ATLANTA — This may have been the perfect time for Georgia Tech’s first international summer trip since 1991.
The Yellow Jackets took a three-game, six-day trip to the Bahamas in August. That gave coach Brian Gregory bonus practice time to help three transfers find their fit.
Coach Brian Gregory came back to Atlanta enthused about this season. Much of the optimism is based on an infusion of talent and experience from the transfers — guard Adam Smith of Virginia Tech, forward Nick Jacobs of Alabama and forward James White of Arkansas-Little Rock.
Gregory’s future at Georgia Tech could ride on his ability to make good use of his new talent. In reviewing Gregory last season, after the Yellow Jackets finished next to last in the Atlantic Coast Conference, athletic director Mike Bobinski wouldn’t say how many wins the coach must produce this season. Bobinski said the team should show “clear signs of progress.”
Gregory is 55-71 through four seasons at Georgia Tech with no NCAA or NIT postseason appearance. The Yellow Jackets were 12-19 last season, including 3-15 in the ACC.
Looking for immediate help, Gregory added experienced players. Smith and Jacobs are expected to start immediately.
Smith, who averaged 13.4 points per game at Virginia Tech last season, will join senior Marcus Georges-Hunt to give Georgia Tech two established outside shooters. Each ranks among the top 10 returning scorers in the ACC.
Jacobs (6-8, 260) joins senior Charles Mitchell (6-8, 269) for the foundation of a space-filling front line. White (6-8, 220) provides more size and, according to Gregory, is “our best athlete by far.”
Point guard Travis Jorgenson should be stronger and quicker in his second season following knee surgery in December 2013. “His explosiveness is back to where it was prior to the injury,” Gregory said.
Georges-Hunt may retain top-scorer bragging rights this season, but he’ll have more help from Smith, Mitchell, Jacobs, and a deep bench that includes Quinton Stephens, Tadric Jackson, Josh Heath and Corey Heyward.
“I feel I will have a lot of room to operate,” Georges-Hunt said.
Here are some things to know about Georgia Tech’s season:
BREAKOUT THREAT: Jackson had a fairly quiet freshman season, averaging 5.4 points. He started the final six regular-season games and then gained momentum by averaging 14 points in three games in the team’s summer trip to the Bahamas. Jackson (6-2, 209) was a top recruit who could emerge as a productive scorer as a sophomore. “We’re looking for him to have a very, very big sophomore year,” Gregory said. “He’s a key component for what we’re doing.”
LONG-DISTANCE HELP: Smith made 81 3-pointers for Virginia Tech last season. He should help the Yellow Jackets improve their 26.7-percent 3-point shooting from 2014-15 — the lowest mark in school history. “There was a sincere need and a gap in things we did well, and he fills those,” Gregory said.
WIN THE CLOSE ONES: With a little luck — and better finishes — Georgia Tech could have had a better record last season. It lost 13 ACC games by no more than seven points. “You’re in a position where now competing isn’t good enough, now you need to finish those games,” Gregory said.
PUSH THE BALL: Gregory is looking for players to push the ball as soon as they make a defensive rebound. That means push it immediately instead of first looking to get the ball to the point guard. “Now it’s score, score, score instead of a structured, robotic offense,” Jackson said. A deep bench should help players keep an aggressive edge. “I think that depth is something we’re going to have to utilize, and one of the ways to do it is to play a little faster, and I want our guys to do that,” Gregory said.
FULL SPEED: Georges-Hunt has made a full recovery from a broken foot suffered in the final regular-season game. He has practiced without limitations. “It feels like a new foot,” he said.