The return of Tadric Jackson has provided a boost to the Georgia Tech lineup, but his impact has been felt more than just on the offensive end of the court.
Jackson missed the season opener with a sore hamstring and returned to score 20 points against Southern.
Equally important in the eyes of head coach Josh Pastner is the improvement shown by the junior on defense.
“I know he got 20 points, but let me tell you the things I’m proud of,” Pastner said. “It’s not the points. It’s that he had five rebounds, four of them defensively, and I thought he defended well. He played defense. The best teams have their guards stick their nose in and find ways to get defensive rebounds. More than Tadric’s scoring ability, it was his ability to rebound and defend. That’s what triggered our team and triggered our offense.”
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Jackson should be at full strength at 8 p.m. on Friday when the Yellow Jackets host Ohio.
Pastner has almost made it a mission to push Jackson in an effort to maximize his contribution. The former Mr. Georgia Basketball is needed this year to be a main cog rather than a role player. His first two seasons have been inconsistent and, at times, disappointing.
The 20 points against Southern was a career high for Jackson. He entered the season with 11 double-figure scoring games, and his career high was 17 points against Marquette in 2014-15.
Pastner has pushed Jackson to play hard and be more aggressive, both attacking the basket and playing defense.
“Tadric knows I’ve been hard on him, but I’ve been hard of him knowing his upside,” Pastner said. “I’ve pushed him hard and I’ve held him accountable, but Tadric is a fine young man and he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
Jackson came off the bench against Southern. He might continue in that role. Pastner will continue to change the starting lineup on a game-by-game basis. In the first two games, the starters have been Quinton Stephens and Abdoulaye Gueye at forward, Ben Lammers at center and Justin Moore and Josh Okogie at guard.
Ohio will be the best team the Yellow Jackets have played this season. The Bobcats (2-0) return four of five starters from last year’s 23-12 team that finished second in the Mid-American Conference.
“Friday is a great challenge for us,” Pastner said. “Ohio is going to be a great opportunity and test for us.”
Ohio is led by holdovers Antonio Campbell, who averages 17.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks last season, point guard Jaaron Simmons, who averaged 7.9 assists, and 3-point shooting specialist Jordan Dartis. The Bobcats also acquired Kenny Kaminski, a graduate transfer who averaged 12.6 points last season at Michigan State, where he started 33 games.
Three players are averaging double-figures: Campbell (17.0), Dartis (16.0) and Kaminski (15.5).
This is only the second meeting between the two teams. Georgia Tech beat the Bobcats in 1960 in the NCAA Mideast Regional.