After being used predominantly as a role player during his first two seasons on Georgia Tech’s campus, Ben Lammers has emerged as a junior with a much larger plate of responsibilities.
The 2016-17 season is in its earliest of phases, but so far, through two games, Lammers looks like he’s up to the task at hand: holding down Georgia Tech’s interior defense.
The Texas native had never played more than 22 minutes in a collegiate game before this season started, but he’s played 33 minutes in each of Georgia Tech’s first two games this year. He has four career games of double-figure scoring; two of those have occurred this season.
Lammers is averaging 14 points per game and shooting 72.2 percent from the field, but the numbers that really jump off the stat sheet are his block totals.
In wins over Tennessee Tech and Southern, Lammers blocked 14 total shots; the nine blocks he recorded against the Jaguars are tied with Alvin Jones for the second-most in a single game in Georgia Tech history. (Jones collected that figure twice and also holds the single-game blocks record, which he achieved by rejecting 11 shots against Winthrop in 1997.)
Lammers currently leads the ACC in blocks, and the next closest player — Duke’s Amile Jefferson — has eight. Lammers is way out in front.
The Georgia Tech junior has a block rate of 19.1 percent, according to Ken Pomeroy, which ranks 14th in the nation and is also tops in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets are allowing just 0.75 points per possession with Lammers on the court.
Josh Pastner’s debut season in Atlanta will likely include growing pains — and prolonged difficulties scoring the basketball — but if Lammers can continue to be a deterrent at the rim, then the Yellow Jackets could scrape out some victories on the defensive side of the court. While Pastner was at Memphis, the Tigers never allowed more than 97 points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom. Memphis also finished inside the top 65 in terms of defensive efficiency in all but one season Pastner coached at the school.
The Jackets haven’t started a season with four straight wins since the 2008-09 campaign — back when Paul Hewitt was still manning the ship. However, they have a good chance to break that trend; they don’t play an away game until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, when they travel to Penn State. Georgia Tech also doesn’t have a single opponent ranked inside KenPom’s top 95 teams on the docket until they square off with No. 36 VCU on Dec. 7.
ACC play will be a gauntlet for Georgia Tech to run. Its first three league games are against North Carolina, Duke and Louisville; that’s nota recipe for wins. Lammers won’t continue this current pace of shot-blocking — it’s unsustainable. But he proved last season (1.3 blocks per game in less than 15 minutes per night) that he presents problems for opponents defensively. One of the primary pieces of building a stingy defense is a rim-protecting big man, and with Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech has just that.