By Andrew Clausen - Four of the first five home games (Northwestern excluded) on Georgia Tech’s schedule are part of the Ramblin’ Wreck Showcase. Grambling State is the final game of that event, Dec. 1 at McCamish Pavilion. This is the sixth in a series of previews of the Yellow Jackets' non-conference opponents.
Location: Grambling, La.
Conference: Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)
Home arena: Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center (7,600)
2016-17 Record: 16-17 overall, 10-8 in SWAC (t-4th)
Post-Season: Lost in SWAC quarterfinals to No. 1 Texas Southern, 62-57
NCAA Postseason Appearances: Two (Division II); Seven (NAIA); One (NIT)
All-time series record: 1-0, Georgia Tech (1999-2000)
Head coach: Donte Jackson (Entering first season)
Starters returning/lost: 2/3
Top scorer returning: Averyl Ugba (13.2)
Top rebounder returning: Averyl Ugba (10.0)
Quick preview for 2017-18
With first-year head coach Donte Jackson at the helm of Grambling State and junior Nigel Ribeiro and senior Averyl Ugba returning to lead the starters, the Tigers are poised to make one of their best runs in years. After being named Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, Jackson comes to Grambling State in search of his second straight NCAA Tournament berth. He’ll hope to use Ugba’s first-team all-SWAC year as springboard for the other talent as the new-look G-Men hit the court.
Quick recap of 2016-17
The Tigers are coming off of a 16-17 season where they finished tied for fourth in the SWAC after a 10-8 conference. Despite a couple of tough non-conference losses in the schedule, Grambling State was able to string together key league wins, taking five of its last six games to finish in good position for the SWAC tournament – including a key victory over Alabama A&M – where they would fall in the semifinals to eventual-champion Texas Southern.
Leading the G-Men were two seniors in Ervin Mitchell and Remond Brown, who both led the team in scoring with 16.9 points and 14.2 points, respectively. Averyl Ugba led the way on the boards, being the lone Tiger in double-figures for rebounding (10.0).
Greatest Program Accomplishment
In 1961, Grambling State – while part of the NAIA – made its deepest postseason run in program history when it won the whole thing, downing Georgetown (Ky.) in the championship game. Led by Chuck Taylor MVP Charles Hardnett, future basketball legend, and then-freshman, Willis Reed, and coached by Hall of Famee Fredrick Hobdy, the G-Men took a low seeding in the postseason and downed No. 1, 3 and 5 seeds en route to their championship. Four players from that team would go on to be NAIA All-Americans and play professionally — Herschel West, Rex Tippitt, Reed and Hardnett.
Greatest player in program history
Before making a name for himself on the big stage, a young Willis Reed attended Grambling State. A Louisiana native, Reed went on to become not just the greatest player in Grambling State history, but one of the greatest to ever come out of the state of Louisiana. Amassing 2,280 career points in his collegiate career and leading the G-Men to one NAIA title (1961) and three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, Reed finished his career on an unparalleled note, averaging 26.6 points and 21.3 rebounds per game in his senior season.
Taking his talents to the next level and the Big Apple, the 6-9 Reed was selected eighth in the second round in the 1964 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks where his career was defined. While playing in Madison Square Garden, he would be smattered with awards, including two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, 1970 named Most Valuable player, an All-Star selection seven times, and All-NBA second team four times. He has been named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
Place to visit on campus or in the city
Located just over from Grambling is the Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, La., a must-see for residents and tourists alike. Featuring one of the highest rated mountain biking trails in the U.S., its 10-mile trail spans exciting courses for all levels of experience. Also featuring RV and primitive camping options as well as a beach that’s open during the summer, Lincoln Parish Park ends up becoming the center of outdoor activities all year round.