Damon Stoudamire sees competitive team emerging in first season at Georgia Tech

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Tuesday, Damon Stoudamire took his two guards, Miles Kelly and Lance Terry, out to a nice dinner ahead of Wednesday’s ACC Tipoff event.

“(Stoudamire) claims to be on a diet, but we all had a piece of that butter cake,” Kelly smiled when asked about the meal.

Stoudamire introduced himself to the league during Wednesday’s annual event full of interviews with local and regional media set up to help preview the coming season. Less than two weeks from his team’s debut, Stoudamire doesn’t have a clear picture of how many games his team will win.

But he said he was pretty confident in how it will play.

“By the time we get into the meat of that conference schedule, I look for us to start going this way,” Stoudamire said, raising his right arm up and curving up toward the sky. “What does that look like, wins and losses? I don’t know. But I definitely know we’re going to be competitive as hell. We’re going to play hard, and we’re going to be competitive.”

The 50-year-old Stoudamire will make his Tech debut Nov. 6 when his Jackets host Georgia Southern at McCamish Pavilion. Tech has an exhibition with Clark Atlanta on Nov. 1 and scrimmaged Alabama-Birmingham on Sunday.

Stoudamire has been drilling his team in official practices for about a month in hopes of getting them ready to showcase who they are starting next month.

“There’s been a lot of teaching, there’s been a lot of learning. There’s been a lot of stoppage,” Stoudamire said. “But at the end of the day, basketball comes down to being the mentally tougher team because when you’re tired, your mind tells your body what to do, and what happens is at the end of games, you’ve got to be able to execute on both ends of the floor. You’ve got to be able to take care of that ball. You’ve got to be able to box out when you don’t want to. That’s the game. All those things that are involved, I’m going to keep beating them down.”

Stoudamire overhauled the Tech roster with a mixture of veteran transfers and incoming freshmen. But he also has a handful of guys back who played under previous coach Josh Pastner and who should be the core performers for Stoudamire.

Credit: Chad Bishop/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Yellow Jackets junior was at the ACC media event to talk about the coming season.

Kelly is the main piece to that group, a junior guard who Stoudamire already has challenged publicly to be an all-conference player. Kelly averaged 14.4 points per game last season and shot 41% from the floor.

A former Parkview High standout, Kelly tested NBA waters over the summer before deciding to return to Tech to learn from Stoudamire about how to take his game to the next level. He said Wednesday he likes what he has seen from the players Stoudamire has assembled to play around him.

“One thing that has surprised me about this team is definitely our length and how versatile we are,” Kelly said. “We have a lot of guys that can switch off the ball, switch and guard 1′s, 2′s, 3′s and a lot of bigger guys who can switch off guards and a lot of guards who can switch off and guard some 4′s and 5′s if we need to.

“We have a lot of guys who can knock down the open shot, a lot of guys that can make plays, so that’s gonna be really huge. I’m excited for the fans to get to see that.”

Credit: Chad Bishop/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Yellow Jackets senior was at the ACC media event to talk about the coming season.

Terry scored 10.1 points per game last season. He said he thinks the Jackets are a more connected team and have become like a family over the past few months, despite so many newcomers in the building.

From the Heritage School and a Gardner-Webb transfer, Terry said Tech will have to show the competitiveness that Stoudamire mentioned when the going gets tough.

“Us being competitive is not laying down when something bad happens,” he said. “Team goes on a run, don’t lay down, fight, fight, fight to get back. We’re going to be a hard-nosed playing team and a hard defensive playing team. Stuff’s gonna happen. We’re gonna lose sometimes; we’re gonna get scored on sometimes. We just got to get past that and keep pushing.”

Stoudamire said he was pleased with the way his team shot the ball in Sunday’s scrimmage against UAB and impressed with their ability not to turn the ball over, but that Tech, “needs work defensively.” The former Pacific coach noted the improved play of Deebo Coleman and the consistent performances of Kowacie Reeves throughout the preseason as well.

Hired in March to replace Pastner, Stoudamire also said he still is looking for someone on the roster to emerge as a true leader. If he can find that player and get his Jackets to be cohesive, he said, he likes their chances.

“I’m just most looking forward to the way we jell together. When you bring in a new coach, it doesn’t matter what level you’re on, there tends to be a little bit of resistance,” Stoudamire said. “I always tell guys, ‘It’s nothing personal, but it just happens that way.’ I think as we’ve been together more and more, they kind of see my vision.

“The only thing I have in terms of my vision is us playing together on both ends of the floor. If we lose, we lose as a team. If we win, we win as a team. There is no ‘I’ in that. I just want guys to be connected. That’s the biggest thing for me.”