ATLANTA -- So much for easing into the season.
The Georgia Tech basketball team jumps right into the fire by hosting Georgia in the season opener Friday at McCamish Pavilion. Why fiddle with a few tune-up games when a team can play its biggest in-state rival?
“It’s one game,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “You don’t want to put too much into it one way or the other, whatever ends up happening. It’s an opportunity to play a high quality team in order to gauge where you’re at. But after that game, there will be a lot of improvements to be made, one way or the other.”
Georgia Tech defeated Georgia 80-71 last year and has beaten the Bulldogs three straight years. But the Yellow Jackets return only one player who started last year’s game and will use the opener to introduce a new set of physical forwards.
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Georgia is coming off a 20-14 season that saw the Bulldogs reach the second round of the NIT. This will be the 191st meeting between the two program, with Georgia Tech leading 104-86. It’s the earliest the two rivals have ever played.
Playing their first games for Georgia Tech will be 6-foot-8, 276-pound graduate student Demarco Cox, who averaged 4.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 33 games for Mississippi; 6-8, 269-pound Charles Mitchell, a junior transfer who averaged 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds last year at Maryland; and Robert Sampson, a 6-8, 224-pound senior who sat out last season after transferring from East Carolina, where he averaged 9.1 points and 9.2 rebounds as a junior.
“Those are new faces, but most of them have a lot of experience,” Gregory said.
Georgia Tech also will get point guard Travis Jorgenson back from a knee injury incurred during the fourth game last year. Jorgenson had averaged 20 minutes and had all the makings of an outstanding point guard. Gregory said Jorgenson is 100 percent healthy.
“He gets shots for the other players,” Gregory said. “He makes the game easier for other players.”
Jorgenson will be an important piece of the Georgia Tech offense, which is predicated on ball movement. Being able to share the ball and pass to the open shooter is important in Gregory’s scheme.
“We’re getting better at it,” Gregory said. “Travis, Josh (Heath) and Corey (Heyward) are dramatically improved in those areas. But again, with the pace that you want to play with, that’s a five-man commitment on the court. No matter how hard the point guard pushes, if the wings aren’t running, it doesn’t do you any good.”
Of note: Sylvester Ogbonda, a 6-10 center from Maryland, has signed a national letter-of-intent to play for the Yellow Jackets. The native of Nigeria attends the National Christian Academy in Fort Washington. He averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds a year ago. Ogbonda is athletic and mobile, with good quickness and is expected to be a stellar interior defender and rebounder. He is ranked as high as 26th nationally among centers.