Sophomore guard Charles Mann
Nov. 3, 2013
ATHENS ----- The Georgia basketball team hosts its only exhibition contest of the 2013-14 season Monday when the Bulldogs entertain UNC-Pembroke at Stegeman Coliseum. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. and admission is free.
The Braves, a Division II school and member of the Peach Belt Conference, spent last week traveling through Tobacco Road for a pair of exhibition games. They dropped a 96-85 decision Oct. 30 at N.C. State before losing at North Carolina 82-63 two nights later.
Georgia started pre-season practice on Friday, Sept. 27. Since then the Bulldogs have staged a series of intrasquad workouts, as well as a closed scrimmage recently against Mercer. After Monday’s exhibition game, Georgia will tip off the season in earnest this Friday night with a home contest against Wofford. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.
The Outlook for 2013-14
This time a year ago, Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox looked at his roster for the 2013 season with eager anticipation. “This team could be together for a couple of years,” he said.
Alas, his vision did not materialize. The Bulldogs’ star guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played his sophomore season so well that the NBA came calling. And he answered.
The 2014 season, however, feels a little different than the last time Georgia lost defections to the NBA. The Bulldogs appear better equipped to withstand such a significant loss this time around. “This year we have a little more depth around us and we return more guys,” Fox said. “We have more people whose natural progression would be to take on more minutes. That’s a luxury we didn’t have before.”
These are a number of returning players from whom productive roles are expected. The upperclassmen on this 2014 Georgia roster are all capable of emerging as stars in any given game. Donte' Williams, Georgia’s lone senior, is its top returning rebounder and a proven scorer as well. Nemanja Djurisic has led the Bulldogs in scoring several times in his two seasons. And Marcus Thornton is another versatile and valuable player, provided his health allows him to return to top form.
Add to this group a talented trio of sophomores, and the outlook for success in 2014 appears promising.
Here’s a best-guess picture of the Bulldogs’ personnel as they start the season:
Williams (6-9, Sr.) and Brandon Morris (6-7, So.) are the Bulldogs’ two returning starters from last season. Each has displayed moments in his career that hint of a prominent role. Morris in particular has drawn praise for the quality of his off-season workouts.
Djurisic (6-8, Jr.) is another valuable piece in Georgia’s collection of inside players. He ranked second behind KCP in scoring last season, despite starting only 10 games.
Thornton could be an important part of this equation in 2014. Knee problems have caused him to miss parts of the past two seasons. They also enabled him to take a medical redshirt season in 2013, when he underwent surgery after playing in nine games. At the time of his injury, Thornton was Georgia’s top rebounder and a valuable, blue-collar type of player.
Juniors John Cannon (6-10) and Tim Dixon (6-10) should also see meaningful minutes in the frontcourt. Both showed marked improvement as sophomores, a curve that should continue upward in their third seasons.
With Caldwell-Pope coming back, the Bulldogs would have boasted one of college basketball’s most promising backcourts. Without him, they’ll still be plenty effective on the perimeter. That’s mostly because of returning sophomores Charles Mann (6-4) and Kenny Gaines (6-3).
Though Mann started eight games as a freshman last season, he found greater prosperity as a reserve. Eventually, he earned starter’s minutes coming off the bench and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the league’s coaches.
Gaines, meanwhile, gradually worked his way into an everyday role on last year’s team. Once he did, though, he proved capable of key contributions, including double-figure scoring in three conference games.
Houston Kessler (6-8, RFr.) originally signed with the Bulldogs in the spring of 2012. His redshirt season, however, enabled him to grow another another inch and to sharpen a potent outside shooting stroke. He is included among the perimeter players because of his likely station at a swing position.
Native Oklahoman Juwan Parker (6-4, Fr.) signed with Georgia knowing that Caldwell-Pope stood a fair chance of returning for his junior year. Now that KCP is gone, though, he’ll get an ample opportunity to earn his place in the rotation.