Georgia Tech’s senior night will be one of the more unusual ones in recent memory. Tech fans can bid farewell to walk-on Aaron Peek and two transfers who have played only their senior seasons as Yellow Jackets, center Demarco Cox and forward Robert Sampson.
The Jackets are in this situation because of the changeover four years ago from Paul Hewitt to Brian Gregory. When Gregory was hired, he inherited just one signee, Julian Royal. The Milton High grad played two seasons for Tech and then transferred to George Mason, where Hewitt was hired after his dismissal. (If you’re wondering, Royal has been coming off the bench for George Mason, averaging 3.7 points in 12.8 minutes per game.)
(Actually, if you want to go down the rabbit hole a little further, that Gregory inherited only one signee is not entirely accurate. Hewitt had also received a letter of intent from Bobby Parks, a guard from the Philippines. The son of former Memphis star Bobby Parks, the younger Parks played at the high-school level in Tennessee but then chose to play collegiately in the Philippines, where he reportedly became a two-time MVP of his school’s league.)
At any rate, Cox, Peek and Sampson will be honored Tuesday prior to the start of the regular-seaosn finale against North Carolina.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’m going to enjoy it,” Sampson said. “It’s definitely been a long time in college, but it’s been amazing, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Peek’s minutes have been scant – he has played a total of 13 games and 25 minutes in four seasons – but has contributed to the Jackets by playing on the “Iron Five” scout team. A graduate of Mays High, he was actually invited to try out after he had enrolled in school after Gregory got word through a colleague that Peek might be able to help. Gregory called him a “tremendous asset” to the team. Gregory said he wouldn’t be surprised if Peek, a public policy major, eventually became mayor of Atlanta.
“I know one thing,” Gregory said. “Whatever he does, he’ll be a great husband, great father and he’s going to make an impact.”
After sitting out last season following his transfer from East Carolina, Sampson has contributed by doing a lot of the small things and particularly has rebounded well lately. Since becoming a starter prior to the Boston College game, he has averaged seven rebounds per game in 21.2 minutes per game.
“He’s had a very good senior year for us,” Gregory said. “When he’s played really well, it makes us a different team, there’s no doubt about it.”
Against a higher level of competition, Sampson’s production has held fairly steady. He averaged 7.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per 30 minutes as a junior at East Carolina. He has averaged 6.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per 30 minutes at Tech. He’ll also earn his business administration degree this spring. As transfers go, Sampson’s case was unusual, in that he came with only one year of eligibility remaining, so Tech spent, so to speak, two years of a scholarship for one year of play.
When he arrived in the summer of 2013, Tech had space available (Travis Jorgenson and Quinton Stephens were the two signees coming in as freshmen that year) and faced the looming graduation of big men Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey. Sampson hasn’t been a star, but has held his own, particularly rebounding. It’s impossible to know what might have happened had Gregory held the scholarship available and used it on a freshman in the following class, but he likely wouldn’t have made the contribution that Sampson has this season (though, obviously, he’d also have three more years after this season).
“He’s got a bright future,” Gregory said. “I think he’s going to be able to play after he’s done here and he’s been a guy that’s worked on his game and has improved his game.”
Cox was a pretty solid find out of Ole Miss last summer. Cox had played three somewhat undistinguished seasons at Ole Miss in a guard-oriented offense and chose Tech over mid-major options. He has averaged 8.6 points per game on 50.5 percent shooting. His 208 field-goal attempts in 29 games and 764 minutes at Tech nearly equal the 218 he took at Ole Miss in 102 games and 1,284 minutes. He has had 14 double-digit scoring games after having five at Ole Miss.
“That’s a testimony to him and the work he’s put in,” Gregory said. “I think he’s been in great shape the whole season and the coaches have done a good job of keeping his confidence up.”
Particularly given the void left by the graduation of Miller and Holsey and the surprise transfer of Robert Carter, Cox has been more than adequate, particularly having graduated last summer from Ole Miss and arriving at the last minute.
“For only learning our system for, relatively, two months before you throw him out there, he’s done a really good job,” Gregory said. “I’ve been really pleased with him.”