Time on bench 'good experience' for Carter

November 8, 2013 - Atlanta: Robert Carter, Jr. shoots a free throw during Georgia Tech's home opener basketball game in McCamish Pavilion against Presbyterian on November 8, 2013. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / JCRAWFORD@AJC.COM Robert Carter had surgery on his knee on Jan. 7.

November 8, 2013 - Atlanta: Robert Carter, Jr. shoots a free throw during Georgia Tech's home opener basketball game in McCamish Pavilion against Presbyterian on November 8, 2013. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / JCRAWFORD@AJC.COM Robert Carter had surgery on his knee on Jan. 7.

Georgia Tech forward Robert Carter has not played the last nine games due to his torn meniscus, but when he returns, he may be a different player than when he last took the court. Different as in better.

Carter, whom coach Brian Gregory said is possible to play Tuesday at Clemson and probable for Saturday’s game against Virginia, has been paying close attention during his convalescence to what’s been going on the floor without him.

“It’s been amazing how much you can just see, how much you can’t really understand why people wouldn’t do certain things on the floor,” Carter said. “I know I’m not going to be perfect when I get back, but I’m just going to try to make my mistakes that I made before just minimized as much as I can.”

During his time on the bench, Carter has been anything but a passive spectator. He has been involved, shouting out encouragement and instruction to teammates on the floor and standing up and cheering.

"I hear him all the time," forward Marcus Georges-Hunt said. "Even in timeouts, he comes up to me and he's yelling."

Said Gregory, "You never want a kid to go through it, but sometimes it’s really goodfor a guy to play and have it taken away and understand that it can be taken away. That’s No. 1. No. 2, he steps back, there’s no ego, there’s no playing time, there’s no points, there’s no nothing and he starts looking at the game a little differently. He starts looking at what the coaches are saying a little differently. How our players are responding a little differently. I think it cah help guys grow up a little bit and become really good leaders. Hopefuly both him and Travis (Jorgenson, out for the year with a torn ACL) can gain a lot."

It perhaps should not be noteworthy that an injured teammate is so engaged, but it is. Players like Carter have been coddled and told how special they are since middle school and perhaps earlier, so for someone of Carter’s stature to be as team-first as he has been is, for better or worse, noticeable.

“I hate sitting out,” he said. “This whole thing’s been a good experience. I’ve learned a lot from sitting out, but I’ve never sat out before. It hurts me every time I see a ball go up and my teammates are out there battling I can’t help them. They’re a good team – they can play – but I would just like to help them as much as I can.”

After Carter’s surgery Jan. 7, Gregory estimated Carter’s chance to return before the end of the season as “very doubtful,” but he sped up the process with his rehab workouts, mostly strengthening the leg muscles around the knee. He took part in about half of the team’s Friday practice, had a strenuous workout at Wake Forest and then was to practice with the team Monday in advance of Tuesday’s game.

Gregory said Carter will be on a “pitch count” at first as trainers determine what his threshold is.

Said Gregory, “And he’s got to realize it’s going to take him, I don’t know, two, three, four games to get comfortable again out there playing and so forth. So he’ll be limited.”

A couple of takeaways from Saturday’s Wake Forest game. (I was in the process of posting it Monday afternoon just as I was about to leave for Tech and learn about Solomon Poole’s dismissal and Carter’s impending return, but something weird happened with it and it froze up, so I never posted it and now it all seems a bit dated.)

1. Chris Bolden had valuable contributions. The sophomore guard pitched in with 12 points and five rebounds and played a season-high 35 minutes. He also had five turnovers.

He scored on a last-second 3-pointer at the end of the first half, a one-handed desperation toss after he nearly lost control of the ball. You may remember he barely missed a 3-pointer at the end of overtime against N.C. State on a much cleaner look. It’s a funny game.

Bolden’s scoring over the past seven games – 14, 3, 0, 11, 3, 4, 12. Tech is 3-0 in his three double-digit scoring games and 0-4 in the other ones.

“He’s been putting in the time to shoot the ball better,” Gregory said. “We need him to step up for us, we really do, because getting eight, 10, 12, 14 points off the bench with us when we struggle at times on offense would be a huge lift.”

2. Tech shot 21-for-26 from the free-throw line for 80.7 percent, its best effort since the St. John's game, which was 14 games ago. The Jackets are shooting 66.9 percent for the season after shooting 63.5 percent last year and 65.4 percent in 2011-12.

Having Trae Golden (76.7 percent) shoot the most free throws on the team helps. Georges-Hunt has improved from 62.9 percent as a freshman last season to 69.0 percent this season. Forward Kammeon Holsey was at 61.4 percent a year ago but is now at 74.5 percent. The two were a combined 9-for-9 Saturday.

3. Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik on Daniel Miller:

"I think Daniel Miller, and I said this before our game to our players, is one of the most underrated big men in this conference and this country. He really is. He’s more athletic than what people think, he’s very efficient, he knows his role, he’s strong, he’s wide, he’s big. He seems to have a great attitude. He’s very consistent. He’s a horse in there, and I meant that out of respect. He’ll block shots and he seems like someone that, from a coaching standpoint, you can always count on to do the right thing or try to do the right thing with energy and discipline. My hat’s off to him.”