Bubba Parham to stay, Michael Devoe to test draft waters

Loyola Chicago guard Marquise Kennedy, right, backs down Georgia Tech guard Bubba Parham in the first half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Friday, March 19, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Credit: AP

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Loyola Chicago guard Marquise Kennedy, right, backs down Georgia Tech guard Bubba Parham in the first half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Friday, March 19, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Credit: AP

Less than a week after Georgia Tech’s season ended, two key decisions regarding the Yellow Jackets’ roster for the 2021-22 season have been made.

Senior guard Bubba Parham decided to return for another senior season, coach Josh Pastner said, while junior guard Michael Devoe will test the waters for the NBA draft while leaving open the door for him to return to Tech. Both spoke with media on a videoconference Thursday.

“Bubba just felt it was best for him to come back,” Pastner said. “There’s a lot of positives in coming back.”

Parham started 14 games this season and played 25 total, averaging 6.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He had the highest assist/turnover ratio of the team’s rotation players at 36/13. Parham is the first of Tech’s four scholarship seniors to make a decision on staying or going, with Jose Alvarado, Jordan Usher and Moses Wright still to decide.

Pastner said that those three will at the least seek feedback on their draft prospects, starting with the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee. A response could be 2-3 weeks in coming, Pastner said. The four are able to come back because of the NCAA’s decision to grant all fall- and winter-sports athletes an extra season of eligibility because of COVID-19.

As for Devoe, there is little downside to investigating the possibility of getting drafted. He can sign with an NCAA-certified agent, have expenses such as meals and transportation to NBA workouts covered and still return to school.

“The things I’m waiting for is the feedback from all 30 teams, to see if I’ve got to work on some things, do I have to go back a year, or am I draft ready,” Devoe said. “So those are things I’m looking at and looking with Coach to see if that’s the best option for me, is that the best route for me.”

Devoe averaged 15.0 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Jackets this season in 34.7 minutes per game. Over Tech’s final 10 games, Devoe averaged 17.7 points per game while shooting 52.5% from the field, almost seven percentage points higher than his season average. He was named the MVP of the ACC Tournament after scoring 20 points with three rebounds and three assists in the title game against Florida State.

“Michael Devoe, I thought, the last month of the season, he was as good as anyone in the conference, playing as well as any guard in the country,” Pastner said.

While calling the NBA a lifelong dream, Devoe will have high standards on staying in the draft. He said he did not have interest in turning professional if it meant playing in the G League.

“It’s a tough route to go to,” he said of the G League. “I have no problem going back to school, finishing my degree. It’s all positive things that would happen if I come back to school.”

For Pastner, while he would welcome back Alvarado, Usher and Wright, he acknowledged that their deliberations are hampering his efforts to recruit players out of the transfer portal – “it handcuffs us big-time,” were his exact words – as the uncertain status for next season leaves the potential for playing time unclear.

Pastner said that players that he has reached out to are interested, but “the first thing they ask me: ‘Coach, are those guys coming back?’”

As he spoke with media, his phone pinged repeatedly with players texting him their intention to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. All team members became eligible for vaccination Thursday, when all people in Georgia age 16 and older became cleared for treatment. The institute has been developing a vaccination plan for the entire campus community.

“The good news is everyone is saying, ‘I want one,’” Pastner said. “They’re getting signed up, so that’s a good thing.”

Pastner said that offseason workouts begin Monday. Pastner said that if all four of the seniors returned, Tech could be a preseason top-five or top-10 team nationally. If it were two, the Jackets could still be in the top 20. But if it were only Parham, the look of the team obviously would be different.

“If another one or two come back, we’ve got a chance to continue to be really good again next year,” he said. “I really believe that.”

Pastner spoke with promise about forward Jordan Meka, who missed almost the entire season with a back injury. He hoped he would be cleared to return in late April or May. Pastner said that he was Tech’s top shot blocker in practice and one of its top rebounders.

“Based on how he played before his injury, I thought he would help us win games this year, so I’m excited about him,” Pastner said.

Freshman guard Tristan Maxwell did not play after a foot injury before the season. Pastner said that he hopes Maxwell understands how to “change the pace that he must move at. If he does get to that pace that I know he can – I saw him in high school – he’s really, really good.”