Josh Pastner reflects on missing out on top-flight in-state recruits

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is having to recalibrate for his 2017 signing class after aiming high and falling short.

Since his hire in April, Pastner pursued hard three of the biggest in-state prizes among high school seniors, Pace Academy power forward Wendell Carter (rated No. 3 nationally by ESPN), Pebblebrook High guard Collin Sexton (No. 10) and Norcross High small forward Rayshaun Hammonds (No. 38). All had Tech among their finalists, but chose elsewhere during the early signing period. Sexton selected Alabama, Hammonds went with Georgia and Carter announced Wednesday morning that he will play for Duke.

“We went after some obviously really high-level guys and we missed on ’em,” Pastner said. “When we got the job, we were behind the 8-ball, so we tried to make up a lot of ground. It was just a little bit too late.”

Pastner and his staff were indeed challenged by their late start. Coaching staffs often begin developing relationships with prospects by their sophomore seasons. It is a recognition of their diligence, if a hollow one, that Pastner and assistants Tavaras Hardy, Darryl LaBarrie and Eric Reveno were able to rally to get in the picture with Carter, Sexton and Hammonds, among others. Kylia Carter, Wendell Carter’s mother, acknowledged that Pastner “came from nowhere” to get into the mix with her son.

They had no interest in us when we got the job,” Pastner said. “A couple of the kids said, ‘Don’t even waste your time.’ Through the five, six months, we just attacked the recruiting so hard, but again, when you’re rebuilding and it’s maybe not real cool at the moment to come to Georgia Tech and they haven’t known the staff there — they knew the other staff for a longer time — it’s going to take us just getting a little lucky.”

New York power forward Jordan Nwora (rated No. 91 by ESPN) and Alabama small forward Herb Jones (No. 6 in Alabama) also gave Tech strong consideration before picking Louisville and Alabama, respectively.

Tech continues to recruit three ESPN top-100 players from Georgia who did not sign in the early period — Jonesboro High guard M.J. Walker (No. 21), Wheeler High forward Jordan Tucker (No. 39) and Greenforest Christian Academy center Ikechukwu Obiagu (No. 42).

Pastner and his staff continue to recruit nationally and are looking at a few international prospects, also, Pastner said. On Wednesday, in fact, he and Hardy were in Oklahoma making a home visit with guard Curtis Haywood, who is playing this season at a prep school in New Hampshire and has gained recruiting interest.

Pastner does have one signee, New York point guard Jose Alvarado. With five available scholarships for next year, Pastner’s hope is to add three or four more incoming freshmen and balance the class with undergraduate transfers.

“We’re involved with some other really good players and we’re going to sign really good players,” he said. “It’s just going to be, as I’ve said before, we’re in better shape for kids in the ’18, ’19 and ’20 classes. We’ll have more time to build relationships. In ’17, we’re knocking on every door and window, looking under every stone, rock there is to get us a great class.”

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.