ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech head basketball coach Brian Gregory is still going through the getting-to-know-you phase with his players. But after two weeks of preseason practice, the new guy on campus likes what he sees.
“We’ve had some good practices,” Gregory said. “They’re learning a new system and doing all the things they need to do. The effort has been good, and the energy, at times, has been good. The chemistry is something we’re working on, and we’re making some strides in that department.”
There’s a lot of fresh ground to cover for the Jackets this year. The players have to learn the system imported by Gregory, who spent the past eight seasons as head coach at Dayton. Gregory learned his craft under Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. Five of Gregory’s Dayton teams went to the postseason, and the 2009-10 team won the NIT.
The players in uniform will look different, too. Gone is Iman Shumpert, who opted to cast his lot with the NBA. Shumpert led the team in scoring (17.3 points), rebounds (5.9), assists and steals. Also graduating were Maurice “Moe” Miller, who started the final 23 games, and Lance Storrs, a role player who started the final seven games.
Gregory has a pair of starters returning: 6-foot-11 sophomore Daniel Miller, who averaged 4.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and was fifth in the ACC with 67 blocks, and 6-5 sophomore Jason Morris, who started the final five games of the season and averaged 6.0 points. Junior Glen Rice, who started 23 games, was the team’s second-leading scorer (12.8 points) and made 30 percent of his 3-pointers.
Gregory has been impressed by Miller’s effort and ability. He likes the center’s ability to move around the basket and said, “He moves his feet well for a big guy.”
Gregory also cited the play of point guard Mfon Udofia, who averaged 6.7 points as Shumpert’s backup last year.
Tech will also incorporate three newcomers into the rotation: guard Pierre Jordan, a graduate transfer from FSU who is immediately eligible; guard Brandon Reed, who transferred from Arkansas State after being named the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year; and Julian Royal, a freshman who was a four-time all-state selection at Milton.
“Right now we’re trying to teach some core concepts that we demand every day,” Gregory said. “We need to keep moving forward every day, every practice. It’s important that we do that every day.”
Not much is expected of Tech by outsiders. The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll, ahead of only Wake Forest and Boston College. Tech’s difficulties won’t be made any easier by playing without a home court; the Jackets will play most of their non-conference games at The Arena at Gwinnett and play their ACC games at Philips Arena.
Tech opens the season on Nov. 11 against Florida A&M at the Arena at Gwinnett. The ACC opener is against Duke on Jan. 7 at Philips Arena.