Whether Robert Carter or Marcus Georges-Hunt make the U.S. under-19 national team remains to be seen. The offseason of the two Georgia Tech sophomore forwards, however, has already been a success. Their slimmed down physiques tell the story.
“They look better, don’t they?” coach Brian Gregory asked.
Their payoff may come when they try out with 22 other invitees for the U-19 national team June 14-15 in Colorado Springs, Colo. If not, compensation comes when the season begins in November.
Carter said his goal for the summer is to continue to improve his body and prepare for the season “and make a big impact and help my team go way farther that we went this year.”
Under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley, the two have trained in a program designed to increase endurance and lose body fat. The players are eating better and less, recording their intake on their smartphones. Their workouts include high-intensity interval training on treadmills.
“Even after the season, it was tough” to finish the interval training workout, Carter said. “Now, it’s just getting easier and easier for us.”
The fat loss is evident in their thinned faces and physiques. Since the end of the season, Carter has dropped from 257 to 248 pounds, he said, while Georges-Hunt has reduced his weight from 230 pounds to 215. Talking after a workout last week at the Zelnak Basketball Center, Georges-Hunt joked that, with his reduction in heft, “This year at Jacket Jam, I’m going to do a windmill (dunk) over Coach’s head.”
Walking past, Gregory responded, “The problem is, I’d block that.”
On top of the conditioning work, Carter and Georges-Hunt have been pursuing the team’s goal for each player to take 1,500 shots per week. Georges-Hunt wants to improve his percentage from the free-throw line (he was 62.9 percent last year) and from 3-point range (33.3 percent).
“I want to improve my ballhandling, get better on defense, just everything, really,” Georges-Hunt said.
A diverse game would undoubtedly help Georges-Hunt or Carter at the U.S. tryout. Their improved conditioning will help them cope with the altitude (6,200 feet). They’ll vie for two of the 12 spots on the team, which will play for the U-19 world championship June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic. The team is coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan with Virginia’s Tony Bennett and VCU’s Shaka Smart assisting.
“Anytime you have a chance to represent your country, even in the tryouts, you’ve got to feel really good about that,” Gregory said. “And that’s a credit to them and the work that they’ve put in.”
Of the 24 tryout invitees, there is one rising junior, 17 rising sophomores (including Carter and Georges-Hunt), four incoming freshmen and two rising high school seniors. Tech is one of two schools with more than one team member or signee in the camp. Arizona, with one rising sophomore (Brandon Ashley) and two incoming freshmen (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon), is the other.
Eight of the invitees played on last year’s U-18 team, including national freshman of the year Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon and Memphis forward and Southwest DeKalb High grad Shaq Goodwin. Carter tried out last year but didn’t make the roster.
They’ll head out with Gregory’s instructions to be the hardest working players in the tryout, rebound, willingly defend and play with aggression on offense. The team will be announced after just two practices.
“I feel like, especially me and him together, we have the chance to beat anybody (for a roster spot) if we go out there and play our game and play our style,” Carter said.