I like the premise of the article in the Red and Black. One way or another, Georgia basketball needs to get over the hump. We need to be a perennial winner, instead of a team that struggles to escape the cellar of the SEC East.
It can be done.
If a few things go our way, Fox can turn things around. However, I don't think that citing the win by Fox in 2004 does anything to make the writer's case.
Nevada did not play well against UGA. Georgia's 2004 squad was the team that was pretty much cobbled together during Felton's second year. I don't know how to say this without sounding unfair to our former players, but the fact remains that in 2004 we featured Younes Idrissi, a hobbled Dave Bliss, seriously injured Corey Gibbs, Levi Stukes and the freshman Sundiata Gaines. Kevin Brophy and Buzz Wehunt were key guys off the bench. That team played hard, but they did well to go 8 and 20 on the year.
Against Nevada, Georgia shot 17% from the field during the first half, and still was within ten points at the break. Nevada won the game by single digits.
Instead of looking back for inspiration, Fox and UGA fans should see our potential and seek to exploit it in the near future. Georgia is much, much more talented than it was in 2004.
Fox has inherited a team with SEC-quality players. Travis Leslie is one of the best athletes in the conference. Jackson, Price and Barnes will provide bulk in the post. Ware can and will play well at the point. Thompkins is highly skilled.
Here's what needs to happen for Fox to give UGA basketball a make-over.
1. Focus on the fundamentals
The article is right in that Georgia needs to cut down on turnovers. Not sure how that will happen with just one point guard with any experience, but if UGA can decrease turnovers, box out for rebounds, defend reasonably well, and hit free throws, we can steal a few games.
2. Install and execute the offense
I was discouraged by the lack of plays that Felton's team seemed to run. His teams did not have the skill to succeed in a motion offense. Most of the time, it seemed that Sundiata Gaines was the only player who could beat his guy off the bounce. Therefore, instead of having multiple players executing drives to the bucket (like Memphis did under Coach Calipari), Georgia always seemed to stagnate offensively until the end of the shot clock and Gaines was forced to try to create something on the fly.
The point is that given the fact that Fox has decent athletes, Georgia already has the nucleus for a successful year. If Fox can teach the triangle offense and really get the team to run it well, then guys like Thompkins and Leslie should be able to put points up on the board, and UGA can win some of the close games that the team lost in the past.
3. All hands on deck
Albert Jackson has an injury, but the word is that he will be able to play either this week or very soon. Ebuka Anyaorah is coming off of surgery on his shins last year.
We'll need some good luck to avoid any future injuries, but we'll also have to have discipline so that no players will be lost due to academic suspension.
4. Find a Scorer on the Wing
Georgia lost Terrance Woodbury to graduation. Do we have anyone on the roster that can shoot the ball from deep or drive it to the basket? I'm hoping that person is Ebuka Anyaorah or Drazen Zlovaric, but Fox needs to find somebody.
5. Recruit like crazy
We lost out on some Georgia-based talent for the class of 2010, like Kevin Ware, Trae Golden, Shawn Kemp, Rion Brown, and Jason Morris. My hope is that Fox and his staff will be able to rebound with 1 or 2 other 2010 signees, particularly, Jalen Kendrick.
If we get a couple of key guys for 2010, and Fox brings in a banner class for 2011, Georgia will have a roster that can do some serious damage in the SEC.
Our persona will change if Georgia is competitive in 2009, and if we can move the program forward in recruiting.