Kyle Sturdivant intent on being Georgia Tech’s leader

Kyle Sturdivant is the lone holdover from Georgia Tech’s ACC tournament championship run in 2021.

That moment in time may seem like a lifetime ago. But the memories of the joy that Sturdivant felt back then still resonate today.

“I think we’re all hungry just to get to where we were my first year when we won the ACC championship. I know how good that felt and I know what we had to do to get there,” Sturdivant said. “So I just think that’s been the biggest thing that I try to reiterate to them. As one of the veterans, this is our last go-around, so we want to go out the right way.”

Sturdivant is on the precipice of his fourth season with the Yellow Jackets. A former Norcross star who began his college career at Southern California. Sturdivant is intent on leading a new-look roster under a new coaching staff back to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard has been consistent in sending a preseason message to everyone within the Tech program about what his, and everyone’s, focus should be.

“Just to make sure they know what’s important and that’s winning,” he said. “The only think that you’re remembered by is winning, so that’s one thing I try to reiterate to them every time I step on the court.”

Sturdivant averaged a modest 8.6 points last season to go along with 3.3 assists per game. He said he spent a lot of the offseason working on improving his shooting – he shot just 39.3% from the floor last season – and getting into better shape. Sturdivant credited Justin Landry, Tech’s director of strength and conditioning for men’s basketball, in his efforts to become leaner, more toned and more conditioned.

The Jackets have taken notice of the improved Sturdivant as well as his efforts to be more of a leader.

“He knows what it takes to win, he knows what it takes to be good in this league and him just bringing his leadership to the new transfers and the guys coming back from last year has just been huge,” Tech guard Miles Kelly said. “He’s very vocal, and he’s a guy that leads by example. He works hard. He’s seen everything at a lot of levels. Him just being vocal and giving that to some of the young guys or some of the transfers has been big.”

Sturdivant is on track to graduate in the spring with a degree in business administration. So he knows his days as a Tech basketball player and student are numbered. That’s why he’s striving to create as many memories as possible, like the ones that stick out from 2021.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” Sturdivant about his waning career. “The main word I’ve been using is being grateful for every moment I get, every opportunity that I have with my team – we’ve formed a bond really fast. Then all the moments I’ve remembered being in this building and being in this city.”

Ndongo bring versatility

Once upon a time, Baye Ndongo committed to play basketball at Rutgers. Tech’s coaches and players certainly appear happy he decided to come to Atlanta instead.

A 6-foot-9 forward, Ndongo has been impressing everyone inside McCamish Pavilion since his arrival on campus in August. First-year coach Damon Stoudamore joked earlier this month he had been practicing how to say the Senegal native’s last name because he knew he would be talking a lot about him.

“I think he’ll be a guy that really, really, really impacts this program at a high level,” Stoudamire said.

Ndongo was rated a four-star prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite, and considered playing for Georgetown or Nebraska before following former Rutgers assistant Karl Hobbs, now an assistant with the Jackets, to Tech. Ndongo enrolled at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut earlier this calendar year and won a National Prep basketball national championship – his two free throws iced an 80-76 victory over Sunrise Christian Academy in March.

Before then Ndongo also played at a prep school in Denver and a boarding school in New York after arriving in the United States from Africa.

“He’s gonna be a big part for our team,” Kelly said. “Just how versatile he is – he can play (power forward), he can play (center). He can shoot it, he can block shots, he’s real active and he plays hard.”

Preseason rankings

Some recently released preseason basketball polls and rankings are not keen on the Jackets.

Tech was not included in The Associated Press Top 25 released Monday. ACC members Duke were ranked second in that poll, which also included Miami at No. 13 and North Carolina at No. 19. also recently released its preseason ratings, and Tech came in at No. 118 in that analysis of all Division I programs. Only Boston College (128) and Notre Dame (165) out of the ACC were slotted lower.

The site ranked the Jackets 107th.

“I think I’d rather have the end-of-season rankings better because nobody remembers the beginning of the season anyway,” Sturdivant said in reaction to those expectations.

ACC Tipoff next week

A trio of Jackets will be front and center Wednesday during ACC Tipoff, the league’s annual preseason media showcase at The Hilton Charlotte Uptown in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Stoudamire, Kelly and Lance Terry are scheduled to be present to speak about Tech’s coming season at the all-day event.