For a man who loves little more than being on the practice court with his team, Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory is about to enter his element.
With final exams complete and the spring term not starting until Jan. 7, Gregory has three weeks to hone in on his team and prepare for the ACC schedule. The Yellow Jackets will have four nonconference games over that span before the ACC opener against Miami Jan. 5, starting Monday night with Alabama State at McCamish Pavilion.
“We still need to take care of a lot of business before we worry about the ACC,” Gregory said. “But, yeah, the next three weeks is an opportunity for us to get better as a team and where we’re solely basketball.”
Gregory will split practice time between skill development sessions and full-team work. While the Jackets will play Alabama State, the Citadel Saturday, Fordham Dec. 29 and Chattanooga Jan. 2, all at home, Gregory likened the time to a training camp.
“It’s always good to have a break off of schoolwork,” forward Robert Carter said. “It’s just exciting to go in the gym and not have to worry about going to study hall afterwards, just go out and focus on what we love to do.”
Rebounding will be a priority. The Jackets have been outrebounded in each of the past five games, winning three. In their last game, their rebounding deficit nearly cost them a victory in their most recent game. Tech had to rally from five points down with just over five minutes left to beat UNC-Wilmington, an inferior opponent, at McCamish Dec. 8. While Tech is better than last season, it will have little chance of competing in the ACC if it can’t improve on the glass.
“I think you’ll see a change in that pretty soon, because lately we’ve been doing a lot of tough defensive rebounding, offensive rebounding drills,” Carter said.
Gregory and his staff will also work separately with brothers Stacey and Solomon Poole, the former a transfer from Kentucky and the latter an early-enrollee freshman, to accelerate their adjustment. Solomon Poole will be eligible to play Monday. Stacey figures to be cleared by the school for the game against the Citadel Saturday.
Stacey Poole’s last game action took place in the 2010-11 season, when he totaled 45 minutes. His brother will be arriving directly from high school competition.
“My expectations are for what they do every day in practice,” Gregory said. “The games will take care of themselves.”
The games could well be valuable also. At 6-2, Tech has a chance to move to 10-2. After the weekend, the combined record for Tech’s next four opponents was 8-29. Any shot at the postseason will require Tech to stack up as many wins as possible before ACC play begins.
“We’ve got to get these games by any means necessary,” said guard Mfon Udofia, whose goal as a senior is to lead Tech back to the NCAA tournament. “I keep telling these guys, these are games we can’t overlook because these are games that can come back and bite us.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog