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Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech begin to create chemistry with newcomers

Brian Gregory

Brian Gregory

ATLANTA — A mantra of Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory is that “you never stop recruiting.”

For the coming season, at least, Gregory can take a deserved break. He has completed his shopping on the increasingly active transfer market, bringing in four players to fill in the Yellow Jackets’ roster.

His next job will be to create a productive mix with those four, plus three incoming freshmen.

“It’s just part of the job,” Gregory said Wednesday. “Difficult wouldn’t be a word I would use. It’s a challenge, but this is not isolated to one particular program. This happens quite a bit, so you make sure that you’ve got really good leadership among the guys.”

Three of the transfers — forwards Nick Jacobs (Alabama) and Charles Mitchell (Maryland) and guard Josh Heath (South Florida) have arrived and are taking part in summer workouts with the team. Center Demarco Cox will join the team after he graduates this summer from Ole Miss. The three freshmen — center Ben Lammers, forward Abdoulaye Gueye and guard Tadric Jackson, a Tift County grad — also are on campus.

“Some of them, I already knew,” forward Marcus Georges-Hunt said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, what’s up, man, long time, no see.’ (With others), it was like, ‘Hi, my name’s Marcus Georges-Hunt. How’ve you been?’”

Gregory and his team have begun the challenge of melding a team that will try to improve on last season’s 16-17 mark and overcome the losses of Daniel Miller, Trae Golden, Robert Carter and Kammeon Holsey. Beyond seven newcomers, forward Robert Sampson sat out last season as a transfer, and guard Travis Jorgenson played only four games before a season-ending ACL tear.

During the summer, Gregory and the coaching staff are limited to two hours of on-court coaching per week. The job of evaluating the pieces and assigning roles will take place more during preseason workouts. Gregory said he keeps an eye more on players’ competitiveness and toughness, qualities he and his staff can observe not only in skill-development sessions, but also in conditioning workouts and in the weight room.

During the summer, Gregory said, “It’s just getting them to grasp how we do things more on a day-in, day-out basis. The basketball, to be honest with you, in a lot of situations like this, is the least of your concerns because they all come from good programs, successful programs, for the most part, so they understand what it takes to compete at this level.”

From having observed Mitchell as his own player and not as an opponent, for example, Gregory has understood his considerable energy level.

“He plays with a great passion and a great fire,” Gregory said, “something that I think will be a great benefit to us in this program.”

Sampson has put on about 15 pounds of muscle to reach 226. Unable to play last season, he spent the time developing his skills, in particular his ballhandling. After the departure of big men Carter, Holsey and Miller, he was in particular eager to receive new like-sized teammates. Cox will be able to play immediately, and the school has filed paperwork for Mitchell to receive a hardship waiver, as he transferred home to be closer to his ailing grandmother, Ella Mitchell, who lives in southwest Atlanta. A decision is expected later this summer.

Having big men such as Mitchell and Cox will enable Sampson to show off his shooting range, another area he has tried to polish.

“I was glad,” he said. “You always need bodies to help fill out (the rotation) because it’s kind of rough down there, as well.”

Georges-Hunt, a close friend of Carter’s, acknowledged he was surprised when Carter transferred, but wished him well. Now with leadership thrust upon him, Georges-Hunt praised his new teammates’ work ethic and hunger to win.

“I wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year,” he said. “We just have a lot of new guys. That’s all.”