“Every game was possession by possession, and we just couldn’t afford not having Ben on the floor, even for a 30-second rest,” Pastner said.
Ogbonda got most of his time in either blowouts or short spurts. He showed some scoring touch, shooting 48.1 percent from the field. But he committed 28 fouls in just 120 minutes (seven fouls per 30 minutes) and, considering his 6-foot-10 frame, his 24 rebounds were not enough. But he went to work after the season ended. When guard Josh Okogie was asked which teammate had most caught his attention in the offseason, the answer was easy.
“Most definitely Sylvester,” Okogie said. “He’s in the gym a lot. Every time I come in the gym thinking I’m about to work out, he’s already in there, beats me there. He’s been working endless nights. I think he’s going to be a great addition to our rotation.”
Pastner praised Ogbonda’s dedication and development.
“I just think his ball skills,” he said. “Scoring around the hoop, his jump hook. But he did it through old-fashioned hard work. There were no secrets. He worked his tail off.”
It is Pastner’s hope that Ogbonda can be effective enough and stay out of foul trouble long enough to buy Lammers some rest. If Lammers could be the league’s defensive player of the year and a second-team All-ACC pick last season when maxed out night after night, then it would stand to reason that he can play even better if he’s getting 32 or 33 minutes per game.
“I don’t think I’ll mind sharing an extra five minutes or so with him,” Lammers said.
Pastner’s hope for Ogbonda is similar to what he wanted last season from point guards Josh Heath, Justin Moore and Corey Heyward – don’t lose the game.
“Don’t turn that sucker over and just rebound like crazy and keep it simple and win 50/50 balls,” Pastner said.
Pastner has also been encouraged by the play of forward Abdoulaye Gueye thus far in the preseason. Gueye, a junior who was showing improvement last season before fracturing his wrist midway through the ACC schedule, is competing with freshmen Evan Cole and Moses Wright for the starting job at the “stretch 4” power forward position made available by Quinton Stephens’ graduation. Gueye can also back up Lammers.
To rest Lammers, Pastner said, “one of those two have really got to help us.”
Unfortunately for Ogbonda, he’ll miss Tech’s first preseason matchups – a private scrimmage Saturday against Auburn – and possibly the two exhibition games, Oct. 28 vs. Georgia State and Nov. 2 vs. Faulkner, both at McCamish Pavilion.
A primary reason that Pastner arranged the extra exhibition game with Georgia State, to benefit hurricane relief, was to give his inexperienced team, including Ogbonda, more time in game conditions.
Tech opens the season Nov. 10 against UCLA in Shanghai.