Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner’s continued efforts to complete the 2017 signing class include his pursuit of notables such as Jonesboro High guard M.J. Walker and Wheeler High forward Jordan Tucker.
At the same time, Pastner is searching hard at the other end of the recruiting spectrum, bringing in a series of lesser-known prospects for tryouts on campus.
One of them was Denis Alibegovic, a shooting guard from suburban Chicago. Alibegovic flew to Atlanta last weekend and worked out before Pastner and his staff.
“He basically said to me, ‘I’ve heard great things about you,’” said Alibegovic, who set a school record for 3-pointers this past season. “He wanted me to come down and work out, visit, see how I play in person because he hadn’t seen how I played in person.”
Coaches had Alibegovic said that he went through drills with Tech assistant coach Tavaras Hardy and then did work with guard Tadric Jackson before taking part in a five-on-five scrimmage with other team members.
“I’m sure that I can play in that type of environment,” Alibegovic said. “I can play in that type of competition.”
Alibegovic went to Georgia State for a similar workout with Panthers coach Ron Hunter. It’s a lesser-known aspect of basketball recruiting. Once a high-school senior or transfer prospect has completed his season, he is allowed to go through a tryout on a campus visit. At the Division I level, this activity is permissible only for men’s basketball. The rule was passed in 2009.
Pastner is quite pleased to take advantage of the allowance. He said that he has done “quite a few” of these tryouts, calling it a “great rule.”
“We did this quite a bit at Memphis,” said Tech director of operations Julian Swartz, who was on Pastner’s staff at Memphis. “We view this rule as an excellent opportunity to either evaluate and/or have prospects be able to play alongside adn compete with our current players.”
With four scholarships available for the 2017 signing class and uncertainty over how he’ll fill them, Pastner has been working seemingly every possibility. It partially explains how he signed forward Moses Wright from Raleigh, N.C., an under-the-radar prospect who was being recruited by Division II and low Division I schools as late as last summer.
Pastner has repeatedly made clear that he and his staff will need to have some luck in the process, either in a prospect turning out to be much better than expected or finding a player whom others have missed. Pastner invoked the name of Steve Kerr, who was a lightly regarded recruit to Arizona (Pastner’s alma mater) before leading the Wildcats to their first Final Four and establishing the team as a national power.
“If you look at guys who have had success, there was someone to get them over the hump,” he said.
Chances are unlikely that he’ll find another a prospect who will go on to win six NBA titles and set a league record for career 3-point accuracy, but it won’t keep him from continuing the search.
He is notoriously thorough. His process to hire his coaching staff, for example, took four weeks. He described his pace as “ a turtle’s speed .” Assistant Darryl LaBarrie joked that the level of vetting was such that “ I felt like I was going into the FBI .”
Last year’s All-NBA team, whose ranks included players from San Diego State (Kawhi Leonard), Davidson (Stephen Curry), Weber State (Damian Lillard) and Fresno State (Paul George), demonstrate that elite players often slip through the cracks.
Tech will bring in another prospect, South Forsyth High forward Evan Cole , on Thursday for an unofficial visit. Cole signed with UNC-Wilmington before coach Kevin Keatts left for N.C. State, prompting him to seek his release from his letter of intent.
On his visit, Cole was expecting to take part in a scrimmage with the Jackets.