Georgia Tech

Rebounding key to Georgia Tech’s strong start

ATLANTA -- The addition of the big men in the lineup has helped give Georgia Tech a more pronounced presence near the basket. It also has helped the team’s effort on the offensive glass.

Through three games, the Yellow Jackets have totaled 129 rebounds. Of those, 48 have been offensive rebounds.

That’s a big improvement over last year when Georgia Tech had 126 rebounds through the first three games, with only 32 coming on the offensive end.

“The rebounding has to be a big key for us,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “Getting second chance points, getting extra possessions, that’s very important for us. That’s a clear sign of effort and energy level, if you’re getting to the offensive glass. And for us, we need to take another step.”

Georgia Tech has outrebounded each of its three opponents. The Yellow Jackets were plus-5 on Georgia in the opener and plus-17 over IPFW on Friday.

“Because we’re playing with that energy and effort level now that we’ve got all our guys, that’s the baseline,” Gregory said. “That’s who we are. You have to do that. But there are also some other areas we need to tighten up.”

Charles Mitchell has been the most aggressive player on the offensive boards. The junior transfer from Maryland has 27 total rebounds, with a team-leading 15 coming on the offensive end.

Demarco Cox and Quinton Stephens both have eight offensive rebounds, and Robert Sampson has six.

The Yellow Jackets currently have four players averaging double figures in scoring: Stephens (14.0), Mitchell (12.7), Cox (12.7) and Marcus Georges-Hunt (10.7). Stephens, a 6-foot-9 forward, has scored double figures in two games, one fewer than he did all last season.

“We’re comfortable calling his number in some of those situations, and he’s responded well,” Gregory said of Stephens. “If he’s open, he’s a very good shooter. And he’s one of the few guys that can hit from the 3 and also hit from 17-18 feet, as well. He can hit that Dirk Nowitzki shot from the elbow. The one thing is that he can shoot over guys at 6-9.”

Georgia Tech will need all the offense it can muster this weekend when it competes in the Orlando Classic, which runs Wednesday through Sunday at the HP Fieldhouse at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The Yellow Jackets open with Marquette at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, and they will play either No. 19 Michigan State or Rider on Friday. The final opponent Sunday will be No. 5 Kansas, Rhode Island, Tennessee or Santa Clara.

Georgia Tech hasn’t played Marquette since 1977, the year the Golden Eagles won the NCAA championship. The Yellow Jackets last played Michigan State in the 2005 ACC-Big 10 Challenge and last met Rider in 1993.

The Michigan State game could be particularly personal for Gregory, who served as an assistant coach there on two different occasions under current Spartans head coach Tom Izzo.

First-round opponent Marquette (2-2) has two starters back from last year’s 17-15 season but no player taller than 6-7. Juan Anderson, a 6-6 senior from Oakland, averages 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, and redshirt freshman Duane Wilson averages 11.8 points. The Golden Eagles are in their first season under head coach Steve Wojciechowski, a former assistant at Duke, who took the job when Buzz Williams was hired at Virginia Tech.