Tech's Big Ticket
Where the big men go will be important to where Tech goes this season
Oct. 13, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
The tales of Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey and Nate Hicks are in early phases, but there is book on all of them. Alas, there is a new author in town who will have plenty to do with where their stories go; in turn, where Miller, Holsey and Hicks go from here will have plenty to do with where new Georgia Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory is able to take his team.
There may have to be some square-peg-in-round-hole stuff to make it work.
These sophomores and freshman forward Julian Royal are Tech's big men. Beginning with the season's first official practice today, they'll make up "the post."
Every Tech man and woman is good at math (right?), so let's crunch some numbers.
Gregory plans to run a four-out, one-in offense, or, "sometimes, five out with one kind of sneaking around in there," the coach said Tuesday.
There's plenty of rumor out there that Tech has just eight or nine scholarship players, but while that's false (11), the composition of the squad might make ya wonder. Guards Derek Craig and Nick Foreman are former walk-ons who've been put on scholarship, and they maywork their way into the rotation this season.
A first-pass look at the other nine more likely to eat minutes (pending the sorting out process in practice over the next month or so) suggests Gregory has five "out" players and four of the "in" variety.
Can both sides of this equation be balanced?
"I think [with] this year's team, our post might have enough versatility where the guys who might be out can also score inside as well," Gregory said. "But there will be times where we will play small as well."
The obvious "outs" look like junior guards Glen Rice Jr. and Mfon Udofia, sophomore guards Jason Morris and transfer Brandon Reed, and graduate student guard Pierre Jordan, who played previously at Florida State.
At times the Jackets may go, "with ... four guys who have played guard their whole lives on the court," Gregory said. "The defensive concepts allow you to do that and the offensive pace and spacing allows you to do that as well. I will say one thing though, we have to score inside. We have to get the ball into the post and score. We have to get easy baskets ... in transition, off the offensive glass and in the post."
Miller, who started every game last season, was chiefly a shot blocker, but has more offensive accumen than Tech fans know. One of the great weaknesses of last year's team was its almost resolute refusal to push the ball through the post. Miller averaged 4.4 points taking just under four shots per game (to go with 5.0 rebounds and 67 blocked shots).
"I think Daniel Miller is poised to have kind of a break-out year," the coach said. "I think Nate Hicks is greatly improved. Kam is healthy as we talked about last week, and Julian Royal brings a skill package in the post that is ... intriguing and exciting to watch and develop."
Miller is eager - although it's impossible to tell in person -- to demonstrate a skill set that makes him more a part of the team rather than, well, a fifth wheel. He will center the defense physically and at times vocally.
"It's about being on the same page with the rest of the team, knowing all the plays, being able to sort of know your part and be there when your teammates need you," he said. "We're working on five guys defending the ball at once. In the post, it was really easy to kind of lay off your guy until he gets the ball, but this year it's going to be a lot different. We're learning a new strategy on defense, shallow triangle. We're still getting accustomed to it."
Meanwhile, whatever the composition ends up being, Gregory's going to need more than rebounds, defense, blocked shots and a few more points out of his bigs. Some of them are going to have to handle the ball more.
That could prove interesting even beyond the post players. Well over half of Tech's points, assists and three-pointers from last season are gone. Iman Shumpert left school early for the NBA, Brian Oliver transferred to Seton Hall and Maurice Miller and Lance Storrs graduated. They all had more assists than turnovers last season.
Of Tech's returning nine scholarship players, only Rice (32 assists, 30 turnovers) and Foreman (six assists, three turnovers) can make that claim.
The three newcomers - the highly-touted Royal, and transfers Reed and Jordan - will handle the ball plenty. Trying to pick a true point guard may be folly; there may not be one although Jordan and Udofia look like prime candidates to be originators.
A lack of size and rebounding could be less a problem if the Jackets shoot `em pretty straight. Last season, they did not. If that's a problem again, rebounding will become more important - and so might the presence of Tech bigs.
"I think we already were and can continue to be a very good offensive rebounding team," Gregory said. "Now, hopefully there won't be as many opportunities as there were in the past."
Feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of a shallow triangle defense (not a triangle-and-two).