Georgia Tech basketball players want their season

Georgia Tech guards Michael Devoe (0) and Jose Alvarado (10) on the court in the Yellow Jackets' 76-57 win over Virginia Tech on February 4, 2020 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

The time of reckoning for college basketball has yet to arrive. The season is not scheduled to start until November, so there is time before a decision on whether COVID-19 will affect the season needs to be made. But Georgia Tech guards Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe have put out word already – they’re ready to go.

“We’ve talked about it, but all our guys are so confident and wanting to play,” Alvarado said Tuesday on a video teleconference. “Because, what can we do? We live in this world that this bad pandemic happened. It’s not going to go away. So we’ve got to live with it.”

“We just talk all the time, our main thing, like everybody else in this conference, we want to play,” Devoe said. “That’s our main goal.”

Alvarado, whose girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s first child in February, said he considered opting out of the season but decided against it, viewing a professional basketball career as his means to support his family. He said he won’t be as active on campus as he was previously in order to avoid COVID-19 infection.

“We’ve got to wear a mask, we’ve got to wash our hands and we’ve just got to be extra careful,” Alvarado said. “It’s easy to say, but I guess that’s how we’re going to have to live until they find a vaccine.

Coach Josh Pastner’s team began to return to campus for voluntary workouts in June. The Yellow Jackets are hoping to build on a strong finish to the 2019-20 season, when they won six of their final seven games to reach 17-14 overall and 11-9 in ACC play, good for fifth in the league. Provided that the season goes forward, Tech is aiming at its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010.

“We definitely want to take this team to the tournament,” Devoe said. “That’s our main goal – I think that that’s for everybody here.”

In the early months of the quarantine, with no access to a gym, Alvarado went to a Walmart and bought a hoop for his backyard, he said.

“It might not have been the best hoop, but it was something where I just got shots up,” he said.

Since returning, Alvarado, Devoe and the five other scholarship returnees have welcomed transfers Kyle Sturdivant (USC) and Rodney Howard (Georgia) and incoming freshmen Saba Gigiberia, Jordan Meka and Tristan Maxwell. Devoe called Howard, a 6-foot-10 post player poised to replace James Banks, “a huge piece for our team.” Gigiberia and Meka figure to also help in the frontcourt.

“Definitely, losing James is a minus, but I think these guys that are coming in are ready to work,” Devoe said.

A decision on whether – or how – the Jackets can pursue their NCAA tournament objective may not arrive for a few months.

Tech is scheduled to open the season Nov. 12 against Mount St. Mary’s. The Jackets have already lost one game – a neutral-site game against Stanford in New York on Dec. 13 – after the Pac-12 postponed all competition through the end of the 2020 calendar year.

“We’ve just got to stay focused and try to be prepared if we have a season,” Alvarado said.