Quinton Stephens is a straight-up honest person, so he won’t lie to you and try to pretend that there was no anxiety in his life last spring when Georgia Tech fired basketball head coach Brian Gregory.
There were a few uneasy nights and more than a little uncertainty, but the senior realized he had limited options. So the slender shooting forward embraced the regime change that has accompanied new head coach Josh Pastner and now hopes to be part of the wave that brings the Georgia Tech basketball program back to the prominence it enjoyed in the Bobby Cremins Era.
“Naturally, you’re going to have a little anxiety,” Stephens said. “You’re not sure if he’s going to like you, if you’re going to get along, if you’re going to fit in his system. But all the guys have really adapted, and we all enjoy playing for him.”
Stephens didn’t have many options. He didn’t want to transfer, and he wasn’t about to quit. So he dug in and worked hard to establish himself as a contributor and leader on the team.
“There wasn’t much I could do,” Stephens said. “I didn’t let it bother me too much. I saw it more as an opportunity. Coach Pastner and the staff he was going to hire, all they could do was evaluate the team we had and we were going to make the most of it.”
Stephens, a two-time all-state player at Marist, has played three seasons at Georgia Tech. As a freshman, he averaged 12.8 minutes in 32 games and averaged 3.6 points. As a sophomore, he played 30 games, starting 12, and averaged six points. Last year, he played in 36 games, starting 14, and averaged five points.
Although he’s 6-foot-9, he’s primarily an outside shooting specialist. Of the 480 shots taken during his three years, 252 have come beyond the arc. Last season, he made 32 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Stephens says he’s in the best shape of his life after going through Pastner’s training. Cremins saw Stephens at the ACC Operation Basketball program Wednesday, poked him in the chest and joked that he was getting skinny. Stephens laughed and told Cremins it was muscle.
Stephens knows conditioning will be important if the Yellow Jackets are going to play at the high pace that Pastner expects.
“It’s obvious why we want to get in good shape,” he said. “The way we’re cutting and the way practices are held, it’s all at a high clip and you’ve got to be ready for that. The pace of it is so high level. You’ve got to listen to him because there are specific things they want to happen.”
Stephens might also be asked to score more points this season. The option is certainly open since the team lost 55 points from last year’s team because of graduation.
“It just builds more opportunities for the other guys,” he said. “Not only with myself, but guys like Josh (Heath) and Ben (Lammers) and Tadric (Jackson) and even with the freshmen that come in. So it’s really just opportunity and we’re looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.”