ATHENS -- We interrupt all this football mania for an extremely important news bulletin – Georgia’s men’s basketball team begins practice today.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t all that important. Nobody is going to win or lose anything. But for coach Mark Fox and his charges, it’s an exciting and important time.
The Bulldogs will be looking to retool after losing SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the NBA draft as a sophomore. A nucleus of talented young players will be vying to carry the torch. That the NCAA moved up the practice start date two weeks this year can only help.
"The key for all of them is they're really going to have to play like juniors as sophomores," Fox said of the sophomore triumvirate of Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris. "That's an area where I think that last year, with Nemi (Djurisic) and Kentavious having to play such big roles as sophomores, that maybe we can look back at that transition for these three kids a little bit easier."
Two returning starters and seven lettermen from last year’s 15-17 team have been joined this summer by four newcomers. They are guards J.J. Frazier (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) and Juwan Parker (6-4, 200) and small forwards Cameron Forte (6-7, 220) and F Kenny Paul Geno (6-6, 200).
Georgia should actually enjoy a little depth on the front line for a change. Junior Marcus Thornton is back to “playing above the rim and functioning as well as he has since he's been here” after getting redshirted last season with chronic knee issues. Along with Djurisic, Donte' Williams, Tim Dixon, John Cannon and redshirt freshman Houston Kessler, that appear to give the Bulldogs the option to rotate liberally.
“We can be pretty aggressive and run those guys in and out as much as we need to," Fox said. "We’re not trying not to foul, but I do think we have some guys that can give us some depth there and allow us to play a little faster."
The Bulldogs will be sharing their digs with the Atlanta Hawks next week. The Hawks are holding a three-day training camp in Georgia’s Stegeman Training Facility Tuesday through Thursday. It will actually displace the Bulldogs from their locker room and practice gym. They’ll practice instead inside the Coliseum.
“Our guys are spoiled anyway,” joked Fox, who said he has known Hawks general manager Danny Ferry for about 15 years. “It won't hurt them to dress somewhere else for a couple days. But we're excited about them coming in. I think it'll be great for us."