Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Bubba Parham (11) drives through traffic for two points against Boston College Eagles Jan. 11, 2020, at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. (Photo by Mark Box/Icon Sportswire)
Photo: Mark Box/Icon Sportswire
Photo: Mark Box/Icon Sportswire

Bubba Parham growing into role at Georgia Tech

After two seasons at VMI, Georgia Tech guard Bubba Parham is thrilled to be back home. For the graduate of Brookwood High who transferred to Tech this past summer, being close to family is great.

“I don’t get why people say, like, I want to go to college out of state,” Parham said. “I don’t get that. It was miserable for me. I’m a big family person, so being home in the state where I can get home if I need to is a big plus.”

The transition between teams and competition level hasn’t been bad, either. Parham has found a role coming off the bench and contributing consistent minutes for the Yellow Jackets, who play at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

“I think he’s getting better each day as we go along,” coach Josh Pastner said. “He’s improved.”

One particular way that Parham has developed is in the area that Pastner has stressed with the team. After turning the ball over once every 17.2 minutes in Tech’s first 18 games, he has averaged one turnover for every 26 minutes of play in the past five. It has tracked with the Jackets’ recent drop as a team. Through Tech’s first 19 games, the turnover average was 16.8 per game. In the past four, it has been 10.3.

“I’ve learned more as a point guard, as a decision maker, as a ballhandler, to not only just look for myself, but for my teammates, as well,” Parham said. “I’ve gotten a lot better in that aspect.”

Parham has had to change his role dramatically in transferring from VMI, where he enrolled after it was his only Division I scholarship offer out of Brookwood. There, he led the Keydets in scoring both as a freshman and sophomore. Last season, he used his quickness and 3-point marksmanship to average 21.4 points per game, leading the Southern Conference in scoring. He took 25 percent of his team’s shots and averaged 9.1 3-point tries per game.

The makeup of Tech’s roster and the difference in competition has required a change. To Parham, size is the biggest difference between the ACC and Southern Conference.

“You don’t really see 7-footers in the SoCon like that,” he said. “But I would say that’s the biggest difference. I wouldn’t say the speed is a whole lot different. The physicality and the length, I think, is the biggest difference.”

At Tech, his role in the offense is more of a floor spacer, often stationed in the corner as a 3-point threat. He also takes on some of the point-guard duties to give Jose Alvarado a break. He has averaged 5.9 points per game and taken 5.3 shots per game. Typically taking two or three 3-pointers a game has made it tougher, Parham said, as his 3-point percentage is down from 39.7% last year at VMI to 33.8% this season.

“If I get (a shot), I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got to knock it down because I know I’m not going to get eight or nine 3’s a game,” Parham said. “So when I get one, I try to make sure that I concentrate one each one and knock it down when I’ve got it.”

He did make two of four 3-point tries in the Jackets’ rout of Virginia Tech on Tuesday. It was the first time in eight games in which he had made more than one 3-pointer.

“Not shooting isn’t going to knock my confidence,” Parham said. “I’m always ready and prepared. But, yeah, it felt good to knock a couple down. I wish I could have hit the other ones I shot.”

Parham’s role is to be “the hustle guy,” as he put it.

“(Pastner) wants me to get to all the scrums,” Parham said. “He’s preaching to me, telling me he wants me to rebound, so I try to do that while I’m out there.”

Parham has done his part as a rebounder with 2.6 rebounds per game, particularly considering that his listed height, 5-foot-10, appears to be generous. He rebounds at a rate similar to guards Michael Devoe and Alvarado, despite giving up height to both.

“Rebounding’s all about instincts and hustle,” Parham said. “If you really want the ball, then you can, nine times out of 10, go get it. It’s just all about wanting the ball, how bad you want it.”

Against Pittsburgh, the Jackets (11-12, 5-7 ACC) will try to reach .500 for the first time since they were 8-8. The Panthers (14-9, 5-7) are tied with Tech in a five-way tie for eighth in the conference standings.

Alvarado participated in a portion of practice Thursday following the birth of his first child Wednesday. Pastner said that Alvarado’s girlfriend, Flor Castillo, and baby, Nasanin, were both well. Forward Evan Cole, who missed the Virginia Tech game with an ankle sprain, will be a game-time decision.

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