This week I find myself in Atlanta, sadly not courtesy of TCC but rather for a conference for my “proper” job. Last night, short of alternative options, I made the relatively smooth journey into downtown Atlanta to take in the ACC clash between Georgia Tech and Maryland.
The Yellow Jackets, also known as the Ramblin’ Wreck (they have way too many nicknames) play at the Hank McCamish Pavillion, on the north-western corner of their downtown campus. It’s a short walk from the MARTA (the Atlanta underground/tram system) stop and despite being a downtown campus, Georgia Tech is actually quite a charming part of Atlanta. I can’t attest to how safe the fringes of campus are, but I didn’t see anywhere that looked all that dangerous at all.
This season, they were an unimpressive 4-10 in conference play (14-12 overall), but the Yellow Jackets haven’t been all that good for a couple of years. Their last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2010 when they featured Derrick Favors, Gani Lawal and Iman Shumpert. All three found themselves int he NBA, although Lawal now plays in Rome.
Their current team features a cast of pretty decent, but unspectacular players. In particular, they have a big man of real quality in redshirt junior (meaning he has an additional year of eligibility after his senior season), Daniel Miller. Miller is an unfortunate victim of circumstance. If he was 15 years older, he would currently be enjoying his retirement from a solid journeyman career in the NBA. He stands at 6’11” and has decent athleticism, good hands and hits 3/4 of his free throws. There is no way, for example, that he is significantly worse than, say, Aaron Gray. His problem is that he’s not a great athlete. Sure, he runs the floor well and plays good defence, but the demise of the traditional centre position in the NBA seems likely to cast him overseas should he wish to continue playing basketball beyond his NCAA eligibility.
Slightly more highly rated than Miller, is Robert Carter, Jr. He is a 6’8″ forward with strength and hops. As a freshman, he seems likely to flirt with the NBA at some point in his basketball career. How close he comes is really up to him.
By contrast, Maryland stood 7-7 in the ACC and 19-8 overall prior to last night’s contest. They have a legitimate NBA prospect in 7’1″ Ukrainian big Alex Len; Olexiy to his parents. He missed a significant chunk of his freshman season thanks to eligibility issues at the NCAA (what a load of nonsense that this organisation which exploits young sports stars in such a cynical manner should see fit to cast aspersions on someone who would want to ply his trade at the collegiate level) and his introduction during conference play gave his freshman season a rather disappointing tint. This season, however, he has developed somewhat and gives the Terps a solid 12 points and 8 boards per game. He is a little one-dimensional offensively (always goes right) and perhaps lacks the serious athleticism which would see him really excel at the professional level, but he blocks shots well and looks likely to go in the lottery during the upcoming NBA draft.
Other decent prospects in black (and yellow and red) include centre Shaquille Cleare, forward Jake Layman and guard Nick Faust. All four played pretty well, but were ultimately unsuccessful against Georgia Tech.
The game started with the sides trading baskets but Tech led 38-33 going into the break. Coming back from the half time team talk, however, the Yellow Jackets were paced by guard Brandon Reed’s sharp shooting and Miller’s strong defence and ultimate ran into a double digit lead which they would not relinquish. Miller was particularly impressive with a perfect 12-12 from the charity stripe and three blocks, including an early block on the taller and more athletic Len. Len performed reasonably well, but often found himself outmuscled by Miller on the block. Maryland’s inability to adjust its strategy according cost them, even though they fell victim to an unusually strong shooting performance from Tech.
Final score Georgia Tech 78-68 Maryland.