Dec. 12, 2013
About the Game
Georgia resumes the 2013-14 season with a Saturday afternoon contest at home against Atlantic Sun member Lipscomb. It's been 12 days since the Bulldogs last took the court in their 87-56 win over Chattanooga on Dec. 2. The win was Georgia's second straight, improved its record to 3-4 and represented its largest victory margin in three years.
Thirteen of the 15 Bulldogs that saw action against Chattanooga scored, led by Nemi Djurisic, who tallied 14 points. Guards Juwan Parker and Kenny Gaines added 11 points for the Bulldogs, who have now shot over 50 percent from the field in four of seven games thus far. Individually, six of the Bulldogs' regular rotation thus far are currently shooting over 50 percent, including three who are over the 60 percent mark (Morris, Forte, Cannon).
Georgia has also surpassed its 2013 per-game scoring average of 60.8 points in every game this season. Sophomore guard Charles Mann leads Georgia in scoring at 14.3 points per game, despite playing just nine minutes and scoring two points against against Chattanooga.
The Bulldogs have taken these past 12 days off to finish Fall Semester, the final exams for which wrapped up on Wednesday of this week. Taking an extended break for finals is a relatively recent phenomenon. Georgia teams going back to the 2006-07 season have taken longer than a week from competition during final exams.
Saturday's game is the first-ever meeting between Georgia and Lipscomb in basketball. The Bisons become the seventh current member of the Atlantic Sun Conference to have played Georgia in hoops.
Saturday's game starts a busy week for the Bulldogs, who will complete their current 5-game homestand with two more games before Christmas break. Next up will be a Thursday morning contest against Gardner-Webb, in what is becoming an annual treat for Athens-Clarke County school children.
New Faces Abound on Bulldog Roster
Georgia's core of returning players remains solid for the 2014 season, yet coach Mark Fox will be incorporating a slew of newcomers into the lineup. Senior Donte' Williams and sophomore Brandon Morris are the only two returnees who were starting at the end of last season. Three key players, however, have seen significant playing time, plenty of which came as starters: redshirt junior Marcus Thornton, junior Nemi Djurisic and sophomore Charles Mann. The latter, in fact, earned Freshman All-SEC honors last season in primarily a reserve's role. Djurisic is Georgia's top returning scorer, despite his part-time starter status. Thornton had started seven of nine games before a knee injury ended his 2013 season.
|F||2||Marcus Thornton**||6-8||235||RJr.||Atlanta, Ga.||6.7||4.3|
|F||15||Donte' Williams***||6-9||225||Sr.||Ellenwood, Ga.||5.9||6.4|
|F||11||Cameron Forte||6-7||220||So.||Tempe, Ariz.||6.6||3.3|
|G||4||Charles Mann*||6-5||210||So.||Alpharetta, Ga.||14.3||2.9a|
|G||12||Kenny Gaines*||6-3||195||So.||Atlanta, Ga.||12.6||2.6|
#Assists Per Game
|F||10||Talbot Denny||6-6||200||So.||Tucson, Ariz.||6.6||4.8|
|F||52||Malcolm Smith||6-5||210||Jr.||Clarksville, Tenn.||13.2||6.4|
|F||35||Martin Smith||6-4||190||Jr.||Clarksville, Tenn.||16.4||4.2|
|G||22||J.C. Hampton||6-1||180||RFr.||Winston-Salem, N.C.||13.0||3.6|
|G||0||Khion Sankey||6-5||220||Sr.||Greensboro, N.C.||5.8||5.6|
Head Coach: Casey Alexander
Record at Lipscomb / Years: 4-5 / 1st season
Overall Record / Years: 27-41 / 3rd season
Assistant Coaches: Roger Idstrom (Associate HC), Dwight Evans, Steve Drabyn
Georgia vs. Lipscomb
Saturday's game will be the first-ever meeting between Georgia and Lipscomb in basketball.
Lipscomb becomes the seventh current member of the Atlantic Sun Conference to have played Georgia in hoops. The Bulldogs have played several A-Sun schools in recent seasons, most prominently Mercer (54-23 all-time record), Jacksonville (9-0 record) and East Tennessee State (2-2 record). Georgia played all three schools during its non-conference schedule last season. Other A-Sun opponents include Stetson (7-3, UGA, most recently in 2004), Kennesaw State (2-0, last time in 2007) and USC-Upstate (1-0, in 2008-09).
For what it's worth, Georgia basketball has taken extended breaks for final exams in each of the past seven seasons. We define "extended" by anything longer than one week. The longest in-season gap between games -- in recent history, anyway -- had nothing to do with finals and it occurred admidst the 2001-02 season. That squad played its last pre-conference game on Dec. 22, resuming the season two weeks later in its SEC opener against Vandy on Jan. 5.
Much has been made of the new enforcement of existing rules, as well as new rules, for the coming basketball season. Specifically, the following are supposed to be different from past seasons:
Under the revised block/charge call in men's basketball, a defensive player is not permitted to move into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or pass. If the defensive player is not in legal guarding position by this time, it is a blocking foul. Previously, a defender had to be in legal guarding position when the offensive player lifted off the floor.
