Dec. 18, 2013
About the Game
- Georgia plays the fourth game of a 5-game homestand Thursday morning against Big South Conference member Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs have won the first three contests in this stretch, evening their overall record this season to 4-4. Most recently, they defeated Lipscomb 84-75 in Athens last Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Brandon Morris, in his first starting assignment this season, scored a career-high 17 points that included eight straight in a key late-game sequence. Perhaps the greater story to this game was the performance of second-year walk-on Taylor Echols, whose nine points in 23 minutes were both career highs, by far. Saturday's game marked the fifth contest for Georgia in which it scored at least 80 points and also the fifth game in which the Bulldogs shot at least 50 percent from the field. Georgia began this week ranking 37th among all NCAA Division 1 teams in FG percentage.
- Today's game tips off at 11:30 a.m. to accommodate the nearly 5,000 Athens-Clarke County school children, faculty and staff that are slated to attend. Thursday is their final school day of the calendar year. Last season, Georgia entertained a similar number of area school personnel when the Bulldogs defeated Mercer 58-49 in an 11:30 a.m. tipoff.
- This game is just the third all-time meeting between Georgia and Gardner-Webb in basketball. UGA has won both of the first two -- both played in Athens -- and the most recent meeting occurred on Dec. 5, 2006. Georgia won that contest by a 96-67 tally. The Bulldogs won the first meeting two years before, 67-62.
- Thursday's game continues a busy week for Georgia, which will complete its current homestand with a Saturday afternoon game vs. Western Carolina. The Bulldogs will break for Christmas after the game Saturday and will reconvene in Athens on the 24th. Georgia completes its pre-SEC slate with a pair of challenging road games: Dec. 28 at No. 20 Colorado and Jan. 3 at George Washington.
|F||2||Marcus Thornton**||6-8||235||RJr.||Atlanta, Ga.||6.3||4.3|
|F||15||Donte' Williams***||6-9||225||Sr.||Ellenwood, Ga.||6.9||6.5|
|F||11||Cameron Forte||6-7||220||So.||Tempe, Ariz.||6.3||3.1|
|G||4||Charles Mann*||6-5||210||So.||Alpharetta, Ga.||14.3||2.9a|
|G||12||Kenny Gaines*||6-3||195||So.||Atlanta, Ga.||12.4||2.5|
#Assists Per Game
|GARDNER-WEBB RUNNIN' BULLDOGS|
|F||35||Jerome Hill||6-5||210||Fr.||Adel, Ga.||11.9||6.3|
|F||0||Donta Harper||6-7||205||Jr.||Greenville, N.C.||12.2||3.4|
|C||54||Mike Byron||6-10||245||Sr.||San Antonio, Texas||4.0||3.9|
|G||2||Tyler Strange||5-10||180||Jr.||Leominster, Mass.||8.8||6.5a|
|G||11||Naji Hibbert||6-5||190||RSr.||Baltimore, Md.||12.6||2.7|
Head Coach: Tim Craft
Record at Gardner-Webb / Years: 6-6 / 1st season
Overall Record / Years: Same
Assistant Coaches: Jeremy Luther, Takayo Siddle, Paul Hemrick
Georgia vs. Gardner-Webb
- Thursday's game is the third all-time meeting between Georgia and Gardner-Webb in basketball. Georgia has won both of the first two meetings, both played in Athens: Dec. 8, 2004: Georgia 67, Gardner-Webb 62 & Dec. 5, 2006: Georgia 96, Gardner-Webb 67 Although the two schools have little history against one another, there are two connections worth mentioning: Gardner-Webb's leading scorer in the 2006 meeting was sophomore guard Ricky McPhee (12 pts.), who transferred to UGA after the season, sat out the 2008 campaign and played two seasons in Athens. McPhee, a native of Lawrenceville, scored 388 points, including 90 three-pointers as a Georgia Bulldog. GWU assistant coach Paul Hemrick was a student manager for Georgia during the 2006-09 seasons. That included the SEC Tournament championship season of 2008.
- Gardner-Webb is one of seven Big South members that Georgia has played over the years: GW (2-0); Charleston Southern (3-0); Coastal Carolina (1-0); High Point (1-0); UNC-Asheville (4-0); Presbyterian (8-0); VMI (4-0) and Winthrop (4-1).
- Georgia wraps up its pre-SEC schedule with perhaps its two biggest challenges thus far. The Bulldogs play Dec. 28 at No. 20 Colorado, which began this week at 10-1, whose only loss was a neutral-court game vs. 12th-ranked Baylor and which includes a buzzer-beating decision over Kansas among its 10 wins. Georgia also plays Jan. 3 at George Washington, which began this week at 9-1 and includes a win vs. cross-town rival Maryland on its resume.
- Much has been made of the new enforcement of existing rules, as well as new rules, this 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 rose in the beginning but has leveled off recently. There have been an average of 40 fouls called in each of Georgia's games thus far this season, compared to 36 fouls per game last season.
- 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
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 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 nine games thus far (exhibition + 8 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 49.0.
Already, Georgia has shot over 50 percent from the field in five games, twice more than in all of 2012-13. The Bulldogs began this week ranking 37th nationally in FG percentage.
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 67 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 34, including seven in his truncated season of 2013. Williams entered this season with 471 career points, second among all Bulldogs behind Nemi Djurisic, who has tallied 475 in two seasons.
Morris Makes 1st Start of Season
Sophomore forward Brandon Morris missed the season's first three games at the discretion of head coach Mark Fox. His return to action in the middle game of the Charleston Classic made a distinct difference in the Bulldogs' on-court performance.
The Lithonia native made his first start of the season last Saturday against Lipscomb, replacing point guard Charles Mann. Previously, Morris had seen only limited time at the point, including high school and AAU experience.
2012-13 Season Recap
The Bulldogs posted a 15-17 overall record, 9-9 in SEC games, good for an eighth-place tie in the final standings.
Sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope swept the major post-season individual awards, winning SEC Player of the Year by the Coaches and the Associated Press. He became just the second Bulldog to win any SEC P-O-Y award since wire services began naming recipients in 1965.
Georgia posted a 5-game win streak in SEC play, the program's longest in 12 years. Three of those five games were on the road.
Point guard Charles Mann earned appointment to the Coaches' Freshman All-SEC team, the Bulldogs' second such honor in as many years.
Caldwell-Pope announced in March 2013 that he would enter the NBA Draft, a wise decision in light of his eventual status as a lottery pick by the Detroit Pistons.
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. 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.
Echols Makes Most of Opportunity
It's almost rare when a walk-on sticks with a team for more than a season. But Taylor Echols stuck it out through a 2013 season in which he played in just three games after making the squad in an open tryout in September 2012.
Both parties are now thankful he stayed with it. Echols has emerged as perhaps Georgia's top backup at point guard, based upon the Bulldogs' past two games. Last Saturday, he played 23 minutes at point against Lipscomb and was their most effective player at that position, spelling an injured Charles Mann. His nine points and four assists were career highs by far. Additionally, he ranks second on the team behind Nemi Djurisic in 3-point FG percentage (.500).
These are heady times indeed for Echols, who went largely unrecruited through high school but grew up a huge fan of the Bulldogs.
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 Montenegro 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.
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. 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.