Men’s basketball prepares to defend ACC title

Sophomore guard Deivon Smith launches a free throw in Tech’s exhibition win over Morehouse. Smith is one of three new players who should make an impact this season. // Photo by Josh Kim Student Publications

The Jackets are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in recent years. A year ago, they had wins over basketball’s biggest blue bloods: Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke. Their historic season included being crowned ACC Champions and earning an NCAA tournament bid, each for the first time in ten years.

However, last year’s team was led by Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright, each of whom moved to the NBA following the season. This has opened the door for younger players such as Michael Devoe, who has already been a leader for the team, as well as some of the returning seniors, like Bubba Parham and Jordan Usher, to take on an even bigger role this season.

Tech’s roster will be bringing in several key additions to the roster through both the recruiting class and the transfer portal. The Jackets had a top-30 recruiting class as they brought in three top 150 players, consisting of two four-star shooting guards and one three-star small forward. Outside of center Moses Wright, Tech’s offense and defense was powered by their guards and through their establishment of small ball. Adding both Dallan “Deebo” Coleman and Miles Kelly will continue to play this scheme. Coleman and Kelly along with fellow incoming freshman Jalon Moore have incredible offensive abilities and the potential to become big-time playmakers in Pastner’s scheme this year.

From the transfer portal, the Jackets are bringing in Devion Smith from Mississippi State. He is a former four-star recruit point guard from Georgia. With the departure of Alvarado, Smith can add important depth at the point guard position. Although Tech will be without the reigning ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, the veteran leadership paired with the incoming talent for this season will allow the team to continue their success from last season. This will be especially important as the team is also going to be without returning senior Bubba Parham for an undisclosed time to begin the season as he continues to return from a meniscus injury that required surgery. Even without his on-court presence, his veteran leadership and energy will be able to help contribute in large ways to the team.

In addition to the usual conference schedule, the Jackets have multiple big non-conference matchups. They begin their season on Nov. 9 at home. In this year’s edition of the annual Big 10/ACC Challenge, Tech hosts Wisconsin on Dec. 1. Days later on Dec. 11, the Jackets host LSU in State Farm Arena as a part of the four-game event, Holiday Hoopsgiving. Following their matchup against the Tigers, the Jackets take the trip cross country to take on USC as part of the two-day Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix. After that, the Jackets continue the season with their battle to defend their conference title in one of the nation’s toughest conferences filled with numerous blue bloods.

In preparation for the season, the Jackets hosted Morehouse in an exhibition match and completely looked the part as defending conference champions as they came away with the win 89-52. They got contributions from each of their expected stars as well as their incoming players. Devoe led the way for the Jackets on both sides of the ball. He showed why he was named to the Preseason All-ACC second team. Additionally, the Jackets stuck with their identity of playing tough defense and converting turnovers into scoring opportunities.

After a strong showing in preseason, Tech looks to hold onto the momentum and start the season strong. A year ago, they started the season off 0-2, but were able to bounce back strong the rest of the way.

While some of the perennial big names of the ACC such as Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia are expected to have bounce back years, Tech will be right there in the thick of conference contention as they look to repeat as conference champions. Usher and Devoe along with Khalid Moore, Kyle Sturdivant and Parham will be bringing back their experience from a year ago and look to build an even deeper run in the NCAA tournament.

Pastner and his crew are ready to show that last year was not just a one-time occurrence but rather a byproduct of the culture he has developed at the program and will be here for years to come.