For two years, Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers was bounced around in practice and followed the lead of elders such as Demarco Cox, Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs.
Monday, as the Yellow Jackets opened preseason practice at the start of new coach Josh Pastner’s first season in place of Brian Gregory, Lammers was getting used to his new status.
“I’m 20,” he said. “I still think I’m a teenager kind of thing. It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but it’s definitely different. But I’m enjoying kind of being at the top of the food chain.”
Newness and unfamiliarity stand to be themes of Tech’s preseason and the season as a whole. The Yellow Jackets will need to find a way to replace 78 percent of their scoring and the leadership and production of All-ACC guard Marcus Georges-Hunt. They’ll have to learn Pastner’s up-tempo style and figure out how to meet his standards in practice and games. And they’ll do that with a roster of which seven of 12 scholarship players didn’t play last year for the Jackets, either because they’re freshmen (three) or transfers (two) or redshirted last season (two).
“New faces, (and) obviously each coach has their own way of doing things, so it’s pretty much just like, different program, same building,” Lammers said.
The upside of being a part of a team that has lost so much scoring and has a new coach is the opportunity to lay claim to roles and minutes. With experience, potential and two more seasons of eligibility, Lammers is among players with the most to gain.
Lammers has worked with assistant coach Eric Reveno, a noted big man teacher who coached several future NBA draft picks as an assistant at Stanford, on footwork and technique. He said he is in better condition, has gained about five pounds to get to 235 and is stronger. Primarily a low-post player with Gregory, he likes the movement of Pastner’s offense and the increased diversity of shot options he thinks he’ll have in it.
Among other facets, he said he has worked on “being more comfortable with the ball and not rushing. Probably the main thing is just being more comfortable and confident throughout the whole entire game.”
Lammers might have been the team’s most improved player from the beginning of the 2015-16 season to the end of it. He showed a developing post game and shot-blocking expertise. While his shot selection was conservative, his .655 shooting percentage was by far the highest on the team.
With Pastner wanting to play an up-tempo game to create easier scoring opportunities in transition, Lammers has raised his hand to take part in running the floor. Pastner will likely give him all he wants. As the sole returning big man – Sylvester Ogbonda redshirted last year – Lammers will be given a much bigger load than the 14.8 minutes he averaged last year rotating with Mitchell, Jacobs and James White.
“I’m comfortable with that,” Lammers said. “I don’t think you’re ever going to hear a basketball player who gets mad for getting more responsibility on the offense end, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Tech opens its season Nov. 11 against Tennessee Tech. The Jackets play an exhibition game Nov. 5 against Shorter University.