Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mark Fox Tries to Turn the Ship Around

His will not be an easy job. With the firing of Dennis Felton, there was some serious work to do, and still more to be accomplished. But Mark Fox is taking on the task, trying to move forward.

The good news is that Dustin Ware is in place. Travis Leslie can play. Howard Thompkins has skill. Jeremy Price, Ebuka Anyaorah, Drazen Zlovaric, Chris Barnes, Albert Jackson, Demario Mayfield, all give Fox something to work with.

Further, the players that Felton attracted to the program were and are fairly good students. During their tenure under Felton, the players became used to the drill of studying and going to class. Other than Travis Leslie, all players were in good enough academic standing to avoid any concerns about eligibility to play. There would be no penalties from the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate requirements.

Although Swansey and Brewer announced they were leaving before Fox was hired, there was no appreciable drain in talent, since Swansey was the back-up point guard who averaged 4 points, and Brewer would not have played much, if at all. The roster was in decent shape.

So Mark Fox had four jobs to tackle right away:

a) recruit someone at point guard
b) keep players on the roster who were already there (Leslie and Thompkins, specifically)
c) install a new offensive set
d) build his staff

He has accomplished or is well along the way in accomplishing all four immediate jobs. Good start.

Now can Fox turn that good start into wins? He was a pretty consistent 20-game winner at Nevada. Looking just a bit closer, however, Nevada did not go even to the NIT last year, and were bounced from the CBI tournament in the first round. Further, during those 20-win seasons, Nevada did not have to play Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee twice a year.

Nevada did beat Georgia twice under Fox, but Georgia was not one of the elite SEC teams. For example, one of those victories was a narrow win in Nevada over a rebuilding Georgia team that prominently featured Steve Newman and Younes Idrissi. In that game, Nevada shot 32 free throws, to Georgia's 11. The score was 60 to 58 with 2 minutes left to play. Nevada won by 6.

Can Fox make UGA a consistent 20-game winner? To get us there, Fox will have to accomplish the next four jobs.

a) Make Georgia a really good fundamental team-- offense, defense, free throws
b) Install an offensive and defensive system that takes advantage of match-ups, creates easy buckets for Georgia, and gives our team an upper hand late in close contests
c) Train up the players that are on the roster, and make them excel given the ability they have
d) Win the recruiting battle for the best players from Georgia

Emphasis on the last point. Then repeat the process.

Fans will quickly start getting excited again once the team begins to recruit very well and consistently rack up victories. Let's all pull for the team and hope that Fox can take us to the next level.

Go Dawgs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Herald-Citizen on the Swansey Transfer

The coaching staff of Tennessee Tech recently announced that Zac Swansey will be joining the team.

The Herald Citizen did a nice job in their interviews. Sounds like a good fit for Zac.

Damien Wilkins Finishes

Guys that can drive the lane and dunk are said to "be able to finish with authority."

Well, as Damien Wilkins has so eloquently said in the recent DawgPost article, life is more than sports. And in so many areas, completing what you started, following through, staying with it, is the most critical component to success.

I'm proud of Damien for finishing with authority. He competed in athletics and he completed his coursework. He has established a nice career in the NBA and he has prepared himself for life after basketball ends. A lot of players never finish. They never get their degrees. Damien committed the time and effort to secure his.

Great job.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shows How Much I Know

Well, I found my own answer. As it turns out, schools can backdate the application of the Academic Progress Rate (APR) penalties to the year before.

Georgia Tech's people are apparently right, and I was wrong in my understanding of the way the APR works. The attached article on the South Carolina Gamecocks explains the issue.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Georgia Tech and the Impact of the APR

Has anyone heard anything more about Tech's APR penalty? Do they have a real chance of getting out of the sanction by saying that they served the penalty last year?

As background, Georgia Tech failed to meet the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirements for its men's basketball program. The result is that Tech will lose two scholarships.

Georgia Tech has responded by saying that they learned last June that they were likely not to meet the APR, so they played last season with only 11 scholarship players. Having served their penalty last year, they reason, Tech has stated publicly that they expect to have use of all 13 scholarships for 2009/2010.

Can an institution predetermine when they will serve NCAA penalties? If I get pulled over for a DUI and am threatened with losing my license for six months, can I say to the court that I, in anticipation of the court's sanction, stopped driving for the six months before the trial began?

