The teammates who Bubba Parham left behind at VMI when he transferred to Georgia Tech in June will remain like brothers to him.
“We built a lot of bonds, and when I’m married one day, they’ll definitely be invited to my wedding,” Parham said.
That said, the Brookwood High grad is glad to be back home.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Parham said. “Going to VMI at first, it was tough for me, obviously, because it’s a military school. Just leaving home, it was tough for me. But being back, it’s totally different scenery. It’s crazy how amazing it is to be 30 minutes from your home.”
Tech fans will get their first opportunity to see how Parham will fit in on the court Sunday, when the Yellow Jackets play Division II Georgia College at McCamish Pavilion in the first of two preseason exhibition games. Parham, a 5-foot-10 guard, led the Southern Conference in scoring last season (21.4 points per game) while shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range.
Those are drool-worthy numbers for a team that was the least efficient offense in the ACC last season and ranked 331st in Division I in 3-point shooting, at 30.7 percent.
“He definitely opens up the floor because he can really shoot it,” guard Michael Devoe said.
Parham entered the transfer portal in April because he wanted to be closer to home because of what he described as family issues. Parham said Tech was an easy choice over other local options.
“I love the school,” Parham said. “It was just a win-win situation for me.”
While he was chosen as the Gwinnett Daily Post player of the year in 2017, Parham was not offered a scholarship by Tech, or any other Division I school besides VMI, at Brookwood. His size and slight build didn’t help, nor did the fact that he didn’t play AAU basketball in the summer before his senior year because of an ankle injury, limiting his exposure.
While his family situation precipitated the transfer from VMI – with an immediate-eligibility waiver granted in September, he can play the next two seasons for Tech – Parham suggested that he had been hoping for a chance to prove himself even before then.
“I just knew that I could go to VMI, play my game, do what I’ve got to do and then, if all turns well, then I could end up where I’m at right now,” Parham said.
While his scoring and shooting numbers jump out, Parham and coach Josh Pastner see a larger role awaiting him.
“Coming in, I was more of just a scorer, but now since I’ve been here for I don’t know how many months, I’ve turned into a point guard who can make plays, ‘dimes,’ make my teammates better and also can shoot the ball,” Parham said. “I can do it all now.”
“I’ve been most impressed that he is a good passer,” Pastner said. “He can play downhill. That’s the thing. We don’t need to live and die with him just shooting 3’s. He’s got to play downhill, continue to get in the paint, he’s got to continue to make others better.”
In the team’s four-game exhibition tour of Spain in August, Parham showed that capacity, quickly pushing the ball up the floor to create easy baskets for teammates. One specific way that Pastner wants to create scoring chances is by playing faster in transition to produce open shots before the defense can set itself.
Pastner envisions the possibility of playing Parham with guards Jose Alvarado and Devoe, which would be a smaller lineup, but one that could play fast with three ballhandlers on the floor.
“I think it would look really good because we all can stretch the floor, we all can make plays, we all can make reads,” said Devoe, who will be held out of Sunday’s exhibition as a precautionary measure as he recovers from a toe injury.
There’s much to be sorted out, on the floor and off. Most notably, Tech is appealing the postseason ban (among other sanctions) handed down by the NCAA on Sept. 26 for recruiting violations. The appealed penalties will be stayed throughout the appeals process, meaning that Tech would be eligible for an NCAA tournament berth if the appeal process has not concluded by the end of the season. Tech has not been in the NCAA tournament since 2010, and Pastner has said that this team, with additions like Parham to the returning nucleus, can end the drought.
Parham said the team is trying to keep its focus on its play as the appeals process plays out.
“(Pastner) just said leave that up to compliance, so we just go out here and play, practice like we’ll be able to play in the postseason and we’ll see what happens,” Parham said.
Tech’s second exhibition game will be at Alabama on Oct. 27.
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