all this year.
I really think that Devoe will be able to step into his new role both in the offense and as a team leader. This should be a big year for him.
Parham came into GT with a reputation as a sniper. He shot 39.7% from deep in his final season at VMI on over 9 attempts per game. His shooting on the Flats has not lived up to expectations. He shot 33% last year which is decent, but not the type of deep threat the Yellow Jackets were hoping for. Parham came back for an extra year to get one more shot at being the offensive dynamo that this team needs.
This year the backcourt becomes even more crowded with talent. There’s a chance that Bubba finds himself struggling to get playtime. We already saw Bubba’s playtime fall as the season went on last year. In the first 11 games of the season he averaged over 27 minutes per game. In the final 10 games it dropped to just 17 minutes per game.
That dropped for two main reasons. The first is that he just wasn’t shooting that well. A sniper shooting 39% is a very valuable player on nearly any team. A sniper shooting 33% is a more marginal player. The second is that Pastner got more comfortable with playing other players like Kyle Sturdivant who were new and didn’t have a full offseason of practices to get integrated. His size is a serious limiting factor in his defensive capability, but the zone mitigates that a little bit.
Early on I think Bubba could see a good amount of playtime just for that reason. Whether he keeps it or not will depend largely on two things. The first is his shooting. If he’s bombing threes it’s hard to justify having him on the bench. If he’s just an average shooter he might see his role fade like last season. The second is contributing something other than deep shooting. He was basically the whole offense at VMI, but hasn’t had much success at Tech in creating shots for himself or for others. Last year he was a pure shooter. He shot twice as many 3-pointers as 2s. He had a super low turnover rate for a guard (9 %) which is the result of him not dribbling much or making incisive passes. This team still has some experienced creators (Devoe and Usher), but there still should be some room for Parham to create.
Kyle reminds me a lot of Jordan Usher. He was a talented Georgia kid who went to USC before transferring back home. Their play in their first season at Tech was similar too. They didn’t lack in confidence, but struggled with their decision making and fitting into the system. Both showed serious potential though if they could fit their games into the system and get more comfortable. Jordan Usher did that and has become a major piece of this team. I think Sturdivant can do that too.
Like all of the newcomers last year he didn’t have much practice with the team for most of the season. That most certainly contributed to his struggles. Defensively he sometimes looked confused on where he was supposed to be and on offense he appeared to lack a connection with teammates, they didn’t understand what he was doing and where they should be.
I think that changes this year. He showed some ability to drive and finish at the rim. I think he gets more chances to do this year. He could potentially be the primary ball handler on this team which should give him more chances at assists. If his long range shooting was for real (and not a small sample size fluke) that could drag defenders farther out towards the perimeter and open up more opportunities for him off the dribble.
I think Sturdivant takes a big step forward and is an average starting ACC point guard.