The recent hurricanes that brought such devastation to residents in Texas and Florida had a personal impact on Georgia Tech basketball head coach Josh Pastner. That’s one reason he was so motivated to host an exhibition game Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets will play Georgia State in a scrimmage being dubbed the “A-Town Showdown for Hurricane Relief” at noon at McCamish Pavilion. Tickets are $20 to the public and $5 for students from both schools. All seats are general admission. There will be no television or streaming from the game.
Pastner’s parents had their home in Houston flooded by Hurricane Harvey and lost a second home in south Florida from Hurricane Irma. They are currently living in the Atlanta area while going through the insurance process.
“It’s an opportunity for the hurricane relief — whether it’s Puerto Rico, Florida or Houston — it’s a great opportunity for the fans and for the city, and it’s obviously for a good cause,” Pastner said.
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Georgia Tech was picked to finish ninth in the ACC at this week’s Operation Basketball media event in Charlotte. Center Ben Lammers was named first-team All-ACC, and guard Josh Okogie was named to the second team. Those two, along with guard Tadric Jackson, form the nucleus from last year’s team that went 21-16.
It’s a different story from last year when the Yellow Jackets were in their first season under Pastner. They were picked to finish 14th in the ACC and struggled out of the gate. Georgia Tech had to go to overtime to beat Division II program Shorter in the exhibition game.
“We got better as the year went on, and we’re probably in the same boat this year,” Pastner said. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The exhibition will be a chance for Georgia Tech fans to get a look at the four incoming freshmen who are expected to play a contributing role this season: point guard Jose Alvarado, guard Curtis Haywood II, forward Evan Cole and forward Moses Wright.
Georgia State should be an interesting test. The Panthers return three starters from last year’s 20-win team. Georgia State has won at least 20 games in three of the past four seasons and has finished among the top two in the Sun Belt three times. The Panthers are led by sophomore D’Marcus Simonds, last year’s Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.
“I know a lot of them,” Okogie said. “Most of them went to school around here. It’s going to be fun.”
Georgia Tech has another exhibition scheduled against Faulkner State (Alabama) on Nov. 7. The Yellow Jackets open the season Nov. 10 against UCLA in China.