Always sturdy: Senior guard Kyle Sturdivant grateful for time spent at Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire confers with Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, January 23, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /



Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire confers with Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, January 23, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /

It was at a boxing match in 1995 that the Stoudamire-Sturdivant story begins.

On Aug. 19, 1995, less than three months before Damon Stoudamire would make his NBA debut for the Toronto Raptors, the now-Georgia Tech coach was introduced to Gary Sturdivant in Las Vegas, where Mike Tyson was dueling with Peter McNeeley.

For whatever reason, Stoudamire said Monday during his weekly radio show, he and Sturdivant hit it off as friends that day and became even closer over the years. So close that Stoudamire recalled holding Gary’s son, Kyle Sturdivant, as a baby.

Kyle Sturdivant would grow up to be a star high school basketball player and then a standout at the college level for Tech over the past four seasons. Tech’s matchup at noon Saturday against visiting Florida State will be Sturdivant’s final home game in a white-and-gold uniform in a season in which Sturdivant has been playing for a coach who is his godfather.

“When it started to become a reality, I almost thought it was a dream for like the first month,” Sturdivant said of the early days of Stoudamire’s tenure. “Then when he was coaching me in the same gym as me, it was kind of crazy. I could just go to his office any time and talk and things of that nature.

“Even before my dad passed (Stoudamire) was always trying to guide me from afar on the basketball landscape and what it’s made up of. Then, especially when my dad passed, he was always just one phone call away. It was always dope just to get his knowledge and his insight on things and stuff like that and just to kick it with him.”

In February 2020, Gary Sturdivant, 49, died after what has been reported as a “tragic accident.” Kyle was a Southern California freshman at the time and finished out that 2019-20 season before deciding to transfer.

A Norcross High graduate, Kyle returned home to the Atlanta area and enrolled at Tech. He has played in 119 games for the Jackets since, scoring 858 points, making 102 3-pointers and dishing out 291 assists. The latter number ranks 18th in Tech’s storied hoops history.

“It’s been special,” Sturdivant said about his time at Tech. “A lot of growing opportunities, a lot of knowledge worth soaking up from our players and the coaching staff that have been here. So I’m grateful for every opportunity that I got here, and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to play here.”

Stoudamire, meanwhile, was hired in March to replace former coach Josh Pastner. Sturdivant said he thought it was a joke at first when rumors and speculation began to fly that his long-time friend and father figure was going to be his coach.

In the months that have followed Sturdivant has been one of Stoudamire’s sturdiest players. He has played all 28 games this season and is trending toward setting career highs for points, field goals and 3-pointers and has already made a career-high 52 free throws. Sturdivant has done that while coming off the bench in all 28 contests.

There also have been moments of impressive mental toughness for Sturdivant, like icing Saturday’s win at Miami with two free throws with 11 seconds to go, sinking a pair of free throws with four seconds left in double overtime in a victory at Clemson or scoring 18 points to help steady the ship in a win over North Carolina at home.

“He’s been everything we needed from a senior,” Stoudamire said. “The one thing about Kyle is his confidence doesn’t waver. And then down the stretch of games he’s poised for us, the ones we won especially. He’s knocked down key free throws and down a great job with that all season long.

“I know for him (Saturday) will be a big day. Just happy for him, and we’ll finish this thing out strong, and then I know he’ll be playing somewhere after here as well.”

Stoudamire was an Atlanta resident from 1997-2002 and his children stayed in the area during the former NBA star’s professional career. Thus, Sturdivant and Stoudamire’s sons became good friends and also remain close to this day.

After this season Sturdivant will graduate from Tech with a degree in business administration with a focus on finance. For the rest of his time on the court, Sturdivant said, he hopes fans will watch the end of his career and appreciate that he gave his all to the situation no matter what role he played, that he competed every day and wanted to push himself and his teammates to be the best they could be.

As for his late father, Sturdivant knows Saturday will be emotional as he is in constant remembrance of the man who meant so much to him while he stands along side another man who has been there every step of the way.

“There’s gonna be a moment I think about him on Saturday, just the times we’ve had in the gym leading up to all these moments he wasn’t physically here to see, but I know he’s still watching,” Sturdivant said. “If I cry I’m telling you now that I’m gonna do it. It’s just honorary. ‘I’m proud to be your son.’ "