October 11, 2011

Hoops starting anew

Yes, in a lot of respects, the Georgia basketball team is starting anew following the graduation/loss of players like Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie, Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes.

But as head coach Mark Fox and his Bulldogs get ready to start preseason practice on Friday afternoon, that's not necessarily being looked upon as a negative.

"It is like that in many ways. We lost certainly our entire front line, lots of scoring and lots of rebounding," Fox said Tuesday. "But I think this group is a little more suited to play up tempo than the last ones were."

Solid defense and better shot selection will continue to be a focus as well.

"We're going to put a premium on building a very good defense. We'll still have a premium on good shot selection, create more possessions and create more on good shots," Fox said. "I think this will be a much more mobile team than the previous team, a better shooting team so hopefully we'll have some more possessions, play a little quicker, but still maintain that emphasis on taking good shots and defending at the other end."

Of course, all eyes will be on freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the McDonald's All-American, who will give the Bulldogs a threat to score 30 points whenever he's on the court.

"Kentavious is very gifted. But the thing about him is he's a very humble kid and doesn't act like a kid that has as many accolades as he does," Fox said. "He's unbelievably coachable and that is one of the reason his teammates welcomed him with open arms. He just wants to be a part of a good team and that's why his teammates appreciate him."

Fox added the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder could wind up playing the three spot, but would not rule him out playing the two.

Caldwell-Pope isn't the only player capable of playing multiple roles.

"Kentavious is actually taller than Travis (Leslie), so if he ends up in the three spot some, you guys may consider it to be three guards. I think he naturally fits there and sometimes I think you'll see him at the two spot also," Fox said. "I do think we have some versatility. Marcus Thornton can play a couple of positions, Kentavious will be able to bounce around a little bit, while Gerald (Robinson) and Dustin (Ware) were very interchangeable in the backcourt last year and should be again.

"I think you can see some versatility with this lineup and at times you will see a three-guard lineup and when Marcus is at the four, sometimes it will look like four guards on the floor at the same time."

Caldwell-Pope won't be the only newcomer with a chance to see some early playing time.

Fox said he's been impressed with the work of center John Florveus, who has bulked up to 230 pounds, along with freshmen front court players Nemanja Djurisic (6-8, 230) and John Cannon (6-10, 245).

Of the returnees, Connor Nolte and Donte Williams, who has added 20 pounds and now weighs 220, figure to play integral roles as well.

"I think John Florveus, who's coming out of junior college, is the most mature of the group at 6-11 and 230. I think physically he is ready for this level of play, but they're all very different. Nemi (Djurisic) is very skilled and pretty strong for a freshman and John Cannon is a very physical player and the heaviest of the group," Fox said. "Tim Dixon shoots the ball very well, but Florveus might be the best athlete of the group. Some will be situational as to who we play, but every one of them bring something to the table that we need and we need for all of them to develop."

NOTES: Fox said Ware dropped 10 pounds over the summer and has increased his vertical leap to 43 inches. However, Ware isn't the Bulldogs' best leaper. That honor goes to junior Vincent Williams whose vertical leap of 47 inches broke the team record set by Leslie at 46.

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]