Could Georgia Tech go into the season with 10 scholarship players?

Georgia Tech guard Tadric Jackson (1) brings the ball upcourt in a basketball game at McCamish Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Tech is apparently down to four potential targets for its 2017 signing class – Wheeler High forward Jordan Tucker, Jonesboro High guard M.J. Walker, Princeton graduate transfer forward Hans Brase and Brewster Academy forward Sidney Wilson. The likely range is three to none, and the lower end seems more probable.

In a perfect world for coach Josh Pastner, Tucker and Walker would commit and then Brase and Wilson would plead with him to take the 13th and final scholarship spot. That would likely fall under the category of “far-fetched scenarios.”

With Tucker having been offered by Duke on Sunday and then arranged an official visit for Wednesday and Thursday, it would not at all be unsurprising if he accepts coach Mike Krzyzewski’s scholarship offer. Walker continued his recruitment with an official visit to Ohio State this past weekend. Florida State, Virginia Tech and UCLA are also in the mix with Tech, and a visit to UCLA may be coming up. Tech still has a shot, but it’s anybody’s guess at this point.

Tech target has another suitor: Duke

Brase made an official visit to Tech last week and was at Iowa State on Monday. Richmond and Nebraska also are possibilities. Tech has a couple of factors in its favor, its membership in the ACC and its proximity to his hometown of Clover, S.C. He is expected to make a decision this week.

Wilson is the newest target, having reclassified into the 2017 class at Brewster, the same New Hampshire boarding school where signee Curtis Haywood spent a fifth year of high school. Wilson has Tech among six finalists – the others are Connecticut, Florida, St. John’s, Syracuse and Texas.

Tech among finalists for four-star prospect Sidney Wilson

Two reasons for Tech fans not to be overwhelmingly optimistic about Wilson – in an interview with Zags Blog, he listed four schools that were recruiting him the hardest, and Tech was not one of them. He called Syracuse his “hometown favorite school” (Wilson is from New York) and said that he has known assistant coach Adrian Autry since the eighth grade.

It’s possible that Pastner could sign one or two or even three of the four. It’s also possible that he could end up with none and go into the season with 10 scholarship players, three shy of the maximum. Pastner had 12 scholarship players last season, not counting Rand Rowland, who was added for the spring semester.

It would be the fewest at Tech since former coach Brian Gregory’s first season, when he had nine scholarship players, not counting two walk-ons who were awarded scholarships.

Ten is not ideal, but not entirely unusual. Notre Dame, for instance, stands at 10 scholarship players for next season.

It could be workable. Pastner prefers a shorter rotation. This past season, in part out of necessity, he allocated 92 percent of the team’s minutes to seven players.

And while Pastner had 12 last season (not counting Rowland), from a production standpoint, Tech really depended only on eight.

It would present a problem with practice and just having enough bodies to form a scout team and scrimmage, which can be addressed by adding walk-ons. The bigger issue is the makeup of the potential 10. Four will be freshmen. A fifth, Sylvester Ogbonda, played 120 minutes and would have played even fewer if not for Abdoulaye Gueye’s season-ending wrist injury. Gueye himself was on the floor for 201 minutes.

At this point, Tadric Jackson, Ben Lammers, Justin Moore and Josh Okogie have proved themselves to varying degrees. That means that, even if the rotation goes just six deep, Pastner would have to count on two among signees Jose Alvarado, Evan Cole, Curtis Haywood, Moses Wright and Gueye and Ogbonda to help the Jackets win. And if it were just six, those two would obviously be playing significant minutes and would have to make meaningful contributions.

And it couldn’t be just any two. Quinton Stephens’ power-forward spot is vacant, a role that perhaps either Cole, Wright or Gueye could best fill. Ideally, Tech would have more front-court depth to prevent Pastner from playing Lammers 37 minutes, as he did in ACC play. Similarly, Pastner would love for Alvarado to be ready to log minutes at the point, where only Moore returns.

It’s conceivable that of the six, two can be productive ACC-level players this coming winter, or even three. Few suspected that Okogie would earn a spot on the ACC’s all-freshman team, after all. But it’s hardly a given.

It would be why perhaps Brase in particular would be most helpful for Tech’s prospects next season. Gueye was developing into a dependable player at the time of his injury – he has been cleared to play – but his offensive game is still limited. If Brase were to pick Tech, and if his twice-injured right knee can hold up (once an ACL tear and the more recent, in December 2016, also believed to be an ACL), he at least has significant experience at the college level (93 games played, averaging 25 minutes, 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds) to be a promising candidate to bring more production to the frontcourt.

For Tech to make gains on this past season, it will be imperative for returnees to continue their development over the summer and into the preseason. And Pastner and his staff will have to hope that a) at least one or two of the freshmen will prove themselves capable of contributing immediately; b) they can add to the roster in the few remaining weeks of the recruiting period.


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