ATLANTA — Georgia Tech's big men may be the team's best hopes for improved scoring in coach Brian Gregory's second season.
The Yellow Jackets were 11-20, including a 4-12 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, in Gregory's debut. Georgia Tech ranked 313th in the nation by scoring only about 60 points per game.
Center Daniel Miller and power forward Kammeon Holsey provided consistent scoring late last season.
Miller scored in double figures in eight of his last 10 games last season. Holsey had 10 or more points in six of his last nine games.
"They've worked extremely hard," Gregory said. "They've gotten strong and more physical, which will help. We're counting on them, as juniors now, to be really good ACC players. They're a big part of our offense. Last year, I thought they anchored our defense really well, and they're going to have to do a really good job of that this year as well."
Georgia Tech returns all five starters. Miller (6-11, 257) and Holsey (6-8, 231) were the only two who started every game.
Miller averaged 8.1 points and 6.5 rebounds.
"I feel like at the end of the season we were doing a lot better with that," Miller said of the team's inside scoring. "Kam Holsey I think is one of the best offensive posts in the league. We've just got to get the ball inside more and just go to our moves. We were getting better at the end of the season and we just kept working on what we needed to get better at."
Holsey, a more aggressive scorer than Miller, had 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Holsey said he hopes to build on his improved scoring at the end of last season.
"I feel like we started playing better as a team," Holsey said. "Our chemistry got so much better.
"Daniel is a big target. He made me better and we made each other better. We have two guys down there who can work together when we go into attack mode."
Gregory said Miller needs to pick up some of Holsey's scoring mentality.
"We joke around with Daniel that he needs a little more Kam in him. Kam sometimes gets the ball in the post, and it's the black hole. That thing ain't coming out, which is fine for the most part. We're constantly talking to Daniel about being more aggressive in terms of scoring. He's such a good passer, I think he really enjoys getting shots for other people passing the ball."
Two 6-foot-8 forwards, sophomore Julian Royal and freshman Robert Carter, add more size behind the starters.
Point guard Mfon Udofia, a senior, is the leading returning scorer with his 9.9 points per game.
The other returning starters are guards Jason Morris and Brandon Reed.
Gregory said his freshmen, including Carter and guards Chris Bolden and Marcus Georges-Hunt, "are physically ready to play in this level, which is unique among freshmen."
Gregory said he isn't expecting a dramatic offensive upswing this season because his focus on defense sets a lower scoring pace.
"Honestly, because of the way we defense, we're never going to be scoring 85 points a game," Gregory said, using last season's 93-81 loss at North Carolina as evidence.
"We scored 80-something points at North Carolina last year, but that wasn't because we became great offensively," he said. "That was because we couldn't guard them. There were so many more possessions in that game."
More often, the Yellow Jackets were held under 60 points in ACC games. Georgia Tech averaged only 58.6 points in conference regular-season games, a record low for Georgia Tech in the shot-clock era.
The Yellow Jackets closed the season with a 54-36 loss to Miami in the ACC tournament for their lowest-scoring game in 51 years.
Georgia Tech was without a true home court last season. It played its home conference games at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, the home of the NBA Hawks, and used the Gwinnett Arena near Atlanta as its other home while its on-campus facility was being rebuilt.
Most of last season's games felt like road trips. The team stayed at a hotel even when playing at the Gwinnett Arena. It wasn't an ideal scenario, but Gregory said it wasn't the reason his team struggled to score.
"I'll be honest with you, the venue didn't have anything to do with our shooting woes," he said. "We played better and defended better and shot better on the road than we did at home, and we never practiced at those arenas."
The team opens its new $50 million arena, McCamish Pavilion, against Tulane on Nov. 9. The new arena was built under the roof of the old Alexander Memorial Coliseum.