ATLANTA -- Quinton Stephens may be the surprise of the early season for the Georgia Tech basketball team.
The thin 6-foot-9 sophomore came out of the gate firing in the season opener, an 80-73 win over Georgia. He poured in a career-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, which included six 3-pointers. It’s obvious his game has improved dramatically since last season.
Stephens and the rest of the Yellow Jackets will play their second game of the season Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion against Alabama A&M. This contest isn’t expected to be as intense or competitive as the Georgia game, which Georgia Tech won 80-73.
While a lot of good things emerged from that opening win, the fourth straight over the rival Bulldogs, it was the shooting performance by Stephens that caught a lot of eyes.
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“He’s a good shooter,” Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said. “We got him open shots. And I said the one thing that Quinton has a really good feel for is finding open spots to get those shots. I thought he played a good game even before he made a couple of those.”
Stephens was 6-for-8 on 3-pointers and added five rebounds in 26 minutes. He became the first Georgia Tech player to make six 3-pointers in a game since Iman Shumpert on Feb. 13, 2011 against Virginia Tech. His previous scoring high was 13 against N.C. State.
“Quinton’s had a great summer, a good fall,” Gregory said. “It’s the first game and he’s just a sophomore. I said he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player and he showed a glimpse of that (Friday.)”
Stephens was one of the team’s top recruits a year ago. A graduate of Atlanta’s Marist School, which produced Georgia Tech great Matt Harpring, Stephens played sparingly to start the season, but earned quality minutes when the ACC schedule started.
The opportunity came about when Robert Carter Jr. was injured and the Yellow Jackets needed minutes at the small forward and power forward slots. Stephens played double-digit minutes in all but five ACC games, where he averaged 4.2 points and 2.2 rebounds.
His outside shot may look awkward, but is quite effective. He was successful on 34.2 percent of his 3-pointers in ACC competition.
“We thought he was a guy that can shoot the ball,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “He obviously had a great night.”
Georgia Tech will try to improve to 2-0 for the fourth straight year. The Yellow Jackets are 4-0 all-time against Alabama A&M, the most recent meeting a 65-54 win at the Gwinnett Arena in 2011.
Alabama A&M was picked to finish seventh in the Southwest Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs were 14-16 last season and lost their season opener 76-52 to Dayton. Rakiya Battle, a 5-10 guard, scored 15 points for Alabama A&M in the opener, largely because of fouls incurred when he drove to the basket.