By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- Amid the summer sounds of basketballs bouncing, shots swishing and sneakers screeching at Georgia Tech, you might think that head coach Josh Pastner is searching for an answer to this question: Will Michael Devoe be a point or shooting guard this fall?
At 6-feet-4 plus and 187 pounds, the sixth player in program history to wear the number 0 looks more like a two -- a shooter. He lean, lithe beyond his weight, yet sounds at first more like a one -- a point.
“I would say I’m a floor general. I make my teammates better. That’s one thing I do care about, making my teammates better, being that leader on the floor, being what coach needs me to be. I do basically everything well. Rebound, assist, score ... I think I’m that complete point guard.”
Numbers support Devoe.
As a junior at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, he averaged 22.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists as his role evolved. As a sophomore, he put up 18.9 points, 6.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds, and, he said, former Jackets assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie “locked in on me from there.”
Tech found a guy who will beat you in a game of Around-The-World.
Transferring to Montverde Academy thinned statistics for his senior season, yet that was by no means bad. The Eagles (35-0) won the GEICO High School Nationals championship in March. And at an international boarding school west of Orlando, Devoe gained college-level experience without being in college.
He was surrounded by studs, playing in China, Hawaii and multiple states as a senior.
"His best utilization is probably being a guy that's featured as your best shooter on the team, a great, great open shooter. If he has his feet set, it's almost automatic."
Montverde Academy head coach Kevin Boyle
In Brooklyn on March 31, Montverde head coach Kevin Boyle coached his squad to a fourth national title in seven years with Gatorade National player of the year R.J. Barrett, a 6-6 guard from Canada, who will play at Duke.
And in addition to Devoe, who scored 21 points with three rebounds and three assists when Montverde beat Davie (Fla.) University School in the national championship game, the Eagles deployed Andrew Nembhard, a 6-4 guard from Canada who led the team in assists and will play at Florida.
After hitting 5 of 7 3-point shots in the championship game at Christ the King High School in Brooklyn, a question may have begun percolating in the heads of Tech fans: Where will Devoe fit with the Yellow Jackets?
He’s ranked among the class of 2018 by Rivals as the No. 43 player nationally and No. 13 at the point guard position, and ranked Nos. 45/9 by 247 Sports.
Plus, Tech returns sophomore point guard Jose Alvarado, a 6-foot Christ the King graduate who started every game last season before dislocating his left elbow against Duke. Alvarado was absolutely a bright spot for the Jackets before his injury.
Boyle has an answer for the question: Devoe is a guard, period.
Forget labels. Never mind whether he’ll be a point, shooting, or third guard -- which the Jackets might deploy with sophomore sharpshooter Curtis Haywood II back from a shin injury and junior Shembari Phillips eligible after transferring from Tennessee. Graduate student Brandon Alston also plays guard and small forward.
Just plan on Devoe playing.
“I think he’s got obviously good size, close to 6-5, and his body will develop physically. I think he’s going to have a really good body for a combo [guard],” Boyle said. “He’s more of a two who could play one, because he’s such a good shooter. He’s capable of playing the one, especially when you play two point guards.
“His best utilization is probably being a guy that’s featured as your best shooter on the team, a great, great open shooter. If he has his feet set, it’s almost automatic.”
Pastner surely will welcome another shooter after the Jackets ranked 346th among NCAA Division I teams last season in 3-pointers made per game (4.875) and 325th in 3-point shooting percentage (31.8).
Alvarado made a team-high 40 treys despite missing the final seven games, and he and fellow rising sophomore Haywood, who missed 17 games, each made 37 percent of their 3-pointers to trail only Josh Okogie (.380) from outside the arc. Okogie was drafted No. 20 by the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves last week.
“Definitely, I’ve played combo guard, I played the two, and whatever coach needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do. One or two, it doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “I think I can play both.
“We feel like we’re going to change the whole program around. We have talked a little bit about what we want to do, but we haven’t really broken down what we’re going to do.”
It’s too early to sweat such details.
Shoot, like Devoe does, he‘s still figuring out what he’s going to do. Listed as an undeclared major, he is favoring business. He played football in middle school, but basketball has been central in his life for as long as he can remember. He’s settled on sport.
“I started playing basketball when I was three. My mom put me in a rec league, and I was playing up with five- and six-year-olds,” Devoe said. “I want to do business management, because a friend and I are starting a clothing line . . . My main focuses are school and basketball. I may play a video game if somebody comes over.”
Nobody should worry if Devoe will fit in with the Jackets.
He’s been there and done that.
In addition to teaming up with Barrett and Nembhard for his senior season, he worked with 6-10 forward Filip Petrusev, a Serbian player who will attend Gonzaga, super guard Trevin Wade, who transferred to Montverde after earning all-state honors last year at South Cobb High, and rising senior Balsa Koprivica, a 7-1 center from Serbia.
Barrett scored the most headlines, yet Devoe found front and center, too.
He scored 11 points in the national semifinal, a 71-53 win over Findlay Prep (Nev.), a few months after hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer as Montverde edged Findlay Prep, 69-67 to win the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament.
Devoe was named MVP of that tournament with 26 points in the title game.
He’s coming from an Ivy League-type basketball training ground.
Montverde turned out Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid (he transferred out of the school because he couldn’t get playing time), DeAngelo Simmons, 7-4 Florida State center Jean-Marc Koumadje, Wake Forest center Doral Moore and more accomplished players.
He has work to do as a defender in particular, yet he’s likely to fit in just fine.
“I think he’s good [defensively], but he needs to get stronger. I think he’s solid guarding the point guard, much better guarding the two,” Boyle said. “He’s not a lock-down, shut-down defender, but he was probably the best shooter in high school basketball in the nation.
“He’s a really good student. He was a transfer and he blended in so great. He’s playful, but in a good way. The kids on the team really, really, liked him. R.J. . . . Andrew . . . they just had such a good chemistry. There were no egos, well, there were egos but with limitations. They were all accepting of each other’s success.”