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Almost one third of Georgia Tech's student athletes are engineering majors, but it's not often that they play for the men's basketball team. 6'10" Ben Lammers, from San Antonio, is an exception. We talked to the sophomore center to find out how the big man is adjusting to life as a mechanical engineering major playing in the nation's best basketball conference.
We don't get a lot of basketball players majoring in engineering. Why were you interested in studying it?
I was always good at math and science and that kind of stuff. My dad is an architect and his whole side of the family is basically architects and engineers, so I was kind of born into it I guess.
You were heavily recruited coming out of high school. Why did you choose Tech?
It was a combination of things. First, I just really liked the guys on the team. It was a great environment to come into and play in the ACC. It's also one of the best engineering schools in the country so I figured if I was going to major in engineering I should go to one of the best ones.
Is being so far from home tough or have you gotten used to it?
Being away from home isn't a big deal. I decided that I wanted to get the full college experience, and since I was going to be going to be able to go for free on a basketball scholarship that I wanted to go out of state and experience a new place.
How has the adjustment to college life gone over your first three semesters?
Pretty well all things considered. It's definitely different from high school. In high school it didn't take a whole lot of effort to get solid grades, and here it's totally different. You always hear professors say "You can't put this off and try to do it the night before it's due." You think they're talking about other people because you were always able to do it before. But it happened to me. I had a project due for a design class, and I had a game the day before, so I was up all night doing sketches and everything. I decided I was never doing that again. Since then I've gotten a lot better at balancing everything out. I think it's a lesson that everybody at Tech has learned whether they're an athlete or not.
What attracted you to mechanical engineering in particular?
I really like working with my hands and building things. When I visited campus I went to the Invention Studio and it was so cool to see all of the things that students here were creating. It really got me interested in all of that.
Have you had any favorite classes so far?
I took a course last spring that started with sketching and then you turned the sketches into computer models. I think it was ME 1770. I really liked that class. I don't consider myself a great artist, but it was fun to be able to explore that side of things. I also enjoyed Statics (COE 2001) and Deformable Bodies (COE 3001). I'm in Dynamics right now, and I'm enjoying that a lot.
Do you know what you want to do with your degree once you finish?
To be honest I have no idea what I want to do with my degree, but I want to keep working on it. It's hard to envision my future, depending on what happens with basketball. I've been talking to Dr. Jacobs, the associate dean of engineering, and he's been great at helping me stay on the right track to succeed academically. I think in the next few months I'll narrow my focus and start to consider potential career opportunities.
Has playing for Tech been what you expected?
It's been great. It's been a lot of fun to be a Yellow Jacket and represent the school. I'm pretty lucky to be in a place where I can play at a very high level, and also be at a great school. It's a big change from high school but I've enjoyed the transition a lot.
What do you see for yourself for the rest of the season?
I want to keep on getting better and keep contributing to the team. Hopefully we can get into the postseason and we'll see what happens there.
Editor's note: The Yellow Jackets are 12-10 following a Tuesday night loss to Duke. Lammers is averaging 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and leads the team with 26 blocks while averaging just under 15 minutes per game.
Have you had a career highlight yet? A memory that stands out?
My freshman year I didn't play a lot, but the first game against Georgia was kind of crazy. That was our first regular season game, so coming out and seeing the crowd in the stands and everyone going crazy- that was an amazing experience.
Are your parents able to come to many games?
My parents live in San Antonio, so getting to games isn't easy for them. They try to come a few times per year though, and they've already been here twice this year with a few more trips planned I think.
What's your favorite rivalry so far?
It's always fun to travel for ACC games. Playing at home is great obviously, and I love our fans, but I've enjoyed seeing other schools in the conference. the opposing fans kind of get you going. Last year we went to Duke, and that was crazy. They have such a reputation and it was great to see it in person. North Carolina is an interesting experience too, with everything in blue. Those games are always intense.
Does the team do much together during your down time?
Usually after games or practice we're pretty tired. We just like to hang out. A lot of guys are into video games, like NBA 2K16, or FIFA, and we'll play card games - poker or something like that. We have some team outings once in a while too, especially early in the season when recruiting is going on and we're trying to come together as a team. Bowling is always fun.
How do you like going to college in a major city?
I like Atlanta a lot. I don't have as much time to explore as I'd like, but I have my car this year so that makes it easier. It's a lot different from San Antonio where I lived in the suburbs. Here we're right in the heart of the city, and you don't expect that at a college. It's a nice change of pace.
Do you have a favorite place to go?
I took my dad to Stone Mountain one time and that was really cool. We're both history buffs, and he's an architect, so he got to see all those old Civil War era houses. The view from the top of the mountain was pretty amazing too, being able to see the whole city. I liked that a lot.
Has the staff helped you juggle your academics and your basketball duties?
They have. We have our own academic advisers, and they've been great about helping us schedule tutors and stay on top of our work. It's not common for basketball players to study engineering, but they've been very supportive.
What has the biggest challenge been?
Balancing time, but I feel like that's a big challenge for everyone here. It's never been my strength, but you just have to do it here. It's not high school. You need to start studying weeks ahead of time, otherwise you're going to get killed on your tests and everything. You have to understand the material. I haven't quite perfected that balance yet, but I've definitely improved.
Do you talk to other athletes who are engineering majors to get tips from them?
I do talk to some of them - swimmers, and volleyball players especially. We all have the same problem, but when I see the swimming schedule with early mornings in the pool I really can't complain. We're all lucky to have this opportunity to study and compete for a great school.
For more on Lammers check out this Q&A from Ramblinwreck.com.