Robert Carter and Marcus Georges-Hunt’s endeavor to make the U.S. under-19 basketball team was unsuccessful. Still, the tryout experience earlier this month for both proved to be a useful offseason examination on the state of their games.
“I can tell I’m doing the right thing,” Carter said.
Progress made by the two Yellow Jackets sophomore forwards bodes well. The pair led Tech in scoring last year (Georges-Hunt at 10.8 points per game, Carter at 9.9) and were first and third in rebounds (Carter at 6.7, Georges-Hunt at 4.9). Their improvement is critical for a team hoping to build upon last year’s 16-15 record despite what will likely be a more rigorous schedule on both the non-conference and ACC sides.
Georges-Hunt, who made the cut from 26 to 16 players at the tryout before getting lopped on the final cut to 12 players, returned home from Colorado Springs, Colo., with a dose of clarity.
“I wasn’t down,” he said. “I found out, I guess, I had a lot more things to work on towards my game. I just told myself, time to get back to Atlanta, work on everything.”
Virginia coach Tony Bennett, an assistant on the team that will open play in the under-19 world championships Thursday in Prague, Czech Republic, left the camp impressed with both.
“They both showed great flashes,” he said. “(Tech coach) Brian (Gregory) has done a very good job of building them up and instilling the right kind of mindset. They could have very well been on the team, but you get into that situation, it’s sort of what’s needed (for the team).”
Bennett found both to be versatile players, capable of mixing it up inside and also playing on the perimeter. He noted that Carter had one particularly strong practice but faltered later on. That was due in part to the fact that he was playing with an infected cyst under his right arm, a painful condition that he said gave him chills and sweats. Carter said coaches told him afterwards that if he had he been able to maintain his level of play, he would have made the team.
“It’s not one of those things where you can just go up to one of the coaches in the middle of a tryout and be like, ‘I’ve got an infection. I can’t work out today,” Carter said.
Carter, eliminated in the first cut, still saw the progress that he had made in the past 12 months. A year ago, he was invited to try out for the under-18 team and competed against many of the same players.
“You can see how much you have improved compared to them, how much easier it is to score, how much easier it is to play defense,” Carter said.
For the remainder of the summer, Carter and Georges-Hunt will continue the strength and conditioning and skill-development program they had been on. Carter, a 62.2 percent free-throw shooter last season, has also worked with Gregory to hone his free-throw technique, adjusting his feet and his positioning of the ball.
Hunt noted different techniques, terms and drills he learned at the tryout. He picked up different tactics on guarding pick and rolls and ball screens from Florida coach Billy Donovan, who is the head coach of the under-19 team.
Georges-Hunt said the Jackets have good chemistry, as players are more familiar with each other. Georges-Hunt, Carter and fellow classmates Chris Bolden, Corey Heyward and Solomon Poole are now the veterans welcoming freshmen Travis Jorgenson and Quinton Stephens, who recently arrived on campus.
“Last year, I didn’t know what anything was going to be like,” Georges-Hunt said. “This year, it feels a lot different. I’m a lot more confident.”