Josh Pastner is coming off of a fantastic debut season as Georgia Tech’s head men’s basketball coach. He’s now looking to strengthen the roster, with high-star instant-impact freshmen and grad transfers possibly in play.
Shortly after Georgia Tech returned to Atlanta following its very successful 2016-17 college basketball season, which featured a surprising run to New York City as a national runner-up in the postseason NIT, head men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner knew that the work for him and his staff was just beginning.
Pastner, whose first season in Atlanta since arriving from Memphis may have been the best coaching job of his career, instilled resiliency and a defense-first attitude into his first batch of Yellow Jackets. And while tenacious defense will continue to be preached, Pastner also knows that he needs to add more dynamic pieces on the recruiting trail in order for his team to play the type of exciting brand of offense that he eventually wants to implement in Atlanta.
The Yellow Jackets had very little room for error offensively this past season, with Josh Okogie leading the team in scoring at 16.1 points per contest as a true freshman. His production while fighting through some natural first-year ups and downs was huge for a team that also received 14.2 points per contest from big man Ben Lammers, who was arguably the league’s most improved player. Tadric Jackson and Quinton Stephens did their best to fill in the offensive gaps, but Pastner knows that this is an important cycle to increase the depth across the board as well as team’s overall talent base. Pastner is looking for a couple of instant-impact players who are able to step in immediately as well as a few who may have to sit out a season before being ready in ’18-19.
In addition to the players leaving due to their eligibility being exhausted, guard/forward Christian Matthews (3.4 points per game as a freshman) has decided to transfer, which leaves the team with just six scholarship players on the roster: center Lammers, guards Okogie, Jackson and Justin Moore, as well as forwards Abdoulaye Gueye and Sylvester Ogbonda. Expected in for 2017-18 are New York point guard Jose Alvarado, who has signed, and Oklahoma shooting guard Curtis Haywood, who has committed and can sign when the period begins on Wednesday. That leaves the program with five slots to fill.
Can Pastner and Co. reel in at least one big fish?
After trying to woo North Carolina point guard Blake Harris with an in-home visit, Pastner found out that the former Washington signee decided to join Michael Porter Jr. at Missouri. But GT remains in on four-star small forward Jordan Tucker and five-star shooting guard M.J. Walker, in-state players who are among the nation’s top remaining high-school prospects in this 2017 class. Tucker is scheduled to visit Atlanta on April 28 following trips to Syracuse and Oregon. Meanwhile, Walker’s only official visit was to Florida State, but he’s been to GT multiple times. He would be a big-time “get” for the program.
If Pastner and his staff miss out on their biggest targets, players such as North Carolina forward Moses Wright, Michigan guard Amauri Hardy and in-state forward Evan Cole are all in the mix and could contribute upon arrival. It’s certainly a tension-filled market, especially for coaches going after players who received releases from letters of intent because of coaching changes.
Pastner and his staff will also be looking hard at the graduate transfer market, which continues to swell over the last couple of seasons. Washington forward Noah Dickerson, who is coming off of an official visit to Virginia, is thinking about leaving Seattle. He averaged 12.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this past season and is from Atlanta. He was also recruited by Pastner when he was at Memphis. The Dedric and K.J. Lawson pairing would have been a real coup, as the brothers were recruited by Pastner and became stars at Memphis in the AAC. But they decided on Monday that they would head to Kansas.
Any possible addition is seemingly on the table for a GT program that surprised the entire country by going 21-16 in 2016-17 but is looking for enhancements for the ’17-18 roster and beyond as it looks to remain competitive in the rugged ACC.