Tech has five Georgians on its roster. Two came as walk-ons. James Banks III transferred from Texas, Shembari Phillips from Tennessee. Evan Cole, from Cumming, was a 3-star recruit. On the job since April 2016, Pastner has yet to gain in-state traction. If he doesn’t soon, he won’t be on the job much longer.
Crean’s story is different. He’s new, and he’s from the Midwest – apprenticed at Michigan State, coached Marquette and Indiana. Even in the cutthroat world of college recruiting, this area can be especially perilous. Of Georgia’s two commitments, neither is from in-state. Both, however, are 4-stars from the South: Jaykwon Walton of Montgomery, Ala., and Toumani Camara of Hollywood, Fla. That’s a start.
Per 247 Sports, Georgia's class ranks 31st nationally. We note that the classes ranked first, ninth, 10th and 11th feature Georgians. No. 1 USC includes Kyle Sturdivant of Norcoss among its pledges. Auburn is ninth – insert snide line about Bruce Pearl here – with three more Georgia commitments, including Isaac Okoro of McEachern, the state's top-rated player. No. 10 Xavier has 4-star Daniel Ramsey of Norcross; the Musketeers' staff now includes Jonas Hayes, whom Crean wanted to keep in Athens. No. 11 is Oklahoma State.
The player who was supposed to be the star of Georgia’s 2019 signing class started Friday’s exhibition for the nation’s No. 2 team in Rupp Arena. Ashton Hagans, a 5-star junior, committed to the Bulldogs in December. He would have been Fox’s biggest signee since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2011. From Newton High in Covington, Hagans is the cousin of Trey Thompkins, the best player on the Bulldogs’ 2011 NCAA tournament team, and he bonded with both Fox and Hayes.
Come February, with rumors swirling that Fox was a goner, Hagans recanted. In April he declared himself for Kentucky. In June he announced he was reclassifying, which means skipping his senior year. Had Crean had Hagans in this Year 1, the new man would have had a foundation. Instead Hagans is part of another overstuffed freshman class – Kentucky observers rave about his on-the-ball defense, though he has yet to score much – at a place where a crowd of 20,095 gathered for a game that didn’t count on the eve of the Wildcats’ biggest football day since 1951.
By now, even faithful readers will have had their patience tested. I’ve been pounding the table, as we said in high school debating, about Georgia programs needing to keep Georgians in Georgia since … well, not quite 1951, but close. (FYI, the center on Kentucky’s 1951 NCAA champions was Bill Spivey, who played high school ball in Warner Robins.) It will be the same for Crean as was for Fox and Gregory and is for Pastner: If you can’t make hay in this state, you can’t win big.
The fallout from the Feds’ investigation and the first round of convictions in New York remind us that recruiting is both cesspool and bloodsport. That’s no excuse, though. Lots of good players hail from this state, and yet the last time Tech or Georgia won an NCAA tournament game was in March 2010. The Jackets were led by Derrick Favors of South Atlanta High. He’d been the nation’s No. 1 recruit. Here endeth the lesson.