Georges-Hunt emerges as go-to option for Tech

Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt didn’t have an adventurous Friday night planned.

He had a macroeconomics assignment due that night and expected lights-out curfew at 10:30 p.m. in advance of the Yellow Jackets’ Saturday afternoon game at Wake Forest. Besides that, he said, “I’m going to read the scouting report over and over so I can understand the personnel of the other team.”

Perhaps Saturday will be more memorable. Georges-Hunt may be Tech’s leading scorer at 10.4 points per game, but is now gaining comfort in being a go-to player. Should the game be decided in the final minutes, the Jackets could look to the freshman from College Park.

“I’m O.K. with the ball in the last couple seconds,” Georges-Hunt said, meaning O.K. as in at ease, not decent. “I don’t mind shooting the last shot. I have confidence in myself to take the last shot.”

Tech has taken steps forward in coach Brian Gregory’s second season, but one area where the Jackets have struggled is late-game possessions of close games. It bit them again Thursday. Down 12 points with 6:20 left, Tech scraped all but two points off Clemson’s lead by scoring on seven of its next nine possessions. However, the Jackets netted nothing on their final two possessions, both inside the final 33 seconds, to lose 56-53 to the Tigers, the seventh consecutive defeat to Clemson.

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Having faltered in similar circumstances previously, Tech fell to 0-4 in games decided by five points or fewer. In those losses, to Virginia Tech, Clemson (twice) and Florida State, the Jackets had chances to tie or go ahead in the final minute of regulation but ultimately couldn’t capitalize.

“That’s one thing that you are constantly searching for with a younger team, is who is going to be your go-to guy,” Gregory said.

An assortment of players has tried to deliver in clutch moments, but largely have come up short. Gregory noted Friday that Georges-Hunt and guard Chris Bolden, both freshmen, have shown playmaking ability down the stretch.

“At the same time, there’s a failure rate there, too, that you have to live with,” Gregory said. “You’ve got to put those guys in that situation and the more they get comfortable with it, then the better they’re going to perform in those situations.”

Georges-Hunt has potential to handle that role, be it this year or in the future. As a small forward, Georges-Hunt has shooting touch from the outside and the size (6-foot-5, 218 pounds) to drive and score at the basket.

Gregory noted “he’s got great strength and when he explodes, if he can get his shoulder by you, he’s good enough to finish plays, even get a foul like he did in (the Clemson) game.”

Perhaps most centrally, as Gregory looks for a player who can create a shot not just for himself but also for teammates, Georges-Hunt’s basketball smarts give him the presence to not force up a shot if a teammate has a better chance.

Said guard Pierre Jordan, ‘He’s not a kid that you see out there rushing stuff.”

Against Clemson, he scored eight of his team-high 11 points in the final 5:36, six on 3-point plays in which he scored and was fouled, first on a putback and then on a drive.

“I guess my adrenaline started pumping, the crowd got me into it,” Georges-Hunt said, “and Coach said we need somebody to step up and do something, either to rebound or score or something, find a way to put points on the board.”

Speaking Friday before leaving for Winston-Salem, N.C., Georges-Hunt was sure to express confidence and comfort with other teammates getting the crunch-time shots.

“I’m not necessarily greedy for the ball,” he said. “I’m just going to find different ways to get to the ball.”

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