Damon Stoudamire’s plan to move Georgia Tech forward starts with the roster

For Damon Stoudamire, the work to get Georgia Tech back to an NCAA Tournament started just after 4 p.m. Tuesday at the ACC tournament when the Yellow Jackets’ season ended with a loss to Notre Dame.

“It’s time to try to go reconstruct the team and look at players,” the first-year coach said. “That’s part of it.”

Stoudamire’s first Tech team went 14-18 and 7-13 in the ACC, then 0-1 at the ACC tournament at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Those marks weren’t too much of an improvement over former coach Josh Pastner’s final team – the 2022-23 squad was 15-18 overall, 6-14 in league play and went 1-1 in the 2023 conference tourney.

Still, despite the similar W-L mark to his predecessor, and even with the program suffering through a third consecutive losing season, there are bullet points for optimism inside and out of Stoudamire’s locker room. Eight wins over teams considered by the NCAA’s NET system as Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents, a pair of impressive freshmen and what’s shaping up to be an notable recruiting class all provided building blocks for Stoudamire’s tenure.

And should Stoudamire be able to retain his main pieces from 2023-24, such as freshmen Nait George and Baye Ndongo, sophomore Tafara Gapare and juniors Kowacie Reeves and Miles Kelly, all while adding high-level talent from the prep level and via the transfer portal, there would be reason to expect next season’s win total to go up significantly.

“I think that we have a really bright future. I learned a lot this year,” Stoudamire said. “As we move forward, being in this conference and being where I’m trying to go, where we’re trying to go as a program, you learn how to recruit. You learn the different styles of play within the conference.

“There’s a lot of intel taken. I study coaches a lot, so I was studying coaches, studying philosophies, looking at the way guys play, and now I can construct my roster accordingly.”

Stoudamire already has signed two prep prospects in four-star guard Jaeden Mustaf of Overtime Elite in Atlanta and three-star center Cole Kirouac, formerly of North Forsyth High who played the 2023-24 season at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Four-star forward Darrion Sutton, another Overtime Elite player, committed to Tech in December, and four-star point guard Daquan Davis, also at Overtime Elite, will announce March 24 whether he will play at Tech or Florida State.

As for the current roster, guard Kyle Sturdivant and center Tyzhaun Claude are out of eligibility, as is guard Carter Murphy (who was on the roster as a non-scholarship player). There undoubtedly will be others who opt to no longer wear a Tech uniform next season.

Kelly told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that he hadn’t given much thought to his long-term future (he flirted with turning pro after the 2022-23 season). Senior guard Lance Terry and freshman Ibrahim Souare didn’t play at all this season and can use the ‘23-24 campaign as a redshirt season. Freshman forward Ibrahima Sacko last played Feb. 21. Sophomore guard Amaree Abram played in only 10 games and last saw the court Feb. 6.

Who among those players decides to return to McCamish Pavilion and who decides to pursue other opportunities remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s likely Stoudamire’s second squad will have a vastly different look than the first (and it’s worth mentioning the roster will have at least one new assistant coach added to fill the vacancy left by Terry Parker, who departed the program in December).

“Look forward to the guys that will come in and helping them grow as players,” Stoudamire said. “We’ve done enough in this first year to where I feel good about where we’re going moving forward in the future.”

Tech’s three consecutive losing seasons is the program’s longest stretch since the Jackets had four losing seasons in a row from 1980-83. During its current three-season stretch of woe the Jackets are 43-56 and 18-42 in conference games.