Frontcourt thrives in bigger roles

Last season, the Tech men’s basketball team relied heavily on guards like Iman Shumpert, Brian Oliver and Glen Rice Jr. for everything from scoring to rebounding. With the departure of two of those three guards, this year’s squad has asked the forwards to step up on both ends of the court. Tech’s big men have answered the call and are now one of the team’s main strengths.

Leading the charge for the Jackets’ big men have been redshirt sophomore center Daniel Miller and redshirt sophomore Kammeon Holsey, who have both seen an increase in points, rebounds and minutes played per game this season.

As of the time of press, Miller has doubled his points per game with 8.3 points per game compared to 4.4 points per game last season, and is only five points shy of scoring more points this season than the 137 he scored through the entire 2010-11 season. He is also grabbing two more boards per game, which has put him at eighth in the conference in total rebounds.

“This season I just tried to get some reps in and get my confidence up. Last season, I didn’t do anything on offense. This year the team expects me to do what I am capable of, and it is finally starting to show,” Miller said.

Holsey’s chief contribution this season has been his work on the offensive boards, putting him in the top ten in the conference in offensive rebounds per game. Holsey is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game and has 38 offensive boards on the season.

“Offensive rebounding is all about knowing your teammates. I watch the team’s shots every day in practice, so I know how the ball will fall off of the rim. It doesn’t matter if I score off of it, but if I can get the offensive rebound, then we can extend our possession,” Holsey said.

The work of Miller and Holsey has led the Jackets to out rebound opponents by an average of 6.8 rebounds per game, good enough for third in the conference. However, it is not just Miller and Holsey who have been grabbing boards this current 2012 season.

Tech also has two other forwards in freshman Julian Royal and sophomore Nate Hicks who have helped pull in rebounds as well.

“Rebounding is a total team effort. If we can just box out our men then one of us is going to get the rebound. We have had a lot of close games so we have had to depend on rebounding to win,” Miller said.

Outside of helping out on the glass, Hicks and Royal have done a good job of spelling Miller and Holsey when they get into foul trouble or just need a break.

“I try to pace myself during the game, but I know I can count on the other guys to come into the game, and give me a rest,” Miller said.

The strong play from Hicks and Royal has not gone unnoticed by new Head Coach Brian Gregory.

“Miller and Holsey are very important, and the thing that has helped us most is the development of some of our younger guys. Miller and Holsey have logged a lot of minutes… so depth becomes very important,” Gregory said.

Holsey has also done a good job of scoring off of his rebounds so far this season, as he has increased his shooting percentage by nearly 20 percent and has already scored 41 more points this season compared to his freshman season in 2010-11.

“I have always been a scorer going back to my high school days, but I worked a lot this offseason on my offensive game and getting bigger. Miller and I came to the gym a lot this summer and just worked on offense,” Holsey said.

One could make the case that the hard work that Holsey and Miller put into the offseason has attributed to their success this year. However, Gregory has also helped the forwards’ production by calling more plays for them.

“We put a lot of pressure on our big guys to guard and score in post-up situations, and they have done a tremendous job with that,” Gregory said.

Gregory’s coaching style has definitely played a role in the team’s rebounding success, but there are other factors that have led to recent success of Tech’s forwards.

One of which is Gregory’s infectious and passionate personality that has made an impact upon his players.

“Sometimes Coach Gregory just gets so excited that it makes you want to play harder for him and he makes us believe in our teammates,” Holsey said.

Another factor attributing to the stellar play of Tech’s big men has been his assertive nature and attention to detail.

“Coach Gregory has stressed attacking the basket and trying to be the first guy to the board. Usually the guy that is most aggressive is the one who comes down with the rebound,” Miller said.

Finally, the forwards seem to genuinely like each other and only care about getting better as a team.

“Miller told me that I am a beast and that he loved playing with me. When someone says that to you then you want to go out and try to make us both better,” Holsey said.

Excitement, aggressiveness and teamwork are three things that were absent from the team last year. While all three of those things are important, perhaps the most impressive thing about this year’s big men is their unwillingness to settle for anything less than their best.

“[The rebounding numbers] show our hard work and dedication, but we can always get better,” Holsey said.