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Ken SugiuraKen Sugiura

Judging the impact of Josh Heath’s transfer

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The commitment of former South Florida guard Josh Heath to transfer to Georgia Tech may not rate on the surface as a game-changer. And maybe on a deeper level, it isn’t, either.

But it would appear he could play a significant role for the Yellow Jackets next season. Heath is expected to receive a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately, as he was playing for his father Stan Heath, who was fired by USF at the end of the season. There is a precedent for the NCAA granting such waivers, such as in 2012, when Trey Zeigler was given immediately eligibility after he transferred to Pittsburgh from Central Michigan following his father’s firing there.

Heath is a pass-first point guard, which is very much what Tech needs. I would contend that the Jackets would have fared better by two or three wins if Travis Jorgenson had not torn his ACL in the fourth game of the season. Heath would appear to be a player in that same mold.

His numbers – 2.6 points per game, 3.6 assists per game – hardly jump off the page. But they deserve a little clarification. Heath was expected to redshirt, but ended up playing due to a teammate’s injury. He mostly backed up and averaged 20 minutes a game. He ended up starting the final four games of the season, and there his numbers are a little more noteworthy.

In those games, he averaged 5.5 assists against 1.5 turnovers, with 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds, in 28.5 minutes. It was against AAC competition, which is not the ACC but not awful. Regardless, it would seem Tech could use a player like that, as the Jackets have at times struggled to both create open shots and hold onto the ball.

Heath’s assist-turnover ratio was 2.3, better than Trae Golden’s 1.6 and Corey Heyward’s 1.7. Further, Heath averaged an assist every 5.5 minutes, compared to 9.8 for Golden and 11.7 for Heyward.

Jorgenson’s rehabilitation is said to be going well, and he may be cleared to play before the season starts, but the more coach Brian Gregory can ease him back, the better.

“I think I’m in a good spot,” Heath said. “Hopefully we can win some games. I think they’re really good.”

It also bears mention that Heath’s father gave Gregory a pretty strong endorsement, both in sending his son to play for him and also in a literal endorsement.

“I know the kind of program he runs,” Heath said. “I like the direction it’s going. He’s kind of built a culture that I think is going to grow into a very strong basketball team for the upcoming seasons.”

Heath and Gregory were assistants together at Michigan State on Tom Izzo’s staff. They helped the Spartans win the 2000 national championship. It goes without saying that Heath isn’t going to call Gregory a shiftless slouch after his son has elected to play for him. But the fact that Heath knows Gregory as well as he does and approved of his son’s choice is telling. This past season didn’t go as anyone wanted, and there is a desire to see results, but Heath would seem to be placing a very considerable bet on Gregory and Tech’s future.

“I have a high regard for Coach Gregory and his staff,” Heath said. “He’s building something and I think  Josh wanted to be a part of that future.”

Note: Heath will not be joining his son as an assistant to Gregory to fill the vacancy left by Josh Postorino. Heath, who reportedly has $1.5 million coming to him in a buyout, said he wants to explore his options with television.

“That won’t be me,” Heath said of the job on Gregory’s staff.

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