Team Preview: Georgia
Last Season: 19-15, First Round of NIT
Key Losses: J.J. Frazier
Key Additions: Rayshaun Hammonds, Nicolas Claxton, Isaac Kante, Teshaun Hightower
After making it to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, the Bulldogs have been bubbles teams up until Selection Sunday and haven’t been able to get over that hump to make it back to the Big Dance. The loss of J.J. Frazier leaves a vast scoring void in the backcourt, Georgia returns 9 of their top 10 scorers from last year’s team gloating one of the deepest rosters in the SEC.
The BMOC (Big man on Campus) this year for the ‘Dawgs will be 6-foot-8 senior forward Yante Maten. His junior season, Maten was the second leading scorer behind Frazier putting up 18.2 points per game while grabbing 6.8 rebounds and shooting 48% from distance. Maten can do a little bit of everything on the floor and will be depended on heavily to put up big numbers every night for Mark Fox’s team. Derek Ogbeide, a 6-foot-8 junior, is another player who can make an impact at the forward spot. Ogbeide’s biggest strength is his rebounding as he averaged 7.6 last year, but he also has developed his scoring ability around the rim which could be dangerous alongside Maten. While those two may think they have the starting job locked up, freshman Rayshaun Hammonds is one of the most underrated freshmen in the conference. A top-50 recruit, Hammonds is a 6-foot-8 small forward who can pound you inside or hit a 15-foot jumper in your face. Hammonds will provide great depth and skill for a Bulldog’s frontcourt that relies heavily on upperclassmen. Two other big men freshmen who can see some minutes are 6-foot-7 Isaac Kante and 6-foot-11 Nicolas Claxton.
Teams know what they’re getting into when they go up against the Georgia frontcourt, but the main concern this year for the Bulldogs will be the backcourt. Frazier’s scoring ability is no longer available so sophomore Tyree Crump and junior Turtle Jackson will likely be patrolling at the guard spots. Crump started one game last year while playing in 29 and is dangerous from outside the arc but will need to do more than that to lead his team. Jackson, likely the starting point guard, is the opposite as he’s more of a slasher and his outside jumper needs to improve. A senior wing who’s destined to break out this year is Juwan Parker. At 6-foot-4, Parker averaged 9.3 points last year and had seen a significant improvement over his college career. Sophomore Jordan Harris is another dead-eye from three-point land as he was third on the team last year at 45%. Teshaun Hightower is another freshman to look out for in the SEC. A three-star recruit, Hightower is known for his playmaking skills and his tenacity on both sides of the floor.
Fox and the rest of the coaching staff have an exceptional frontcourt to build of off but the question all season will be can the backcourt carry their end of the bargain? Georgia’s basketball program has been cursed with steady mediocrity during Fox’s tenure. Will this be the year the Bulldogs break out or will their head coach’s seat get even hotter?
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Turtle Jackson
SG: Tyree Crump
SF: Juwan Parker
PF: Yante Maten
C: Derek Ogbeide
Photo via 247 SPORTS