It is believed that the rule change will:
1) Allow for more offensive freedom; 2) Provide clarity for officials in making this difficult call; and
3) Enhance the balance between offense and defense.
Additionally, officials will be required to adhere to new points of emphasis, all designed to encourage "freedom of movement" in the game of basketball. They include:
1) When a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent;
2) When a defensive player puts two hands on an opponent;
3) When a defensive player continually jabs by extending his arm(s) and placing a hand or forearm on the opponent;
4) When a player uses an arm bar to impede the progress of an opponent.
Thus far, as all participants adjust to these changes, the volume of called fouls has risen measurably. In Georgia's eight games thus far (exhibition + 6 in regular season), there were 329 fouls called (41/game), although the past two games have yielded the fewest fouls called this season. Last season there were an average of 36 fouls called in Georgia's games.
Georgia began this season amidst low expectations...externally, anyway. The Bulldogs were picked by the media that cover SEC basketball to finish 11th in the 14-team league, ahead of only South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn. This, despite a 9-9 SEC record last year and an eighth-place tie in the final standings. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were picked 1-2-3 in the same poll. Additionally, no Bulldogs were selected to the 16-player pre-season All-SEC lists.
About the Schedule
A highlight of last season's home schedule was a morning tipoff against Mercer, an event that was attended by several thousand Athens-Clarke County school children. The Bulldogs will again host the kids this season in their Dec. 19 game against Gardner-Webb, which tips at 11:30 a.m.
Conference expansion manifests itself in many strange ways, not the least of which occurs in scheduling. Georgia fans noticed this oddity most recently as their football team has traveled to Auburn in consecutive seasons.
This season their basketball team will experience one of the oddest quirks to its schedule in years. Kentucky will not travel to Athens for a game this season for the first time since the 1962-63 season. Same for Tennessee. For Florida, which also won't play a game in Athens this season, the last time it didn't play in Athens was in 1961-62. The Gators are the most frequent opponent in UGA hoops history.
It took a World War to keep all three schools out of Athens together in the same season the last time. Not since the 1943-44 season -- when Georgia played just 17 games and dotted its schedule with random groups like Lawson General Hospital and Robins Airfield -- has this phenomenon occurred.
Offense on the Uptick
One thing is apparent through the early going this season: Georgia's offense appears to be measurably more effective than last season, even without its best scorer from 2013. In all six games thus far (exhibition + 5 regular season), the Bulldogs have scored well over their seasonal average (60.8) of last season. The team's overall shooting percentage has also risen from 40.8 of last season to its current mark of 47.8.
Williams a Seasoned Veteran
With Marcus Thornton receiving a medical redshirt season from 2013, Donte' Williams became the Bulldogs' lone senior this season. He is already the most experienced Bulldog, having started 59 games in the past two seasons. That's more than twice the total of Thornton, who is second on the team in career starts with 27, including seven in his truncated season of 2013. Williams enters this season with 471 career points, second among all Bulldogs behind Nemi Djurisic, who has tallied 475 in two seasons.
Morris Makes 2013-14 Debut
Sophomore forward Brandon Morris missed the season's first three games at the discretion of head coach Mark Fox. His return to action last weekend in the middle game of the Charleston Classic made a distinct difference in the Bulldogs' on-court performance.
Morris had eight points, three rebounds and two assists -- all in the second half -- against Temple, when the Bulldogs nearly overcame a 15-point deficit. Two days later he contributed heavily, with a career-best 14 points and four rebounds in a close loss to Nebraska.
Mann is the Man
Charles Mann enjoyed one of the best seasons by a freshman guard in Georgia history last year. The Alpharetta resident ranked third on the team in scoring at 6.7 points per game. He led the Bulldogs in assists with 92 and free-throw attempts with 170. All of the above numbers were excellent considering he started just eight of 32 games and averaged 21.5 minutes per contest. Mann's 92 assists, in fact, were the most by a freshman guard since Dustin Ware's 108 in 2009. Ware started 17 games and averaged over 25 minutes that season.
Mann's 170 trips to the free throw line --- fifth-best total in the SEC last season -- were the most by a Georgia freshman guard since Litterial Green tried 187 foul shots in his rookie season of 1989.
Djurisic is Dogs' Top Returning Scorer
Junior forward Nemi Djurisic is Georgia's top returning scorer for the 2013-14 season. The 6-8 native of Montnegro averaged 7.9 points during the entirety of the season, 7.8 during 18 SEC games. This marks the first time in nine years that Georgia has no double-figure scorer coming back from the previous season. In the 2004-05 season, Levi Stukes was the Bulldogs' highest-scoring returnee at 9.5 points. The 7.9 ppg average by Djurisic is the smallest average by the highest-scoring returnee since Ray Harrison led the 1996-97 Bulldogs with a 6.3 scoring average.
