If it’s played as scheduled, Georgia Tech’s home game against No. 20 Clemson on Wednesday will end a 17-day break since the Yellow Jackets’ last game. However, the return to the court will be even longer for some members of coach Josh Pastner’s team.
On the weekly ACC coaches videoconference on Monday, Pastner said that he won’t have his full roster available as the Jackets return from having four consecutive games postponed because of COVID-19 issues, the first three within his own team and the fourth on the part of their scheduled opponent for this past Saturday’s game, N.C. State.
“We’ll be shorthanded in some areas, and that’s just based on COVID-19 protocols,” said Pastner, who did not identify which players will be unavailable.
Tech was prepared to play the Wolfpack on Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., before the game was postponed on Thursday, Pastner said, though the Jackets would have been without even more players than they’ll be missing for Wednesday’s game.
Had Tech’s COVID-19 issues been limited to the one positive test within the team that put the team on pause on Jan. 5, Pastner would have his full roster back for the Clemson game. Had players not subsequently shown symptoms or tested positive, they would have all been cleared to return after a 10-day absence at the longest. However, that Tech will be missing some of its players more than 15 days after being put on pause is an indication that they’ve faced additional complications, such as developing symptoms or further positive tests.
Pastner said that the plan is for the entire roster to be available for the Jackets’ Jan. 23 game at No. 13 Virginia. The ACC’s plans are for postponed games to be made up.
Pastner said that the N.C. State game being postponed on Thursday made it unfeasible to schedule a replacement game for the weekend. He said that “we looked around” at possibly scheduling a non-conference game, but no arrangements could be made with any local teams, as teams were already playing or were not in position to meet the ACC’s testing protocol, which includes three tests in the week prior to competition in non-consecutive days.
Being in a state of limbo since Jan. 5 has required flexibility, with practices not including the entire team and some of the earlier sessions not allowing contact.
“You’ve got to be able to change as each day goes by, and that’s just the way it is,” Pastner said. “No time for complaining.”
Tech has been able to practice full contact “a little more than a few days,” Pastner said.
Two players Pastner will have available are post players Rodney Howard and Saba Gigiberia, who played sparingly through the Jackets’ first nine games. Pastner said that they’ve received “a lot of extra work and a lot of extra reps, which has been good for them both, and I think they’ve gotten better. There’s no question about that.”
There also is the matter of actually preparing for Clemson, which is 9-2 overall and 3-2 in the conference. The Tigers came back from an 11-day layoff Saturday and lost 85-50 to Virginia. Monday, Clemson coach Brad Brownell said that, as his team came off its pause, his biggest concern was about his players’ competitiveness, a worry that proved prescient.
“We got punched in the mouth and our competitive edge wasn’t where it needed to be,” Brownell said.
How Tech responds after not having played a game since Jan. 3 is unknown. Other teams have responded from their pauses much better than Clemson.
“Florida State came off of pause and was incredible,” Pastner said. “Some other teams have come off pause, it’s taken them some time.”
ACC Network analyst Luke Hancock, the former Louisville star, likes Tech’s chances returning from its layoff.
“I can’t find commonalities (with teams coming off pauses), but I do know if you have a veteran team, you’re going to be much better off,” Hancock told the AJC. “Because those guys have handled so many different situations, they’ve been through so many battles. You look at that Georgia Tech team, they’ve played a lot of games together.”