Men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory spoke with reporters Tuesday, sharing a number of updates on the team as it opens the season Friday at the new McCamish Pavilion.
1. Gregory has liked the team’s progress during preseason practices.
“We’re getting better, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We had two closed scrimmages and I thought we made a big step from scrimmage one to scrimmage two.”
2. Tulane finished the season 15-16, but had two key injuries to starting center Tomas Bruha and guard Kendall Timmons. The Green Wave beat Tech last year in New Orleans to improve to 8-0 but finished 15-16 in Ed Conroy’s second year.
“They’re in a rebuilding phase, too, and when you’re rebuilding, if you lose two starters, you just don’t have enough depth to cover that up,” Gregory said.
3. Gregory said he thought the ball movement has been better than he expected.
“I think our returning players have a better understanding of how important ball movement, ball reversal is, and then our freshmen just have a very good feel for the game so they kind of more instinctively just make the next pass, make that extra pass,” he said.
4. On the other hand, he didn’t like the defensive rebounding that he saw in the two scrimmages.
“We have to dominate the defensive glass,” he said.
He called it a priority because he believes Tech will be able to run in the open court more and more effectively than last season, and transition baskets for Tech will generally start with missed baskets. (Gregory’s defensive system isn’t a gambling style that will lead to many turnovers.)
“You have to get great defensive possessions,” he said. “For us, a defensive possession has to end with five guys on the defensive glass.”
5. The three freshmen, Robert Carter, Chris Bolden and Marcus Georges-Hunt, are physically ready to play. He was less sure if they had the toughness and “the mental aspect.”
“That’s what you hope continues to develop during the next eight weeks or so of non-conference play,” he said.
All three will play, though.
4. Gregory said, as of Tuesday, he had yet to set the starting lineup. My very uneducated guess: Mfon Udofia, Chris Bolden, Jason Morris, Kammeon Holsey (if he’s available) and Daniel Miller. Holsey suffered a high-ankle sprain and missed eight days of practice. Gregory said he was crossing his fingers that he’d be able to play Friday.
Of all the starting spots, I’d surmise the No. 2 guard spot, where Brandon Reed started last season, is the least secure. If Holsey can’t play, I’d think Julian Royal would start.
5. Gregory is scrimmaging the team more than last season because there are things he wants the team to learn to do instinctively that he doesn’t think players can acquire through drill work and what he called “controlled settings.”
“We’ve done that and I think we made a big jump last week with it,” he said.
6. Gregory’s assessments of each of the three freshmen (other than Corey Heyward, who is out with a torn ACL):
Bolden: “very high basketball IQ player … more than just a perimeter shooter … shown an ability to handle the ball, make pretty good decisions with the ball … because of his physical strength, I think he can turn into a very, very good defender for us.”
Carter: “can make jump shots all the way out to the three and can score in the post … very good passer.”
Georges-Hunt: “he’s got a toughness about him, a grit about him that I’ve seen a lot of great players have at this stage. And he can do a little bit of everything. … he’s been able to score in the post, he’s been able to score off the dribble. … he’s picked up things very, very fast.”
7. On playing the opener at McCamish: “I want our guys excited. I want our guys fired up. They should be. We’ve waited a long time for this, but you can’t get out of yourself and who we are. It’s a great opportunity to start that off on the first night.”
8. Gregory showed the team a video clip of a recent NBA game – I gathered it was the season opener between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics – as an example of how much players were communicating defensively even though it was an early-season game.
“If Paul Pierce can do it or LeBron James can do it, we’re not asking you to do anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “They’re doing it after winning world championships. That’s part of the game. If you want to be great, these are the things you have to do.”
9. Jason Morris, who dislocated his big toe last summer and played the whole season in pain, is 100 percent, Gregory said (Morris, half-joking, said later that it’s more like 95.), and has shown explosiveness on finishing opportunities in the preseason. Gregory expects to use him at shooting guard, wing and power forward.
“That’s a big responsibility, but I think he’s more than capable of doing that and giving us a lift at three different positions,” he said.
10. Gregory and the staff are still working with center Daniel Miller’s aggressiveness.
“Sometimes, it’s not selfish,” he said. “It’s (that) sometimes we need him to be more aggressive for himself than maybe for somebody else.”
He mentioned a huddle during one of the scrimmages, when assistant coach Chad Dollar encouraged him to go strong to the basket rather than using his turn shot.
Sometimes, Gregory said, “a different voice is good and he went out there and was much more aggressive.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog