Here are 10 interesting things said by Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner and women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph ahead of their season-opening games on Friday.
The women’s team will host Samford at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s team will host Tennessee Tech at 8 p.m.
On to the 10 things, starting with Joseph:
- Joseph thinks this year’s squad could go 10 deep. Her opinion is based upon the team’s performances in the closed scrimmages.
- She thinks Zaire O’Neil will develop into one of the top 10 players in the ACC. The junior averaged 6.6 points and 3 rebounds last season. O’Neil could be the leading scorer, one of as many as four who could score at least 10 points every game.
- Francesca Pan has the potential to be one of the five best freshmen in the conference because of her ability to play multiple positions and skill to score from the 3-point line, at the rim, or mid-range. Pan is a 6-foot-1 guard from Italy, one of the eight countries on Tech’s roster.
- Joseph likes the diversity of the roster. She has challenged them to confront each other and hold each other accountable. She said the players on the team like each other. “So much diversity coming together is a beautiful thing,” she said. The other countries are: Anne Francoise Diouf from Senegal, Katarina Vuckovic from Serbia, Elo Edeferioka from Nigeria, Simina Avram from Romania, Chelsea Guimaraes from Portugal, Antonia Peresson, who is also from Italy, and several players from the U.S.
- Kaylan Pugh could be another difference-maker. Tech should hear on Friday if Pugh will be eligible after transferring from Ohio State to take care of a family member. If the NCAA doesn’t grant the request, Joseph said Pugh, a 5-9 guard, should be eligible by the Alabama game on Dec. 17. “If Pugh is eligible, that’s a whole other level,” Joseph said.
- Don’t expect to see a consistent starting five from game to game. Pastner chose the five for the scrimmage against Mississippi State based upon who had grabbed the most rebounds during practices. The five for the exhibition game against Shorter was based upon which eligible players had won the most 50-50 balls in practices. So, the criteria for the starting five is going to change each game. Playing time will also change each game. Pastner said a player can go 30 minutes one game and one minute the next. “We are a team that is game by game,” he said. “There is not an opponent on our schedule we can step on the floor and show up and think we can overtake anyone. Our margin of error is close to none, and maybe none.”
- This team may have trouble hitting 3-pointers. Pastner said they were 3-of-28 in their two scrimmages, including 0-for-14 in the overtime win against Shorter. The Jackets hit 35.7 percent of their 3-pointers last season, but most of the players who hit those shots are gone. “I like open 3s when feet are set, but I love layups. Hopefully we got the misses out.”
- The biggest lesson he learned from the intensity and scrutiny he received in following John Calipari at Memphis that he will apply at Tech is that everyone on his staff has to be aligned to his vision and values. “If one person isn’t aligned … it can throw you off-kilter. I want our culture to be self-motivated, guys who are internally drive to be great.”
- Because he wants to win so badly, and he’s never lost three consecutive games as a player, assistant coach or coach, he’s not sure how he is going to react when the Yellow Jackets lose three consecutive games. Because they were picked 14th out of 15 teams in the ACC preseason poll, it seems likely that long losing streaks will occur. He said he was asked during his interview for the job if he has the temperament stay positive during the next two years. “I’ve handled it to this point, but we are also 0-0. If we go through the projections, the word I was told when I was being interviewed and hired, was balance. It will be interesting. I keep reminding myself to see the big picture. Things could look totally different in two years. The reward could be gratifying.”
- The early signing period starts Wednesday. He said he doesn’t think Tech needs to have 13 players on scholarship, especially because he prefers to play between 7-8. Pastner isn’t sure what will happen on Wednesday. “We’ve had great official visits. We’ve covered a lot of ground. Just need one or two to pull the trigger. To build in recruiting, you have to get talent, but you have to get a guy or two that is better than people think, and you have to get lucky. You need to sign someone who is just as good as the 5 star. We’ve worked as hard as any staff in the history of mankind with this recruiting. But we might not sign as many guys. It’s just the way it is. You have to get lucky.”