ATLANTA -- It’s getting late in the season, but freshman guard Tadric Jackson might be starting to emerge in time to help the Georgia Tech basketball team down the stretch.
Jackson, named Mr. Georgia High School Basketball last year, had some productive moments in the non-conference portion of the schedule. He scored in double figures in three of his first 11 games and was averaging 6.9 points.
But the Tift County product struggled when the ACC teams began to appear on the schedule. His minutes were cut, his shooting percentage fell, and he was almost forgotten.
That might have started to change three games ago. He played nine solid minutes against Duke, scoring nine points. After going scoreless in a win over Wake Forest, he came back to score 10 points and grab three rebounds in a loss at Virginia Tech.
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“I like what he’s been doing in practice,” Yellow Jackets head coach Brian Gregory said. “He works hard; he’s trying to understand the intensity level you have to play every possession. The only way to really understand that is to do it on a daily basis in practice.”
He’s averaging 4.5 points and 1.2 rebounds, and he’s shooting only 26 percent from the field, with just 14.5 percent on his 3-pointers. But during the past three games, he has made 6-of-18 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the 3-point.
Gregory said Jackson never has stopped working or trying to get better.
“He’s had a tremendous attitude, never dropped his head or sulked when he didn’t get playing time,” Gregory said. “He’s made himself ready. I like what he’s done the last couple of games, and we’re going to need to see more of that.”
That could start Saturday when the Yellow Jackets (11-13, 2-10 ACC) host Florida State (13-12, 5-7) at McCamish Pavilion.
Georgia Tech is coming off another last-second loss, this one 65-63 at Virginia Tech, and has lost nine of its conference games by a total of 34 points. Florida State is coming off a 73-70 home loss to No. 4 Duke and has seen its past eight games all decided by eight or fewer points.
“They’re starting to develop that (head coach) Leonard Hamilton mentality in terms of defense and physicalness and getting guys they want to score the opportunity to score,” Gregory said.
Florida State is led by freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who averages 13.4 points and 4.6 assists. He has 16 double-doubles. Guard Montay Brandon averages 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds and Devon Bookert averages 10.8 points and scored 16 against the Yellow Jackets in the second meeting.
The Seminoles have three 7-footers in Michael Ojo, Boris Bojanovsky and Kiel Turpin. Combined, they average 13 points and 5.8 rebounds. Hamilton typically gives extended playing time to the one with the hot hand.
Reserve Jarquez Smith, who averages 6.3 points and three rebounds, will enjoy a homecoming of sort. The sophomore from Jones County said, “This is as close to a homecoming as I get.”
Florida State has won the past nine meetings with Georgia Tech, including last year’s 81-71 win in Tallahassee. Georgia Tech’s last win the series came in 2007.
“Their record could be completely the opposite,” Hamilton said. “They’re 2-10, they could be 10-2. That’s the nature of the league.”