A few years ago, Georgia was facing NCAA penalties in the Harrick situation. After a long process of review, the NCAA lessened some of its penalties because Georgia took public and painful steps to sanction its own program. In the meantime, while the NCAA was doing its investigation, Georgia let all of their incoming recruits out of their commitments. Until the NCAA made its determination about the penalties, Georgia complied with the law and the spirit of the NCAA's penalty provisions, without assuming any favorable action by the NCAA.

That's not what happened here with Tech. If I remember correctly, Tech recruited Travis Leslie, Ebuka Anyaorah and Howard Thompkins, and kept recruiting until very late in the year. They didn't get a number of the guys that they were trying to bring in.

Since they had a relatively poor recruiting year (and, if I'm not mistaken, one player got hurt and did not count against their scholarship allotment), can they say after the fact that "we gave last year?" I don't think they mentioned anything about serving the penalty at that time. Did they alert the NCAA that they were serving their likely APR sanction in advance?

An orderly compliance process for the NCAA requires that the penalty be served for the coming year. Unless there is an express provision of the APR rule that allows a school to take action like Georgia Tech did, they should not be allowed to presume that the penalty applies in the past.

Noel Johnson to UNLV?

The safe bet would be to wager that Georgia Tech will be the winner of the Noel Johnson sweepstakes.

At any rate, Johnson is considering his options. UNLV is in the picture, as is Wichita State. LSU is making a run at him.

Haven't heard whether Georgia has contacted Johnson. I would assume so, but you have to figure that he would have mentioned UGA if he were seriously considering coming to Athens.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coach Cal and Memphis

The Commercial Appeal has been all over this issue. And the attached is one of the better articles I have read on the situation. Funny, yet serious.

Likewise, the reference to the 80's and the cheating that used to go on then. Simpler times, simpler cheating.

By the time we figure out just what happened with John Calipari and Memphis (if anything), will it matter anymore?

I'll let the issue go. My concern really isn't with UK as much as it is with college basketball itself. I know that Mark Fox and his staff are expected to start recruiting well. I hope that they do not sacrifice their principles for the short term return of seeing a well-known recruit sign with UGA's program.

Creating Good Memories

Chris Herren is clean. He's had a hard time beating alcohol and drugs. It will take a lot of work for him to remain sober, but I'm pulling for him.

Have no idea, mostly, who reads this Blog. But could it be that there are those who might need the inspiration of the attached story? We're all in process. We all need grace. Let's stick to it and make our dreams come true with the ones who love us.

Howard Thompkins and USA Basketball Try-Outs

ESPN has a good article on the players that are trying to make the USA Basketball under-19 squad. Howard Thompkins is competing for one of the slots.

The blog article also mentions that University of Kentucky recruit Daniel Orton is working out to be ready for the season. He will be training under Frank Matrisciano out in San Fran. I had mentioned previously the work of Matrisciano and suggested that UGA's big men might benefit from working out with him. The fact that Orton is actually doing so could mean trouble for the SEC.

UGA to kick off season with UNO and Billy Humphrey

UGA basketball will begin the 2009-2010 season with a game against the University of New Orleans. The game will also be the first of the year for New Orleans and its new player, Billy Humphrey.

I wonder how Humphrey is doing. I hope he has really taken advantage of his new environment, gotten his issues straightened out, and recovered from his knee problems.

New Orleans should be a good contest for the Dawgs. If the coach at New Orleans has taught Humphrey how to take a defender off the dribble, it could be a long night for UGA. Unless Mayfield and Anyaorah surprise at the shooting guard position, Georgia will be weak on the perimeter this year. Hopefully, Georgia will have an advantage in the post, and be able to exploit it.

I wrote some time ago about the situation at the University of New Orleans. They have had a hard time recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and the damage was significant to their basketball arena. The article above references the fact that the athletic department is in real financial trouble.

Should be an interesting way to start the Mark Fox era for UGA basketball.

SEC Passes Rule on Scholarship Offers for Football

Good move, SEC. Schools have no business promising scholarships for a number of players well above the number of scholarships they have available, based on their current roster.

I am delighted that Mark Richt underscored the point of the need to avoid intentional roster churn. That's the point I made about a couple of days ago when I posted on John Calipari and "the Kentucky way." It's wrong to allow any coach to give scholarships to 5 and 6 guys when he knows that he will have to dismiss players on his current roster to get down to the scholarship limit of 13.

The SEC needs to take the new rule for football and pass something similar for men's basketball. It's a different sport, but it's the same integrity issue.