An unlikely event took place for Georgia Tech on Tuesday. All 16 players on the Yellow Jackets’ roster took part in the team’s pre-practice stretch.
It was the first time this season that the entire roster had participated since all 16 stretched together on the first day of preseason practice began in early October. It’s a telling detail about the seemingly unending string of injuries that have befallen Tech players since they began practice – sprained ankles, concussions, a dislocated finger and other maladies.
Because of either injuries or suspensions or both, Tech has not had a game in which all 11 eligible scholarship players have been available to play, and the streak will continue in Wednesday night’s game against Miami at McCamish Pavilion. Guard Curtis Haywood will sit out his sixth game in a row with a shin injury. (Haywood did take part in Tuesday’s stretch – officially termed the “dynamic warmup” – before going to do rehab.)
But, aside from Haywood, the roster is largely healthy at last, particularly center Ben Lammers, who sprained his ankle in the second game of the season and hobbled for several games afterward.
“This is really the beginning of our season when you look at it,” Pastner said. “We’ve been in such flux with injuries and other stuff that we haven’t had our team.”
Guards Jose Alvarado and Brandon Alston and Lammers are the only three players to play in all 13 of Tech’s games, and each has dealt with injuries of his own. Alvarado suffered a head injury two games ago and was questionable for the ACC opener against Notre Dame on Saturday. Alston sprained a knee ligament in the preseason. Lammers has had his ankle injury.
Guard Josh Okogie had his finger dislocation (eight games, though he missed the first six of those eighit with a suspension). Forward/center Abdoulaye Gueye had an ankle sprain (one game). Forward Sylvester Ogbonda has been out for the past five games with an ankle injury. Guard Justin Moore was not available for the past two games as he had stayed home in San Diego for personal reasons after returning for Christmas break. He has since returned.
In a trying season for the Jackets, it helps explain why they are 6-7 after 13 games with unlikely losses to Grambling State, Wofford and Wright State. Pastner has acknowledged that the team has been out of sync this season. It is a stark contrast to last season, when the Jackets had only one player miss one game due to injury.
The absence of Haywood, who had started seven games in a row and had played 30 or more minutes in the final five of those games, has been a tough hit. Haywood, a freshman, gave the Jackets a 3-point threat and was playing energetically on defense. His return date is uncertain.
“He’s a big plus for us,” Pastner said. “He gives us another shooter.”
Dealing with injuries hardly makes Tech unusual. Notre Dame’s chances to win the ACC took a big hit when All-ACC forward Bonzie Colson suffered a foot fracture in practices earlier this week. But the injuries – notably to Lammers and Okogie – have been particularly tough to deal with for a Tech team that doesn’t have much scoring potency aside from those two.
“If Josh and Ben play really well, I think we’ll have a chance to have a great outcome (against Miami),” Pastner said. “If they both don’t play well, it’s just going to be very hard for us. That’s about as black and white as I can be about that.”