By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- The holiday probably came at a good time for Georgia Tech’s basketball team, even with all the noise that can accompany the season, because the Yellow Jackets have experienced nothing like a Christmas vacation unless you count the movie.
Surely, they needed a break, no matter what Josh Okogie said.
This team can be better than its record, and a re-set was needed because the Yellow Jackets have been scrambled by noise of unusual sorts.
So, after the Jackets (5-6) fell 85-81 to Wright State on Friday night, they went into a two-plus day break before practicing on Christmas evening to start getting ready for Wednesday’s game against Coppin State (0-13), the last game before opening ACC play Saturday at Notre Dame (10-3).
It was not a surprise after the last game that Okogie did not look forward to time off; after all, he missed the first eight games of the season and is chomping to compete.
“No, I want to keep playing,” he said after scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds. “We’ve got to find a way to win. Break doesn’t do nothing for us right now.”
That was a competitor talking.
Okogie has averaged 20.3 points in his three games back, but even he has been off-kilter. His defense has been random, and Tech head coach Josh Pastner on Friday lamented his sophomore guard dropping his head after missing a shot only to get blown by as an opponent raced to the other end for a layup.
This team is pressing, wondering, scratching heads. The third part of these student-athletes needed a break. The Jackets’ human sides were due de-compression.
Christmas came at a good time, because it’s a good bet that if the calendar weren’t where it was, Tech would’ve been right back on the practice court Saturday morning, and maybe again Saturday evening.
The Jackets have fought through so much noise with suspensions, injuries, and surprising losses that disbanding for 48 hours or so was good.
“I did not see this coming,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “I did not think we’d be 5-6. I thought we’d be 9-2 at worst right now. I thought we were going to come in and roll. We’re a wounded animal right now, and I say that mentally and physically.”
So, Tech players and coaches scattered.
Here’s betting they’ll be better for it, and hoping that time spent with family and Santa Clause helped the Jackets clear cobwebs.
They still believe that some of last season’s magic is out there for them.
Ben Lammers’ bum ankle probably benefitted from a little more down time, and perhaps the Jackets did as well. Hopefully, freshman guard Curtis Haywood II will return to action after missing three games with an injured shin.
“I promise you we’re going to be fine,” freshman point guard Jose Alvarado said in the aftermath of Friday’s game.
“The good thing is we’re going into the ACC after Coppin State ... and we’ll be way underneath the radar [like last season],” Pastner said. “No one will be expecting us, so we can sneak up on people again, I guess.
“I still believe in this team. The great thing about the ACC is we’ll still have a lot of great opportunities ahead of us once we get through Coppin State.”
It may be debatable whether Georgia Tech will again be looked down upon like last year, but Okogie is counting on good times coming.
He could hardly wait to get back to work.
“I feel like every season has its own story. Last year we had the kind of story where we were able to sneak up on people. With our success last year, teams are not kind of counting us out this year,” he said. “Sometimes stories have ugly beginnings and happy endings, and that’s what this is going to be.”