With it being Georgia week, it’s easy to miss, but the Georgia Tech basketball team will open the DirecTV Classic Thursday night at 9 p.m. on ESPNU, a good way to wind down Thanksgiving. (Particularly if you actually get ESPNU.)
Tech will play Rice in its opener of the eight-team tournament. The Yellow Jackets will play either California or Drake Friday. After a day off Saturday, their final game will be against one of the four teams on the other side of the bracket – Drexel, Pacific, Saint Mary’s or Xavier. All games are on ESPNU or ESPN2.
You can check for updates and game times on the Tech website. The Jackets will go from there to Champaign, Ill., for their ACC/Big Ten Challenge (insert Maryland joke here) game against Illinois. It’s next Wednesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.
I spoke with Brian Gregory in passing Tuesday. He seemed excited to take the players on the road for what could be a potentially valuable time of forging chemistry. He spoke with media Monday, a session I wasn’t able to make. Tech sports information associate director Mike Stamus was good enough to share the transcript. Some of Gregory’s answers.
On using the upcoming trip to build team chemistry
“It’s important. This is probably going to be one of the longest trips any of these guys have ever been on. We’ve got an opportunity to play some really good teams. The games are very important, but they’re going to be spending an awful lot of time with their teammates. Team chemistry is so important, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time trying to build that. Many times, the best teams gain their strength on bus trips, in hotel rooms and in training table meals on the road. It’s an opportunity for our guys to understand that we’re in this together, and it’s important to know that those bonds are formed all the time, not just during practice and in games.
On playing three games in four days
“Hopefully, that’s where our depth will help us some. You play back-to-back Thursday and Friday, then again on Sunday, and then turn around Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. This four-game swing is going to be very important in terms of getting a good read and evaluation of where we are at this early juncture of the season.”
On preparing for the next team with little or no time
“We do a lot of walk-through stuff in the hotel. You have to make sure your bodies are ready to go, so you do a lot of recovery stuff, rehabbing and stretching and different things like that. You don’t get a lot of practice time in between, so it’s important through film work and walk-throughs, especially with a younger team, they get a good fell for how we need to play without actually going out and performing in practice.”
On the first road trip for Tech’s three freshmen
“Everything’s new to them, the intensity, the preparation. You don’t have to just know one guy, you have to know everybody on the other team. When a switching situation comes up, Robert’s got to know what their point guards like to do. That’s just an example. What you like to do with these early-season games and a tournament like this is to prepare for the games that are going to come fast and furious come January and February.”
On whether the freshmen have gained something by traveling with AAU teams
“The travel is never an issue, but the intensity that the games have to be played with, and the importance of the games is always an adjustment for freshmen. They travel with AAU, but the different is, you lost at noon, then you play again at 4, and it doesn’t matter. There’s always the next game.
“Here, every game is important. You can play in some of those AAU tournaments, lose every game in your pool and still be in the best bracket for the tournament game. You lose the first game here and you can’t be crowned the champion. You play 30 of them the whole year, so the magnitude of each one is important.”
On the high IQ of the freshmen helping them adapt
“We hope that they can use that basketball knowledge will help then in their preparation for the next game with quick turnarounds. Our preparation changes a little bit when you play the next day; you can’t get as detailed, so you really streamline the objectives of the next game.”