Georgia Tech guard Jordan Usher won’t be available for the Yellow Jackets until Dec. 18, but in exhibition games in Spain, he has given a sense of what is on the way.
“He’s going to be a good player for us, a key guy for us,” coach Josh Pastner said Sunday following the team’s second game, an 83-47 win in Barcelona over a team of Spanish professionals. “He’s going to help us this year.”
Usher showed an all-around game Sunday, scoring, passing and defending. In one sequence, he teamed with freshman guard Asanti Price on a block of an open-court drive to the basket, won the loose ball and then skidded a bounce pass from half court to guard Bubba Parham for a layup.
He put down at least three dunks with impressive lift off the floor. He ran a give-and-go with center James Banks, although the basket was disallowed because of a travel.
“I can say this because I can’t get fined by the ACC,” said Pastner, speaking by phone from Barcelona. “That was a bad call by the officials. That was a terrible call. You can put that in there.”
Usher transferred to Tech last January from USC midway through his sophomore season, a Wheeler High graduate returning home. There was the possibility of a request for an immediate-eligibility waiver from the NCAA, but Tech chose to not pursue one, and Usher will be available to play once the fall term ends. He’ll miss the first seven games, which, unfortunately for Tech, includes games against N.C. State, Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky, which could all prove critical in the Jackets’ pursuit of their first NCAA tournament berth since 2010.
Once he becomes eligible, he looks like a high-energy players who can drive to the basket, pass effectively and be active on defense. Teaming him up with guards Michael Devoe and Jose Alvarado would give the Jackets a swift trio on the perimeter.
It was a bit of a sloppy contest Sunday, slowed down with off-target passes and errant 3-point shooting. Pastner noted that his team had toured Camp Nou, the stadium of FC Barcelona, earlier in the day, and that the gym was not air-conditioned. The Jackets had also played the previous day in the same gymnasium. The Spanish team, made up of professionals selected by the Spanish Basketball Federation, included many of the same players that Tech faced on Saturday in its first exhibition.
There were some plays to note. Center James Banks showed off improved range with a 3-pointer and a jumper from the elbow, finishing with a game-high 15 points. Guard Shembari Phillips, who did not meet expectations last season after transferring from Tennessee, scored eight points with a pair of 3-pointers. Forward Evan Cole showed flashes in his role as Banks’ backup.
“I thought Shembari had two good back-to-back games,” Pastner said.
Usher stood out with 10 points and five assists, giving him 12 in two games.
“Jordan played well, did a nice job,” Pastner said. “I thought he had good energy in the game (Sunday).”
His most eye-catching delivery was when he won a loose ball in the open court and, facing away from the basket, threw an over-the-head bounce pass to feed forward Khalid Moore for a dunk.
“It was a good play,” Pastner said. “We need as many points as we can. Whether it’s behind the back, between the legs, we need to put the ball in the basket.”
Tech plans to leave Barcelona Monday for Madrid, where it will stay for the remainder of the trip. The team will play two more games Tuesday and Thursday.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.