Q on @GTJoshPastner
— GT Men's Basketball (@GTMBB) October 26, 2016
2015-16 Georgia Tech record: 21-15 (8-10 ACC)
Head coach Brian Gregory is gone and so are most of last year’s top contributors from a team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT last season. Marcus Georges-Hunt, Adam Smith, Charles Mitchell, and Nick Jacobs all graduated and with them goes 52.3 points and 21.2 rebounds per game.
In comes new head coach Josh Pastner who posted a 167–73 overall record during his time at Memphis. He’s tasked with a considerable rebuilding job in Atlanta, one that is a considerable challenge.
“I believe in attacking. I believe in creating gaps and having great spacing,” Pastner told the press.
“I want us to play with great pace and play fast and play downhill and play in attack mode. Maybe for our personnel this year is maybe not the best thing for it, but how we want to establish our culture and what we want to do, we need to do that this year.”
There are some players returning, but none of them were major contributors. Senior forward Quinton Stephens averaged 5 points per game last year and is the team’s leading returning scorer. Guards Tadric Jackson and Josh Heath also return, as well as center Ben Lammers. All will need to step up their games significantly.
Stephens has been tasked with being a leader on a team that will need it with so many newcomers.
“We were excited when the freshmen and the grad students joined us,” Stephens said. “So I’d say the experience is mainly understanding that everyone has their own personality, and I have to build that trust with each individual. That’s been new for me.”
Given the longterm rebuilding project and the dearth of proven talent on the roster, Pastner chose to augment things on the transfer market with two graduate players in Kellen McCormick and Jodan Price.
McCormick shot 42% from outside during three seasons at Western Michigan while Price started 10 games over two seasons at Eastern Michigan.
While not a transfer, 6’10” freshman Sylvester Ogbonda took a redshirt last season for Georgia Tech and will have to be a factor on the hardwood during this campaign. He was rated as a three-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and has the potential to be an under-the-radar contributor this year.
The Yellow Jackets have four freshmen with potential, but it may take some time to develop. 6’4″ guard Justin Moore doesn’t have an ACC body yet at just 167 pounds, but fellow guard Josh Okogie looks ready to contribute now. Okogie was a top-150 player nationally for Rivals.com and it’s clear that Josh Pastner is going to highly value talented guards.
Christian Matthews is another thin freshman at 6’7″, 205 but his length will help on the defensive end. He was rated a top-150 player by 247sports.com.
The schedule isn’t very favorable and it starts with a tough non-conference slate. From November 29 through December 7 the Yellow Jackets travels to Penn State, Tennessee, and VCU. They later take on 20-game winner Georgia at home.
In conference play, they have two games apiece against Syracuse and Notre Dame. Tech begins conference play with a brutal stretch against North Carolina, at Duke, then Louisville at home.
Everyone knows this is going to be a rough season and a longterm project, and while it’s unclear if Josh Pastner is the right coach for such a daunting task, things aren’t quite as bleak as they may appear.
The Yellow Jackets play in the gleaming McCamish Pavilion in downtown Atlanta. The program has a rich tradition and plays in the best conference in the nation. Those are tremendous recruiting tools, and Pastner has already used them to secure a commitment from talented New York City point guard Jose Alvarado for the class of 2017.
“It’s going to take some time,” Pastner said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do it like Coach [Bobby] Cremins did it, but to have some of that success that he had, in time, I believe we can get there.”
Patience will be the key, but for this season at least you can expect Georgia Tech to remain in the ACC basement.