Shareef Abdur-Rahim of Wheeler spurned Tech and Cremins to spend one year at California. That would become a recurring theme. This state generated many big names, few of whom deigned to stick around. You know who they were, and if you don't … well, there's Google. I'm tired of typing the list. Here, however, is where this November rundown differs from past installments. The state school in Athens is about to embark on a season that could amount to something, and its primary driver will be a 5-star who stayed home.
Three of the five names on the preseason All-SEC first team are Georgians. Ashton Hagans of Covington's Newton County High plays for Kentucky, Reggie Perry of Thomasville for Mississippi State. That we'd come to expect. What we hadn't: Anthony Edwards of Atlanta's Holy Spirit Prep is the third name, and he's a Georgia Bulldog. He won't be for long – he's projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft – but he's there now.
The media assembled in Birmingham last month tabbed Georgia to finish ninth in the 14-team SEC, which sounds low and probably is. The Bulldogs haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 2002 — that was voided due to post-Harrick sanctions — and haven't made the Dance since 2015. But Tom Crean, about to enter Year 2 as coach, got what he needed from Year 1. He landed Edwards, known as Ant Man. In this sport, one big-timer can have a superhero-type effect.
Georgia and Crean will be disappointed if this season doesn’t produce an NCAA bid. (Though there’s precedent for teams with a No. 1 overall pick missing out — Ben Simmons and LSU in 2016, Markelle Fultz and Washington in 2017.) The SEC is strong, yes: Kentucky and Florida are ranked among the top six in the Associated Press poll; Auburn, coming off a Final Four, is No. 24. But this, we say again, is basketball. There’s a reason recruiting is so vicious. One player really can make a difference.
For Georgia colleges, in-state recruits have too often left their marks on out-of-state campuses. Auburn wouldn't have crashed the Final Four without Jared Harper of Pebblebrook and Bryce Brown of Tucker and Chuma Okeke of Westlake. Georgia and Edwards have a chance to change a long-standing narrative that has stood way too long.
This isn’t to suggest that a teenager who played high school games in a smallish gym nine miles from Mercedes-Benz Stadium will lead the Bulldogs to the building with the retractable roof five months hence. It will, however, be fun to see Ant Man try.