Dustin Ware's performance this year will be absolutely critical to UGA's hoops success.
We have a sophomore point guard in Zac Swansey, and then there's Dustin Ware. No one else is currently on the horizon as a point guard. Since Billy Humphrey will not be available for spot duty, UGA is really thin at the most critical position on the court. What had been UGA's strength, with Sundiata Gaines, is now the team's most glaring weakness.
Now, if Brandon Boykin comes over from the football team, that's another matter, but the realistic scenario is that UGA will be relying on a sophomore and a freshman to man the point. I posted previously on what I would consider as Zac Swansey's strengths and weaknesses, and now I turn to his competition for playing time, Dustin Ware. How well can Dustin Ware perform?
Hard to say, since Dustin Ware has not played a minute of college ball. However, I decided to look again at Dustin Ware's stats for his last season at North Cobb Christian, and glean whatever information I could.
I am concerned with the number of three-pointers that Ware shoots. Granted, he shoots over 35% on threes, which is an impressive percentage. But he still shoots too many of them, in my opinion. His three-point attempts to two-point attempts is about even. I also don't like the fact that he gets to the line only about 3 times per game. That's not enough. UGA will need Ware to penetrate and dish, but also to take it to the hoop enough to get fouled and get to the line on a consistent basis.
With my concerns duly stated, I have to admit that I am optimistic that Ware will end up playing a lot of minutes for Georgia. Looking at the MaxPreps stats, there's a bunch to like here. Ware averaged 20 pts and 8 assists per game. He shot right at 90% from the free throw line, and had an almost 4 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He averaged 4 steals a game and had no technical fouls on the year.
And you have to like North Cobb's undefeated record. NCC went 35 and 0 on the year. Since the competition level in the GISA is not as high as the other classifications in the state, the best way to assess Ware's performance is in looking at the games during the year in which NCC played against the more elite teams.
Going head to head against Cashmere Wright and James Fields, two really talented guards (Wright had offers from a ton of fantastic programs before eventually signing a scholarship with the University of Cincinnati), Ware scored 24 points. As I remember, Veritas and United Faith were two talented teams in North Carolina, with at least one Division One signee on each team (Clemson and Auburn, respectively). In three games against those two teams, Ware scored 25, 28 and 30 points.
In the GISA championship game, playing against Andre Young and an undefeated Deerfield Windsor team, Ware notched 24 pts, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. Then after winning the state championship, North Cobb kept playing, competing in the NACA national tournament.
NCC reached the finals to face Riverdale Baptist. Riverdale, which featured 4-star forward Thomas Robinson, as well as a number of other talented players was ranked in the top 10 teams in Maryland, and in the top 20 in the entire D.C. metropolitan area.
After scoring 33 points with 10 assists in the semi-finals, Dustin Ware scored 27 pts with 10 assists to lead NCC to the victory over Riverdale. Dustin Ware was named the MVP of the NACA Tournament.
On balance, I'm optimistic that Ware can do the things that we need a point guard to do in the SEC. Ware is a leader, comes from a great program, and has the fundamentals to perform well. I'll be pulling for him this year.