Transfers to make big impact for men’s basketball

Junior guard Miles Kelly makes his grand entrance at the Hoops and Hip Hop event this year. Kelly led the Jackets in scoring last year and is expected to perform even better this season. // Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

After a season where Tech basketball struggled to be competitive in the ACC, newly hired athletic director J Batt insisted a monumental change was necessary. His first order of business was firing then head coach Josh Pastner and hiring NBA veteran Damon Stoudamire in hopes of revitalizing the historic success of the program. Stoudamire has college and NBA experience coaching, as he was the 2020 WCC Coach of the Year at Pacific University and a multi-year assistant in the NBA with the Boston Celtics organization. Batt, along with the Jacket community, believe that Stoudamire can regain what was special for the Jackets in the 1990’s when Lethal Weapon 3, consisting of Kenny Anderson, Brian Oliver and Dennis Scott, dominated the ACC. With the addition of Stoudamire came a reworking of the lineup, mainly through 24/7 Sport’s 19th ranked transfer portal class.

This new transfer class was built on potential for the future. One of the first players Stoudamire targeted was junior guard Kowacie Reeves, Jr. from the University of Florida. Reeves came out of high school as a four-star prospect and made an impact on the Gators, using his long athletic build as an advantage. Averaging 8.5 points-per-game last season and shooting 37% from the field, Reeves will give the Jackets a reliable option on the wing to complement returning junior guards Miles Kelly and Deebo Coleman. Going forward, Reeves will need to continue to improve on his three-point shooting, converting on 27% of his looks from the arc.

Another future impact target for Stoudamire’s new team was Ole Miss sophomore guard Amaree Abram. Abram, like Reeves, was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and gave the Rebels an offensive boost, averaging the fourth most points on the team as a true freshman. Abram also led the team in three point percentage at 36.4% and was sec- ond on the team in three pointers made. Stoudamire will likely utilize Abram in many pick-and-roll schemes, given his ability to shoot as well as his stellar ball vision. With both Abram and Reeves having multiple years of eligibility left, it will be integral to continue to develop these highly ranked recruits into program cornerstones. With the losses of Ja’von Franklin and Rodney Howard, the Jackets needed to replenish their big men crew. To accomplish this, Stoudamire searched the portal and found UMass sopho- more forward Tafara Gapare and NC State senior forward Ebenezer Dowuona as well as added three-star recruits freshman forward Baye Ndongo and freshman forward Ibrahim Souare. While Gapare and Dowuona didn’t have high impacts on their previous teams, they will add experience and a great rebounding ability to a Jacket team that needs it. Stoudamire will likely end up playing small ball throughout a good portion of the year and depend on his incoming and returning guards to support the offensive production.

While there was very little turnover from the team last year, Stoudamire was able to retain the key pieces from last year’s team, including Kelly and Coleman, along with fifth-year senior guards Lance Terry and Kyle Sturdivant. These returners make up four of the top five scorers from last year and represent the core that Stoudamire will build around. In order for the Jackets to have a chance of making a run in the ACC, Kelly, the team’s leading scorer last year, will have to make a jump. Last year, he was a great three point shooter, shooting around 38% from the arc and an overall great scorer, but he occasionally struggled to make a defensive impact.

Overall, while the Jackets were ranked 13th of 15 in the ACC pre-season poll, there are many bright spots to look forward to throughout the year. If the newcomers can mesh well with the returners, Stoudamire’s team could possibly shock the ACC and finish in the top five. The Jackets will head up the road to tip off their season on Monday night, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. against the Georgia Southern Eagles in Hanner Fieldhouse.