ACC Summer Recess: Georgia Tech Yellow JacketsPosted by KCarpenter on July 12th, 2012
Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Georgia Tech.
Where They Stand Now
Last season was a season of transition for Georgia Tech. After the firing of longtime coach Paul Hewitt, Brian Gregory took over a program that had spent the last few years slowly slumping to the bottom of the ACC. As the Yellow Jackets prepared a new home court, his team was left without a true home, forced to make use of Phillips Arena along with a few other venues. A new coach, no home court, and a legitimate talent deficit made it no surprise that Georgia Tech faltered. In a season when their best moments come in December and January, Georgia Tech didn’t have a lot to celebrate as conference play went on. Still, the future seems promising for Georgia Tech: McCammish Pavillion is finally set to open and Gregory will better know what to expect from his team in the second year.
The nice part about having a young team is that you don’t have to worry about losing a lot of players to graduation. The Yellow Jackets will lose Pierre Jordan and Nick Foreman, a pair of back-up guards who each averaged about 10 minutes a game in the past season, but that’s the only toll from graduation. Sophomore big man Nate Hicks has transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University. Hicks didn’t get a lot of playing time in Atlanta, averaging a paltry 7.7 minutes per game. The biggest departure is the dismissal of Glen Rice, Jr., from the team. The troubled swingman was benched at the end of his freshman season by Paul Hewitt and served a pair of suspensions last season under Gregory. He was finally dismissed from the team after a run-in with the law that featured Rice driving under the influence while one of his passengers discharged a gun. Rice was the leading scorer and rebounder for Georgia Tech, but his off-the-court troubles certainly seem serious enough to make his departure seem like the best option for Rice and the team.
Remarkably, Georgia Tech will return all five starters, including rising senior Mfon Udofia, the team’s veteran point guard, second leading scorer, and leader in minutes per game. Surrounded by juniors Kammeon Holsey, Jason Morris, and Brandon Reed, Udofia should feel comfortable running an offense with these familiar pieces. Perhaps more critically, however, the team returns 6’11” Daniel Miller who has quietly been improving into one of the steadier centers in the league. Though his individual statistics aren’t overwhelming, Miller improved dramatically from his freshman season and looks to get more opportunities to show his burgeoning talent this year. There are few players in the league who can match the size and bulk of Miller and a dedicated offseason could turn next year into a break-out season for Miller.
Brian Gregory has done extremely well. Incoming power forward Robert Carter is legitimately one of the most talented big men in this year’s entire freshmen class. In the ACC, only Duke’s Amile Jefferson and North Carolina’s Brice Johnson are in the same ballpark as Carter. While it’s always tough to project how a player will adjust to his freshman year, Carter is the definition of an impact freshman: talented enough to give the Yellow Jackets an immediate lift. Also in this year’s incoming class, Georgia Tech will add four-star swingman Marcus Hunt and three-star shooting guard Chris Bolden, two players who should definitely be able to help a team that often struggled to score. This class also included a point guard in Corey Heyward, but a recent ACL tear in a summer pick-up game means that it will likely be another year before he steps onto the court as Yellow Jacket. The other big get for Georgia Tech comes by way of Lexington. Stacey Poole, a talented swingman who got buried on the perennially stacked Kentucky Wildcat team, transferred to Georgia Tech last spring. Poole was a top-50 recruit in his own class and would likely have gotten plenty of playing time on nearly any other team. At Georgia Tech, he looks to play a big role with the team once he becomes eligible this spring.
Georgia Tech had a rough past season, but given the circumstances, that was pretty much to be expected. Next season, however, the Yellow Jackets are prepared to make folks forget about the recent past. A new home, a settled-in coach and a serious influx of new talent to complement a veteran core means that the program has done everything it can to make things better. Georgia Tech may not be poised to contend for the conference title immediately, but it seems seriously unlikely they will have the worst record in the conference either.