Hoops continues to improve under Gregory

Head men’s basketball coach Brain Gregory coaches up Robert Carter Jr. during a game. The basketball team finished 16-15 their second season under Gregory. / Photo by Austin Foote

The Tech men’s basketball team wrapped up its season earlier this month with back-to-back losses to Boston College. The losses gave Tech a 16-15 overall record.

New members of the Tech basketball fan base may be unable to fully appreciate this barely-above-.500 record, but for the rest of Jacket nation, the season showed two things: progress, and a reason to get excited.

The Jackets’ 16-15 record is a solid improvement on last season’s 11-20 performance.

The Jackets’ 16-15 record is a solid improvement on last season’s 11-20 performance. Surprisingly, even with the increase in win percentage, the team as a whole got significantly younger between years one and two under head coach Brian Gregory’s new system. However, they certainly didn’t play like it; Tech won two more conference games than last season for a final conference record of 6-12. One of those wins was one of the biggest highlights of the season, a last-second win over the sixth-ranked Miami Hurricanes on the road.

A 6-12 record doesn’t exactly sound like an impressive statistic, but if the Jackets’ 0-5 start to conference play is taken into account, it is much better than it could have been. Tech went 6-7 in its last 13 conference games, a slate which included matchups against Clemson and NCAA Tournament teams North Carolina State, Miami and North Carolina.

The beginning of the 2012-2013 campaign saw the completion of the Jackets’ new home, Hank McCamish Pavilion. Tech’s home crowd attendance saw a dramatic increase from the 2011-2012 season, when the Jackets played their home games at two different venues (Philips Arena and the Gwinnett Arena). This boost in fan and student support showed, as Tech’s home record improved from 7-8 to 11- 6.

The young Jackets were led in scoring in conference play by an exceptional trio of true freshmen: forward Robert Carter, Jr. and guards Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden. In fact, the three combined to score 865 of Tech’s 1,933 points all season, roughly 45 percent of the total offense.

However, the Jackets’ true leader this season was senior guard Mfon Udofia. Udofia, who had been starting games since his freshman year, provided more than just solid play on both offense and defense. His determination and intangibles gave the Jackets the grit and heart that they showed throughout the season.

Udofia’s senior leadership was especially essential because of the youth of the Tech squad. With the addition of brothers Stacey and Solomon Poole, and walk-on Brooks Doyle, there were six new Jackets this season that all saw playing time.

Looking forward, the Jackets are poised to be both a contender and a threat in the ACC. While Tech loses Udofia, guard and graduate student Pierre Jordan, and Julian Royal to a transfer, it returns its young players plus veterans Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey, Brandon Reed and Jason Morris. Miller, a redshirt junior center who was recently named to the All-ACC defensive team, provides a solid base to build a successful team around; he led the team in free throw percentage, blocks and offensive rebounds this season.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Coach Gregory proved that he is capable of leading this team to success. He is certainly rebuilding, but what he’s building is showing noticable improvement. He is a coach who never gives up on his team. In the conference opener, Tech was being beaten by 23 to Miami with only five minutes left in the game. However, Gregory was coaching his team until the final whistle, encouraging his players and still maintaining a high level of mental and emotional involvement in the game. The Jackets went on a 10-0 run to end the game.

Gregory’s recent recruiting class is a clear indication of the direction that the Tech basketball program is taking. After landing Carter, Hunt, Bolden and Solomon Poole this year, Gregory has brought a lot of high-level talent back to Atlanta. Gregory has done his best to keep talent the state of Georgia produces from leaving. Every player on the 2012 roster except Solomon and Stacey Poole were from Georgia. Gregory continued that trend with the 2013 recruting class as he signed Quinton Stephens out of Marist High school.

If that has not been enough to please Jackets fans, Gregory is 2-0 against the University of Georgia and highly values the importance of that game. The tradition-oriented coach was quoted to have said the win over Georgia this season was a bigger win than upsetting Miami on the road.

If Gregory and the Jackets keep on powering forward, Tech could very well be making some noise in the conference and the country.