Two of his most prominent team members will be on the bench for the duration of the stay, but Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory was hopeful for his team’s seven-day trip to the Bahamas that began Wednesday.
The team is to play three games against local teams before returning Tuesday. The Yellow Jackets are playing without forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, recovering from a broken foot suffered in the final regular-season game, and graduate transfer guard Adam Smith, who is sitting after aggravating an old injury to his left leg during practice for the trip.
The team opened with an easy win over a local all-star team Thursday night.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guys to grow and learn a little bit and put in a couple new things to see how it works out and this is kind of a springboard for our fall workouts,” Gregory said Tuesday.
The Jackets, under the NCAA rules regarding international trips, took advantage of 10 extra practices to prepare. Smith took part in six before being sat down, Gregory said. Smith led Virginia Tech in scoring last season with 13.4 points and shot an ACC-leading 42.4 percent from 3-point range before deciding to transfer to be closer to his home in Fayette County.
When he practiced, Gregory said, the team was able to try different guard combinations, going small with a three-guard lineup and bigger with a one-guard set.
“I think, because of the versatility of some of the players, it gives us a much greater diversity in who we can play,” Gregory said.
Georges-Hunt has not resumed basketball activity yet after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot against North Carolina March 3. Georges-Hunt said he is jogging on an anti-gravity treadmill that reduces the impact on his foot and doing exercises to strengthen his foot, including walking the steps of McCamish Pavilion with a medicine ball. He was hopeful to begin full-speed running after the team’s return.
Shortly after the injury, Gregory said the rehabilitation was expected to take eight to 12 weeks , the latter estimate extending to mid-June. Gregory said Tuesday that Georges-Hunt is on schedule and should be ready to take part in the fall workouts following the start of the semester Aug. 17.
“If we had pushed it, we would have had (medical clearance) by now, but we made the decision actually in the beginning of the summer that this was the game plan for us,” he said.
Georges-Hunt said he was “just right where I want to be. It’s kind of like I missed the summer in a way without being able to play with my teammates, but I got a lot of stuff done.”
Gregory’s plan for the three games was to spread out playing time and make sure younger players such as sophomores Abdoulaye Gueye, Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers and freshman forward Sylvester Ogbonda received plenty of game experience. It figures to be useful also for senior forward Nick Jacobs, who sat out last season after transferring from Alabama.
Lammers adding size, range
The 6-foot-10 Lammers, who averaged 5.9 minutes last season, has shown more aggressiveness this summer and has also added about 10 pounds to reach 230. With the graduation of big men Demarco Cox and Robert Sampson, a spot in the rotation for Lammers is a strong possibility.
“If we didn’t do this trip, it would have been six months before he competed against somebody else and in a game situation, and if you’re counting on him, the more game opportunities guys have, the better off they are,” Gregory said.
To add weight and muscle, Lammers has been on a daily 4,800-calorie diet, inhaling protein shakes with his roommate for the summer, forward Quinton Stephens. While hardly bragging, Lammers said he can now do 10 pull-ups, whereas in high school he could manage one. He has also worked on his jump shot from 10 to 15 feet, anticipating taking defenders out of the post.
“I’m not necessarily going to be a bruiser this season, so I still have to develop a jump shot,” he said.
It’s the first offseason overseas trip for the team since 1991, though teams are permitted to take them every four years. (Trips had been planned at various points since that point, but were scuttled for various reasons.) The Jackets are staying at the Atlantis resort, mixing in games with time on the beach and a community-service project. Georges-Hunt said he hoped to swim with dolphins.
The roster isn’t quite the amalgamation that last year’s was, when there were seven scholarship players who were new to the team. But, for a team that finished 12-19, extra practice and games, on top of off-court time spent together, can’t be bad.
Said Gregory, “I think it’s going to be really good for us.”