For Tech and Pastner, the test comes now – landing a blue-chip recruit

The Big Apple finish wasn’t so big. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

GLENDALE, ARIZ. — Before we get around to Final Four stuff, a word about Georgia Tech: We’re about to see if its run to the NIT final will indeed be a springboard to anything worth springing toward. We’re about to see if Josh Pastner can leverage the good will arising from a surprisingly decent season into landing M.J. Walker of Jonesboro, the highest-rated Georgian yet to commit.

At the McDonald’s All-Star Game this week, Walker told ESPN’s Paul Biancardi that his finalists were Tech, Florida State, Kansas, Maryland, UCLA, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. All save Tech and Ohio State played in the NCAA tournament. According to 247Sports, Florida State is seen as the leader, with Maryland second. Others have suggested it’s down to FSU and GT.

Not to name-drop, but I ran into the greatest player in Georgia Tech history at a media party here Thursday night. We talked about what Pastner has to do if he’s to become a serious player in ACC circles. “Get the blue-chippers,” said Kenny Anderson, who was one himself. “Got to get the blue-chippers.”

This recruiting class was always going to be difficult. Pastner was hired in April, meaning he had seven months to try to sway players other coaches had been wooing for 3 1/2 years. He had no real shot at Wendell Carter Jr. of Pace Academy, or Collin Sexton of Pebblebrook, who had a big summer and shot up the respective rankings. (Alabama signed Sexton, marking another missed opportunity for Mark Fox, who surely knows the way to Mableton. Georgia’s Derek Ogbeide is a Pebblebrook alum.)

But Walker is still out there, and he’d be a massive get for a program in need of one. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Pastner — known as a strong recruiter — should have access to a higher level of recruit working in the ACC and based in Atlanta than he had in Memphis. Walker is the kind of guy he needs, even if Walker becomes a one-and-done. (The bad thing about one-and-dones is that they leave; the good thing is that they tend to be difference-makers.)

Walker is ranked 19th among ESPN’s top 100, 22nd on 247’s composite board. He’s a McDonald’s All-American. Know the last McDonald’s man who signed with Tech? Derrick Favors in 2009.

You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit less enthused about Tech making the NIT finals — and losing by a record-tying 32 points — that maybe you think I should be. The NIT is the rough equivalent of the Belk Bowl: It’s where you end up when you don’t get to go where you wanted to be. No big-name recruit picks a program thinking, “Goody! Now I can play in the NIT!”

There’s no question that Pastner has made a bright start. Still, if you go by cold numbers, Tech in Year 1 under its new coach was actually a bit worse — 21-16, as opposed to 21-15 — than in Year Last under Brian Gregory. Don’t misunderstand: Pastner is an upgrade over Gregory, who’d taken the Jackets as far as he could, which turned out to be the NIT quarterfinals. Pastner beat North Carolina, which is something Gregory never did. (Very soon now, we could be seeing bumper stickers that read: “Georgia Tech 75, National Champions 63.”)

Pastner got way more from Gregory’s leftovers than Gregory would have. But that level of player isn’t going to propel Tech back to the only tournament that matters. Pastner needs a signature recruit. M.J. Walker would fit the bill.

Dance music:

The move to repeal HB2 has begun. College basketball played a part.

An odd Final Four — two from the Carolinas, two from the Pacific Northwest.

Kentucky’s latest one-and-dones: Done one game from the Final Four.

Maye in March – North Carolina stuns Kentucky at the frantic end.

Kentucky’s Calipari: Often wronged, seldom wrong (according to him).

De’Aaron Fox and Kentucky show UCLA the door.

From sweet to elite: North Carolina cruises past Butler.

The Butler Bulldogs, a blueblood in their quiet way.

UCLA vs. Kentucky: “Traditions like no other.”

So, about that all-ACC Final Four — and other Dance musings.

Georgia Tech is bound for the NIT’s Final Four. It can win there.

South Carolina takes down Duke and shocks the world.

North Carolina survives and advances, if only just.

Can the SEC hit the ACC with a Sunday punch?

Memo to Villanova: You can’t win ’em all, and don’t play Wisconsin.

Down goes Notre Dame. So much for my all-ACC Final Four, huh?

Blueblood blowouts: Duke wins big; North Carolina wins bigger.

Once nearly a champ, Texas Southern’s Mike Davis burns to win one NCAA game.

The NCAA tournament — a drama in three acts.

Fearing embarrassment, Indiana opts to play at Tech — and loses.

This NCAA tournament’s Talking Point — 10th-seeded Wichita State.

A Bracket Fiasco first: I’m picking an All-ACC Final Four.

Duke shades North Carolina as the ACC delivers a big finish in the Big Apple.

On cue, the ACC has become the best basketball league ever.

Ever wonder why Roy Williams has critics? This game right here.

The ACC’s rising stars: Mike Brey and Notre Dame.

Duke-Louisville: Great game, great coaches, greatest quarterfinal ever.

Duke hasn’t been what we expected, but it’s still Duke.

Overachieving Tech hits the wall. So what’s next for Josh Pastner?

Tech’s bubble bursts, but in no way was this team a bust.

A bridge too far – the ACC tournament in Brooklyn.

Reader Comments 0

13 comments
Hail Tech
Hail Tech

What a great year for Coach Pastner and the team! Mark Bradley is a schmuck. GO JACKETS

hoopcoch
hoopcoch

James Walker, Jr. will not be a one and done....he will stay werever he goes 2 or 3 years.

hoopcoch
hoopcoch

James Walker, Jr will not be a one and done....he will stay wherever he goes 2 maybe 3 years.

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

"You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit less enthused about Tech making the NIT finals — and losing by a record-tying 32 points — that maybe you think I should be"

You'd be singing a completely different tune if your beloved Dawgs had gotten there and been whipped like that instead of getting spanked at home in the opening round against a team Tech blew out a few days later.  Spoken like your typical salty UGA fan.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@ChopChamps95

GT had its opportunity against the Dawgs this season--at home, no less.

Why don't you tell the folks how your boys fared in that one?

Hello?

Still there?

drydirtroad
drydirtroad

It would be Best for the pros to compete with colleges for the high school kids and offer them jobs BEFORE they enroll at a college and leave in a year to do the pros Favors. Leaving rips off a college.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Very Good Year for Jackets!  Would love to get Walker!


Lady Jackets play today at 3 on CBSSN.... Go Jackets!

GT_in_CT
GT_in_CT

GT needs bigs.  A blue-chip anything is great, but GT will have guards.  To make the NCAA tourney next season, it might need a good grad transfer forward more than it needs another SG.

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

Pastner is on record as saying he wants to model what he does in a similar fashion to what Mike Brey is doing at Notre Dame. "Getting old and staying old". I think he has had his share of the six-month-&-dones at Memphis. I sure hope that is the case as an alum. 

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

The NIT mattered or Bradley wouldn't

be commenting on same.. What a clown..

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

GT had a tremendous year! 

This is the program of the future

in Georgia and Bradley feels it..

He knows it, but he is an SEC homer.. 

moboman
moboman

Hope we can get Walker to sign on, but it wont define Pastner if he doesnt. 

sgmock
sgmock

Agree with most of article but Pastner did this without Georges-Hunt, Charles Mitchell and Adam Smith. He did incredible job with what was left