Release from Georgia Tech Athletics:
Georgia Tech’s first-year head coach Josh Pastner was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year, and the Yellow Jackets captured their biggest haul of ACC honors in recent memory as junior center Ben Lammers was named second-team All-ACC and conference Defensive Player of the Year, while first-year player Josh Okogie was named to the ACC’s All-Freshman Team.
For the first time, the All-ACC team was selected by a panel that included the head coaches of each of the 15 teams, plus three members of the media representing each institution.
This is the first time since 2013 since Tech has had honorees in multiple categories, and also the first time since 2013 that Tech has had more than one individual honored.
Pastner, in his first year on The Flats, earned 24 of the 53 votes cast, three times that of the second-place coach. He becomes the third different Tech head man to be named ACC Coach of the Year, joining Bobby Cremins (1983, 1985, 1996) and Paul Hewitt, who captured the honor in his first season of 2000-01. He has taken a Yellow Jacket team projected to finish 14th in the ACC, having lost its top four players from last year’s NIT squad, into position to be considered for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Jackets completed the regular season with a 17-14 record, and finished in 11th place in the conference standings with an 8-10 record.
Beginning with their 75-63 upset of ninth-ranked North Carolina on New Year’s Eve, the Yellow Jackets have defeated three top-15 teams, including No. 6 Florida State and No. 14 Notre Dame, and have fashioned a 4-4 record against teams in the top 25 of the RPI rankings.
Tech has won primarily because of its stout defense, which leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense against conference teams and is in the top three in scoring defense. The Jackets rank No. 7 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com.
“This is a great honor, but it’s really a great honor for our program,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “It’s a direct reflection of the work done by our staff and our student-athletes. I’m the first to recognize that you’re only as good as your players and your staff. I don’t take it for granted, especially in a league like the ACC. We’ve become a good team, and that’s a tribute to our staff and players. It’s a program award.”
Lammers, a 6-10 junior center, is the fourth Tech center to earn All-ACC honors in program history, joining John Salley (1986), Alvin Jones (2001) and Daniel Miller (2014) and gave the Yellow Jackets a second-team all-conference player for the second year in a row. He received the eighth-most votes overall in all-conference balloting. Lammers was the leading vote-getter for the ACC’s All-Defensive team and is the fifth Tech player to make that team, but the first to be named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, for which he received 37 of the 53 votes. Lammers came in second to Wake Forest’s John Collins in voting for the ACC’s Most Improved Player.
He has made one of the most remarkable improvements in the ACC, if not the nation, from his sophomore season. His scoring average (14.6 ppg) is up 11 points over last year and ranks in the ACC’s top 20. His rebound average (9.2 rpg) is up more than five per game and ranks third in the conference, and he is also among the top five in the ACC in field goal percentage. The San Antonio, Texas, native also ranks No. 2 nationally and leads the ACC in blocked shots with 103 this season. He has scored 20 or more points in five ACC games, and he has posted 13 double-doubles, third-most in the conference.
“Ben’s been our catalyst,” said Pastner. “We’ve piggy-backed onto him. Most times you piggy-back on guys offensively. We’ve piggy-backed on Ben both offensively and defensively. His improvement from last spring to now has been phenomenal. It’s a great honor for him to be recognized.”
Okogie, a 6-4 guard, is Tech’s highest-scoring freshman since Chris Bosh in 2002-03 and its sixth-highest ever, averaging 15.5 points. He is the ninth Tech freshman to lead the Yellow Jackets in scoring. The Snellville, Ga., native has been named ACC Rookie of the Week four times this season, twice after posting games of 38 points (a Tech freshman record) against Tulane (Nov. 26) and 35 against Florida State (Jan. 25). Like Lammers, he has scored 20 or more points five times in ACC games, and has reached double digits in all but one.
Okogie, the 15th Yellow Jacket to make the ACC All-Freshman team, was the fourth-leading vote-getter for that team, but only two votes shy of leader Dennis Smith, who received 36 of the 53 votes for ACC Freshman of the Year.
“Josh has just gotten better and better and better,” said Pastner. “For him to make the All-Freshman team in a league with so many good freshmen, that’s a tremendous honor for him. And it’s also great that both players have a chance to be back and take the next step in their games for next season.”
Tadric Jackson, a 6-2 junior guard, received four votes for the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year award, which went to Virginia Tech’s Seth Allen in a landslide (43 of 53 votes).