It hasn’t been easy for Georgia Tech to win this year as the only Atlantic Coast Conference team with a freshman as its top scorer.
The Yellow Jackets’ two leading scorers are freshmen Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter Jr. Chris Bolden, a strong 3-point shooter, is the third freshman starter.
Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-10 ACC), which plays Maryland tonight, has lost two straight. A quick turnaround is needed for the Yellow Jackets to manage a winning record in Gregory’s second season as coach.
“It has been a little bit of a challenge because something all freshmen do is have some inconsistency,” Gregory said Monday. “We’re not only asking them to play 32 minutes a game, but we’re asking them to be consistent and sustain over 32 minutes a very high level of performance, and sometimes that’s a challenge for younger guys.”
Georgia Tech hasn’t had two freshmen lead the team in scoring since Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young in 2006-07.
Georges-Hunt, a shooting guard, is averaging 10.7 points per game. He had a slow start to the ACC schedule but has scored in double figures in the last five games.
Carter, a 6-foot-8 forward, is big enough to score near the basket. He’s also a strong 3-point shooter and is averaging 9.8 points. He is 11th in the ACC with 6.8 rebounds per game.
Carter has started every game, playing ahead of junior Kammeon Holsey, whose average of 9.3 points per game is third on the team.
“I feel like we’ll be a pretty good team in the future,” Carter said. “I know we’ve got to work on some things. We want to finish well and hopefully do well in the ACC tournament, but we feel like down the line we should be a pretty good team.”
Bolden joined the starting lineup early in the ACC schedule. Including only ACC games, he is tied with junior center Daniel Miller for third on the team with 9.1 points per game.
“What all that is going to do hopefully those guys are going to grow up a little faster and down the road it’s going to pay dividends,” Gregory said.
Overall, Bolden is sixth on the team with 6.9 points per game.
“Being as the three of us are the top in scoring and knowing that we’re coming back next year, it’s something positive,” Georges-Hunt said. “Next year should be a better year. We only have two seniors, so I feel like next season should be a different outcome.”
Point guard Mfon Udofia is the only senior starter. Backup guard Pierre Jordan is the only other senior.
Georgia Tech finished 11-20 overall in Gregory’s debut last season. It won’t be easy to remain above .500 this season. North Carolina State visits Georgia Tech on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets close the regular season with games at Miami and Boston College.
Georgia Tech lost its first five conference games. It didn’t lose back-to-back games again until double-digit losses to North Carolina and Virginia in the last two games.
Gregory said he doesn’t believe the two losses are evidence the freshmen are wearing down.
“They talk about freshmen hitting the wall,” Gregory said. “I think they’ve done a good job of avoiding that.”
Gregory said the problem is the Yellow Jackets need good production from all the young players.
“We don’t have the luxury of them not playing well,” he said. “Those guys have to play well every single night for us to be competitive and have a fighting chance in some of these games.”
The Yellow Jackets are 6-1 when Georges-Hunt and Carter each score in double figures.
Georges-Hunt’s average of 10.7 points per game would be the lowest figure to lead Georgia Tech since Melvin Dold’s 11.1 points per game in the 1949-50 season.
Crittenton and Young each averaged 14.4 points when they shared the scoring lead as freshmen before entering the NBA draft.