Why Brandon Alston feels ‘brand new’ as season approaches

Georgia Tech guard Brandon Alston speaks with a reporter at the ACC's "Operation Basketball" event in Charlotte, N.C., October 24, 2018. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)
Georgia Tech guard Brandon Alston speaks with a reporter at the ACC's "Operation Basketball" event in Charlotte, N.C., October 24, 2018. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Georgia Tech guard Brandon Alston’s first season with the Yellow Jackets was nothing spectacular. Averaging 23.7 minutes per game as a part-time starter, Alston kicked in 5.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game and shot 37.3 percent from the floor. Alston, a grad transfer from Lehigh, called it unacceptable.

On Wednesday, at the ACC’s Operation Basketball media event, Alston provided at least a partial explanation for his play. Alston said that he played through the season with torn muscles in his stomach, an injury that required surgery at the end of the season.

“It’s just one of those things that, it hinders your athleticism, makes you really uncomfortable,” Alston said.

With surgery and rehab complete, Alston is hopeful for an improvement in his second and final season with the Jackets. Along with coach Josh Pastner and guard Jose Alvarado, he represented the team at the event at the Spectrum Center, where coaches and players from all 15 ACC teams gathered.

Alston, who also missed the 2015-16 season at Lehigh with a torn ACL, said he is the healthiest that he has been in a long time and that he feels “brand new.” Alvarado said that Alston has been more aggressive in preseason practice.

“I think I’m able to do a lot of the things that my mind has wanted me to do, and it’s just been a lot of fun,” Alston said.

Alston’s progress has altered Pastner’s vision for him this season. Last year, Pastner wanted Alston to be a “3 and D” player, meaning someone who could help space the floor on offense with 3-point shooting and play solid defense. He wasn’t thrilled with Alston’s occasional forays to the basket.

“Brandon’s really improved, because he’s a strong guard,” Pastner said. “He’s done a nice job getting to the hoop and getting fouled.”

Alston said he also feels more comfortable working within Tech’s offensive scheme.

“I think Josh (Okogie) and Tadric (Jackson) would always tell me, ‘You’re new to the offense. Wait till you understand it more,’ and all this type of stuff,” Alston said. “Now I really understand what they mean. “There’s a lot of different reads you can make within it and I’m making those reads now.”

Any improved offensive efficiency that Alston can contribute would be helpful. Tech needs to replace 56 percent of its scoring, lost in the persons of Ben Lammers, Okogie and Jackson. Alston is one of the players whom Pastner wants to shoot 43 percent from 3-point range, which would be about a 7-point increase from last season.

Alston said he doesn’t have specific statistical goals, but he wants the Jackets, who finished last season 13-19, to reach the NCAA tournament. And he’d like to be a bigger part of that effort.

“I don’t like to make excuses (with the injury), but I know there’s a lot more I can do,” he said.

Tech opens its season Nov. 9 against Lamar at McCamish Pavilion.

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