At least this much can be said for Georgia Tech going into its Saturday matchup against No. 2 Duke at fabled Cameron Indoor Stadium – the Yellow Jackets paid close attention to the part of the scouting report regarding how the Blue Devils get dressed.
“We’ll have to play really well and at a high level, but, hey, they put their shorts on the same way we do,” coach Josh Pastner said.
Said guard Jose Alvarado, “They put their shorts on just the same as us. They bleed the same. I don’t think we’re caught up with that.”
Guard Mike Devoe’s assessment: “Everybody puts on their shorts the same way we do. Everybody breathes the same air we breathe and bleeds the same way we do.”
It may go without saying that the Jackets will be in trouble if word leaks that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has developed a revolutionary method for putting on shorts or if the Blue Devils debut uniforms with pants. But, otherwise, it’s pretty clear that Pastner is trying to keep his players from being in awe of Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish, who are projected to be selected in the first five picks of this summer’s NBA draft.
Asked about what he would give to weather the storm and make it to the first timeout without losing control of the game, Pastner responded, “If we were playing the Spurs, I would say that would be an incredible deal, but we’re playing Duke, and Duke is a member of the ACC and they’re 18- to 22-year-olds who put their shorts on the same way our guys do.”
Most of Tech’s players will be experiencing Cameron for the first time. The last time that the Jackets visited Duke (January 2017, a 110-57 defeat), only two of Tech’s current scholarship players were on the team. Pastner will similarly attempt to suppress any awe players may feel about playing there.
“Growing up, my favorite team was Duke,” Devoe said. “Growing up like that, watching them play, you always wanted to play in that type of environment, in that type of place. It’s a historic play and you definitely want to go in there and compete and play at the highest level.”
It is worth nothing that, NBA stars-in-waiting aside, the Blue Devils are a powerhouse. They hit the offensive glass hard, they defend well and their athletic ability far surpasses Tech’s.
And Williamson – averaging 21.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks – is unlike any player the Jackets have seen.
“A lot of the hype is about his dunks and his athleticism, but he’s a really good basketball player,” Pastner said.
As things would have it, Pastner’s first scholarship offer as Tech coach was to Williamson, in the spring of 2016, shortly after he had been hired. Williamson was a high-school sophomore in Spartanburg, S.C., yet to blow up into a social-media phenomenon. Pastner said that an Atlanta AAU coach urged Pastner to get his foot in the door, so Pastner said he offered him a scholarship without even watching him play, let alone see how he put on his shorts.
It easily would be Tech’s biggest win of the season (far surpassing the Jackets’ road win at Syracuse, which two days later beat Duke at Cameron), not to mention Pastner’s tenure at Tech.
Tech has lost its past 11 games to the Blue Devils and the past nine at Cameron. The analytics website KenPom gives the Jackets a 3 percent chance of victory.
The Jackets will need to stop Duke in transition, not turn it over and shoot far better from 3-point range than they have.
“Hey, that’s why you play the game,” Pastner said. “We’re going to go in there to win the game, nothing else.”