Georgia basketball loses another player before Friday’s game

ATHENS - Georgia is going to be down another basketball player when it plays Jacksonville in the third game of the season Friday night at Stegeman Coliseum.

Jaykwon Walton, a 6-foot-7 wing player from Columbus, has left the team and intends to transfer, coach Tom Crean confirmed Thursday. There wasn’t much in the way of explanation from either Walton or the Bulldogs.

“We will miss Jaykwon,” Crean said in a statement released upon request of media. “He made a decision to pursue his goals somewhere else, and we wish Jaykwon and his family nothing but the best.”

Walton couldn’t be reached for comment.

If Walton does indeed take up with another team, he will become the fourth member of the Bulldogs’ ballyhooed 2019 recruiting class to leave the program. That class was ranked No. 3 in the nation by Rivals.com, and No. 11 by 247Sports.

Rodney Howard (Georgia Tech) and Mike Peake (Austin Peay) entered the transfer portal after last season. Anthony Edwards entered the NBA draft as a freshman and became the No. 1 overall pick, going to Minnesota.

With the exception of Edwards, the other players were not playing frontline roles with the Bulldogs. Walton had played just under 15 minutes this season, averaging one point and three rebounds in those two contests. As a freshman last season, Walton battled injuries and illness, which limited his appearances to only seven games. He averaged five minutes of playing time, 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in those contests.

Walton’s loss leaves the Bulldogs (2-0) with 12 scholarship players to take on Jacksonville. That number will grow to 13 depending on the status of freshman K.D. Johnson, who is not playing while awaiting NCAA academic certification. That’s also assuming Georgia will have Justin Kier back. The 6-foot-4 graduate transfer sat out Wednesday’s game because of a suspension, but started in the opener. He was jailed over the summer in a reckless-driving incident on Georgia 316.

In the meantime, Georgia has been getting some productive play out of its first five, four of whom are averaging double-figure scoring. Andrew Garcia, a 6-6, 225-pound graduate transfer from Stony Brook, has been an early surprise. He has scored 31 points in the first two games and is shooting 82% from the floor and 93% from the foul line.

Meanwhile, point guard Sahvir Wheeler has played better than ever. The 5-10 sophomore posted double-doubles of points and assists against both Florida A&M (12, 12) and North Georgia (17, 10). UGA is still researching the last time a Georgia men’s player posted double-figure assist tallies in consecutive games. So far, that’s at least the 1979-80 season.

As for Friday’s tilt, the Dolphins (3-0) will be Georgia’s toughest competition to date. Their wins came against Coastal Carolina (99-57), Southern Miss (66-51) and Presbyterian (78-65). The Bulldogs’ wins so far came against Florida A&M (85-75) and North Georgia (84-62).

Jacksonville features four players averaging double digits, and the team is shooting an eye-catching 46.2% from 3-point range (30-65).

Following Jacksonville, the Bulldogs will play host to Montana on Tuesday, which will be their fourth game in nine days, all at home.

“It’s not optimal, but for this year, it’s very probable,” Crean said of the busy stretch. “I told the guys, we may get to a situation where we don’t have three games in three weeks, let alone three games in one week. Who knows what way this season is going to go? But anything you do is getting you ready for what’s coming.”

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