Sometimes they come back: A look at Georgia Tech recruiting

While Georgia Tech hasn’t erected a fence, they seem to have installed a gate

Going back to the Paul Hewitt era, Georgia Tech fans have always had a certain expectation when it comes to its men’s basketball recruiting: The best players in Georgia should attend the Georgia Institute of Technology. It’s a simple mantra, however, execution of that belief has eluded the program for roughly a decade following Derrick Favors’s decision to join Yellow Jackets back in 2009.

Since the Favors’ commitment and departure, which was followed by the dismissal of coach Hewitt, Georgia Tech has struggled to keep the top players in the state of Georgia at home. Instead, the prodigal sons from the “Peach State” find their way to traditional blue bloods, west coast schools, FSU, Auburn or even just up the road to Athens. 

What has been interesting, however, is that a lot of them come back. Since 2010, thirteen players from the state of Georgia have transferred into the program at Georgia Tech after playing elsewhere. Some have been graduate transfers, some have been traditional transfers. Many of them (not all) have been players that the program recruited while they were making their initial decision on where to attend college.

NameYear TransferredHometownOrig. SchoolGrad-X
Brandon Reed2010Powder SpringsArk. StateNo
Pierre Jordan2011DunwoodyFSUYes
Trae Golden2013Powder SpringsTennesseeYes
Robert Sampson2013AtlantaECUNo
Charles Mitchell2014AtlantaMarylandNo
Nick Jacobs2014AtlantaAlabamaNo
Adam Smith2015JonesboroUNCW & VPIYes
James White2015JonesboroLittle RockYes
Shembari Phillips2017AtlantaTennesseeNo
James Banks2018DecaturTexasNo
Jordan Usher2019CantonUSCNo
Bubba Parham2019SnellvilleVMINo
Kyle Sturdivant2020NorcrossUSCNo

The question, for me anyway, becomes: Why? What is the common factor in the recruiting process that has these kids going away to other schools but ultimately returning to their home state to finish their academics? You would have to believe that it isn’t necessarily friction between the head coaches and the players. For the most part, the players returned to play for the same coaches that recruited them to Georgia Tech in the first place.

Is it just a matter of the kids needing to get away from home only to realize that home is where the heart is? That is possible. In the most recent example of a player returning, Kyle Sturdivant, a stud point guard at local power Norcross, went out to Los Angeles and USC before returning home. Certainly, there is a certain…allure… to the state of California. 

Is it the people of influence in the surrounding area? Oh, I feel a little tingle in my spidey sense here. I have not been…complimentary… of current head coach Josh Pastner at times. One thing that people have often, I repeat, OFTEN, shared with me is that for whatever reason, Coach Pastner is not necessarily well received by the powers that be in the Atlanta area. Whether that is 100% accurate or not, I cannot speak to. Without a doubt in my mind, the Darryl Labarrie situation has something to do with that situation if it is true.

What perplexes me however is that these people have to recognize that Pastner’s players adore him. It’s incredibly evident. Follow the Georgia Tech basketball program on Instagram, those guys are having a legit good time. The players that have left during the Pastner (or the Gregory era for that matter) have (mostly) not carried any ill will against either coach. It has typically been to return home or transfer down into a better situation.

So who is being negatively affected by the people with the agenda? The kids. Georgia Tech is a great school that cranks out millionaires like Kraft cranks out cheese singles. It may not be an NBA factory but there are many roads to success and education is absolutely one of them. This becomes even more important when you factor in that there are a finite number of roster spots in the NBA.

Now, I am not saying this is always the case. James Banks went to play for Shaka Smart when Shaka was hotter’n a fire cracker. Unfortunately for James, Shaka was also bringing in five star big men. Kyle Sturdivant was a kid that Georgia Tech fans coveted for YEARS before he decided to attend USC. I assure you, they are still thrilled to see him come to town after a year in Cali.

So why do they come back? Is it any of the reasons above? It could be one of them or it could be all of them. The reason most likely differs for each individual player but the trend is absolutely noteworthy. Given the seemingly fluid situation that is college basketball recruiting “commitments”, you have never lost the recruitment until the player has exhausted his eligibility.

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