Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner brought in a speaker last week to give players perspectives to consider. At least one of the messages should be useful Tuesday night when the Yellow Jackets play Georgia in the annual showdown.
“One of his main things was, like, if you think you got fouled or something bad happens, don’t do anything, don’t react,” center Ben Lammers said of guest speaker Christian Conte’s address to the team last Thursday. “Just go right to playing, because you don’t know how that can affect the game in the future.”
The application for Tech when it plays the Bulldogs in Athens? Forget about the fact that the Jackets will likely be without guards Tadric Jackson (ankle) and Curtis Haywood (shin). Jackson’s past two games were among his most efficient offensive performances in the senior’s career, with a combined 37 points on 15 of 20 shooting in 50 minutes. Haywood has largely been a help and perimeter threat as a freshman season. Pastner said Monday he does not expect either to play, and added that post man Sylvester Ogbonda (ankle) is somewhere between questionable and doubtful.
It has been that sort of a season thus far for Tech, in which preseason All-ACC guard Josh Okogie missed eight games with an NCAA suspension and an injured/infected finger, Jackson missed three games with a similar suspension and then tweaked his ankle in Sunday’s win over Florida A&M and Lammers has been hobbled by a sprained ankle. The ailments and absences of Tech’s three best players are not insignificant reasons why the Jackets are a modest 5-4.
Lammers will try to heed the advice of Conte and stay in the present and not consider who isn’t on the court at Stegeman Coliseum, just who is.
“Like what happens, whether it’s the past game or just the past call, learn to let things go, because they can hinder you and prevent you from succeeding in the future,” Lammers said.
The task on the floor will be tough enough. Georgia is 7-2 and will target a third consecutive win over the Jackets, a string the Bulldogs last accomplished 1999-2001. Forward Yante Maten is averaging 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“I feel like each and every year, year in and year out, they’re really a team that likes to grind things out, really good running their sets, crashing the glass, a really physical team,” Okogie said.
Tech has been boosted by Okogie’s return from his finger dislocation and subsequent infection. In his first game back, on Sunday, Okogie contributed 19 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes. His conditioning needs to improve, as does his shot selection and his defense, but he tore out of the gate driving hard to the basket and playing with abandon. The infusion of energy and speed he gave the Jackets in transition was obvious.
After missing eight games, Okogie will be quite pleased to get on the floor again, no matter what Bulldogs fans may have to say to him to get him off his game.
“Trust me, I’m feeling so good to be on a court, I don’t think they can give me a bad time,” said Okogie, who prior to this trip had never been to Athens, the same as Pastner.
Conte is a published author, speaker and licensed counselor who specializes in the field of anger management. He has worked in the past with football teams from Florida State, Oregon and Tennessee. Pastner decided to fly him in from Pittsburgh, thinking that his players needed something to help get them re-centered after their bumpy start.
“There’s a profound statement that I teach, which is people see your actions, not your intentions, and it’s simple, but it’s profound,” Conte said. “When we really realize that it doesn’t matter how we think we’re coming off to the world, we have to be mindful of how we are actually coming off to the world, that’s a powerful message in all parts of our lives.”