As his career closes, Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe wants to leave an imprint

Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe (0) looks for an open teammate past Miami forward Anthony Walker (1) and guard Kameron McGusty (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe (0) looks for an open teammate past Miami forward Anthony Walker (1) and guard Kameron McGusty (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe has earned a spot as the 15th all-time leading scorer in team history despite not yet having scored a basket in the most surefire way possible.

Devoe has scored 1,595 points, including 552 field goals, without a single dunk. He has six more regular-season games and however long the Yellow Jackets can stay alive in the postseason to put one down.

“For my four years here, I’ll definitely complete one, at least,” Devoe said with a smile Friday. “I can get one.”

To be clear, the 6-foot-5 Devoe can dunk. He just hasn’t done it in a game, to the chagrin of his teammates.

“They give me a hard time all the time,” Devoe said.

Devoe’s next chance is Saturday, when the Jackets play at Pittsburgh in a matchup of teams in the bottom half of the ACC standings. With an overall record of 10-15 and a league mark of 3-11, Tech appears to have run out of time and games to accomplish anything beyond finishing strong. Picked to finish 10th, the ACC defending champions are stuck in last place, with five losses in their past six games.

But, finishing well is precisely what Devoe has in mind.

“I want to go out super strong with a bang,” Devoe said. “Regardless of the wins and losses, I want to go out with playing and giving it my all. Playing with 110% and giving all my energy and giving everything that I absolutely have.”

Devoe and coach Josh Pastner had a conversation on that topic Wednesday, the day after the Jackets’ 76-61 home loss to N.C. State in which the Wolfpack broke a six-game losing streak and escaped last place by overwhelming Tech with energy and shot-making. The Jackets trailed by as many as 30 points, their second-largest deficit in a game this season. Devoe accepted his share of responsibility for the loss.

“I would say my energy, even just watching the film, wasn’t at an all-time high,” Devoe said. “And a lot of guys look at me as being one of the leaders on this team, so they look at my energy level, and it facilitates through everybody else.”

In the conversation with Devoe, Pastner framed the final games of the season as, besides being critical for Tech’s chances to move up in the standings, a last impression that the senior from Orlando, Fla., can leave on Tech fans and the rest of the ACC. Mostly, Pastner said he wanted Devoe’s energy.

“And he doesn’t have to be a rah-rah guy, he doesn’t have to be just screaming and yelling,” Pastner said. “It’s his energy by his actions. And that starts on the defensive end. And when he’s really engaged and playing with his hair on fire, I just think it makes everyone on our team better, and it also makes him better, honestly.”

Pastner’s comments were a reflection of a challenge of the disappointing season – for seniors such as Devoe and forward Jordan Usher to lead the team effectively, particularly with the graduation of guard Jose Alvarado. The ACC defensive player of the year was the heart of last year’s ACC championship team and someone whom Pastner called a “naturally gifted” leader, but also someone who butted heads with Pastner in his first two seasons as he learned that effective leadership required his consistency in all things, such as effort in practice.

“It didn’t happen overnight for Jose, and it’s part of learning, for the continuation of the learning for Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher and those guys, to continue to get better at that,” Pastner said.

Regardless, Devoe’s career has been noteworthy. Pastner’s highest-rated high-school recruit, Devoe has been a four-year starter and a consistent scorer. With 1,595 points, players in his rearview mirror on Tech’s all-time scoring list include Bruce Dalrymple, John Salley, Kenny Anderson and Alvarado, among others.

“That kid seems like he’s been here for seven years,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said after the Tuesday game. “He has been great.”

Next up in 14th place is B.J. Elder, who is Tech’s associate director of player personnel. On a videoconference call with media, Devoe perked up when team spokesman Mike Stamus informed him of the identity of the former Jacket on the next rung.

“How much more do I have to get to beat B.J.?” he asked before being informed he needed 21 points to tie his 1,616 points. “Uh-oh.”

Devoe has a shot at 10th place and Malcolm Mackey (1,736 points), which would require him to average 20.1 points per game over the final six regular-season games and the first ACC Tournament game. Devoe, who is averaging 18.6 points per game this season, called it “truly remarkable” to have attained 15th place. He also ranks fifth all-time in career 3-point field-goal percentage (39.9%) and seventh in 3-pointers (212).

“It’s something that you dream about as a kid, to have your name on those types of things and surpass some of those greats that have been here at Tech, too,” he said. “So I want to give all my respect to those guys that played here before me.”

Another way to offer that respect is to play with the effort that he intends to give.

“It’s been a fun ride here playing at Georgia Tech,” Devoe said. “I definitely want to be remembered.”