Forte Cracks the Starting Lineup
Junior-college transfer Cameron Forte became the first Georgia newcomer this season to earn first-team status. The Tempe, Ariz., native played his way into the starting lineup with a pair of strong performances, first in Georgia's exhibition game vs. UNC-Pembroke and later in the season opener vs. Wofford. He tallied 10 points and seven rebounds in just 18 minutes of the exhibition game. Four days later he contributed nine points and two boards in 16 minutes off the bench against Wofford.
Forte has created a niche for himself as perhaps the Bulldogs' most effective inside scorer. In the description of teammate Nemi Djurisic, "he just hunts the basket."
Forte originally signed with Texas Tech out of McClintock High School in Tempe but lasted just one semester in Lubbock before transferring to Northern Arizona. He eventually landed at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.
Georgia and the SEC
Following are a few tidbits about Georgia's history in the SEC:
Georgia's all-time record in SEC games, covering 80 years, is 498-732 (.405). That ranks 10th of 12 SEC members (excluding Missouri and Texas A&M).
Georgia can claim one SEC regular-season championship (1990), one regular-season divisional title (2002) and two SEC Tournament crowns (1983, 2008).
Georgia has had just two AP SEC Player of the Year: Dominique Wilkins in 1981 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last season. Other superlative post-season awards include Coaches' SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Rashad Wright in 2004), AP SEC Newcomer of the Year (Jarvis Hayes in 2002), and Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Dave Bliss in 2008).
Wilkins was the first of four Georgia players to lead the SEC in scoring at season's end. He averaged a league-best 23.6 points per game in 1981. Others to follow him have been Vern Fleming (19.8 ppg in 1984), Jumaine Jones (18.8 ppg in 1999) and Jarvis Hayes (18.6 ppg in 2002).
Georgia has an all-time SEC Tournament record of 40-51. The 2008 tourney marked the first time since 1997 that Georgia has reached the finals.
Staff Changes for 2014
For the first time of his 4+ seasons in Athens, head coach Mark Fox made changes to his immediate coaching staff. Three-year UGA letterman (2002-04) Jonas Hayes was promoted from Operations Coordinator to Assistant Coach. A native Atlantan, Hayes returned to UGA in 2012 after serving as an Assistant Coach at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina for five seasons. He had also assisted the programs at South Carolina State, Morehouse and his alma mater, Douglass High School, after graduating from UGA in 2004.
Hayes, whose twin brother Jarvis continues to play professionally overseas, became the first Georgia basketball alumnus to hold a full-time assistant's position on the staff at his alma mater since Mark Slonaker assisted Hugh Durham from 1989-95.
To replace Hayes in the Coordinator's position, Fox hired Byron Samuels in May of 2013. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native, is a veteran of the collegiate ranks whose career includes head coaching stops at Hampton, Radford and, most lastly, at Hillsborough Community College, where he coached recent UGA alum John Florveus. Samuels is a veteran of SEC basketball, having assisted four Tennessee teams that earned NCAA Tournament berths.
Fox Best at Molding Talent
Blogger and hoops junkie Dan Hanner of RealGM.com penned an article in February of 2012 that anointed Georgia head coach Mark Fox as the top coach in college basketball at player development. In a blog entry, Hanner used a complex formula to rate college coaches. Among Hanner's many observations he writes, "Mark Fox has truly been fantastic at getting the most out of his players."
The top five in the Player Development category include Fox; Bo Ryan (Wisconsin); Craig Robinson (Oregon State); Lorenzo Romar (Washington); and Mike Montgomery (Cal).
Perhaps the most tangible proof of Fox's talent development is the number of NBA draftees and current pros that have played for him. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope became the 11th player under his tutelage to get drafted by an NBA club. He was the fourth 1st-rounder.
Fox Also Tops at Producing Grads
Head Coach Mark Fox must also receive some degree of credit for developing high-performing students in the classroom. Since his arrival in April of 2009, no fewer than 14 Georgia basketball players have earned their undergraduate degrees. Every player that has exhausted his eligibility at UGA under Fox has completed his degree.
Prominent among this group of 14 includes Damien Wilkins - nephew of UGA great Dominique Wilkins - whose last year of eligibility came in 2004 and who has played professionally in the NBA ever since.
Last summer the Georgia program was recognized by the NCAA for its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scored of 990, which ranked among the top 10 percent of all men's basketball programs.
From the Charleston Tourney
Over their three-game weekend, the Bulldogs averaged scoring 76 points on 49 percent shooting, outstanding numbers under most circumstances. However, those stats were offset by an opponent's scoring average of 83.3 points and 46 percent shooting from the field.
Georgia's 55 percent shooting in its opener vs. Davidson marked the first time in 111 games -- stretching back to the 2010 season -- a Bulldog team had shot that well in a loss.
The Bulldogs also shot an impressive 71 percent from the line, normally an ingredient to winning basketball. Only problem was, their lowest percentage (53%) occurred in the game in which free throw shooting factored most in the outcome.
For the record, the tournament MVP award went to UMass forward Cady Lalanne, who averaged 15.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3 blocks in leading the Minutemen to the championship. Lalanne originally signed with Georgia in November of 2009 but was denied his initial eligibility by the NCAA. He would be a senior among the current group of Bulldogs.