The baskets in the new McCamish Pavilion come recommended. They are previously owned hoops, last used to great effect by eventual national champion Kentucky at the NCAA South regional at the Georgia Dome last March.
“From my experience just shooting on those rims, I get a feel like they’re shooter’s rims,” Georgia Tech guard Brandon Reed said. “They’re not too stiff, but they’re not too wobbly.”
The Yellow Jackets, who began practice Friday, will happily accept any aid in their attempts to launch basketballs through goals. In his second season at Tech, coach Brian Gregory is counting on more skilled, selfless and precise play to generate more scoring.
“Let’s just admit there were times we just struggled making shots,” Gregory said this week.
As confessions go, this wasn’t exactly worthy of “Law & Order.” Out of 338 Division I teams, Tech was 313th in scoring (60.2 points per game) and 203rd in field-goal percentage (42.7 percent). The season ended with a 54-36 ACC tournament loss to Miami. It was Tech’s third game under 40 points, the lowest output in the ACC tournament in the shot-clock era and the Jackets’ lowest-scoring game since 1961.
Tech’s offensive hurdles exceeded inaccuracy. The Jackets also didn’t handle the ball well, didn’t set each other up for baskets frequently and, because of depth and learning-curve reasons, didn’t procure many easy scores in transition. Tech finished the season 11-20, the Jackets’ first 20-loss season since 1981.
“If your defense breaks down on two or three possessions, or your offense gives up easy baskets because of transition, now it’s an eight-point game, the game’s over,” Gregory said.
The Jackets have a fistful of reasons to expect the production will improve. Center Daniel Miller spent the summer making his jump hook a trustworthy weapon and extending his range to about 17 feet. Forward Kammeon Holsey worked on his inside game and honing a bank shot. Reed, starting his second season after transferring from Arkansas State, has shown more confidence in his jump shot.
Guard Jason Morris, who shot 40.0 percent from 3-point range as a freshman but 29.2 percent last season as a sophomore, is no longer hampered by injuries to both feet. Point guard Mfon Udofia has hoisted hundreds of jump shots to improve his 38.3 field-goal percentage.
“Mfon, I haven’t seen him miss the last few practices from out there,” Miller said Wednesday, as the team wrapped up preseason workouts.
And, Tech will have three freshmen who could play in the rotation and offer promise as scoring threats. Guard Chris Bolden has long-range touch. Forwards Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter can score close to the basket and from the perimeter.
Should the improvements hold, it figures to have a multiplying effect. Better perimeter shooting will ease pressure on Miller and Holsey in the post. The more 17-footers Miller can hit, the farther out he can draw opposing big men, opening up shots at the rim. More depth will permit more opportunities to run and chances at easy baskets.
“Everything’s just been flowing well,” Miller said. “We feel good about how we’ve been playing.”
The skill improvement will be augmented, Gregory hopes, by a more selfless approach to sharing the ball.
“If you’re ready to shoot and the pass is on time and on target and you move the ball and break down the defense, you’re going to make more shots, whether you’re shooting out in the parking lot or you’re shooting in McCamish Pavilion,” Gregory said.
Georgia Tech key dates
First practice: Friday, 5 p.m.
First exhibition: No public exhibition games scheduled.
First game: vs. Tulane, 7 p.m., Nov. 9. (Inaugural game at McCamish Pavilion)
First conference game: vs. Miami, 2:30 p.m., Jan. 5
Conference tournament: March 14-17 in Greensboro, N.C.