ATHENS, Ga. -- Away from the court, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope does not seem like the type of guy who would get overly excited about anything. But the soft-spoken sophomore and Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox admit that there were times in his Freshman All-SEC season where he simply was not under control.
“I think Kentavious is really naturally a very quiet, soft-spoken young man, but when the scoreboard turns on or when we start playing, his personality changes and he cares about winning, he cares about playing hard and sometimes we have to slow him down,” Fox said.
“I think looking back at last year, he had a lot of plays defensively where maybe he picked up a foul or two because he didn’t know how to control his motor, he was so aggressive.”
Caldwell-Pope said the pressure of his particular situation -- jumping into college and immediately leading an SEC team in minutes played -- was a bit extreme, but he feels much more comfortable with his role as his sophomore season approaches.
“I’m more calm coming into this season,” said Caldwell-Pope, whose Bulldogs open the season in two weeks with a Nov. 2 exhibition against Young-Harris. “Last year I was in a little more of a rush, a little sped up, but this season I’m more calm. I’m not as nervous as I was.”
His role will be entirely different than it was a season ago, however.
Fox played him exclusively at small forward at the beginning of last season in keeping with his philosophy of easing freshmen into college by initially playing them at only one position. And for the most part, he performed well at the new position, leading the team in minutes (32.1 per game), rebounds (5.2 pg), steals (58), 3-pointers made (65) and finishing second behind Gerald Robinson in scoring (13.2 ppg).
He’ll be able to play his natural position of shooting guard this season, plus he is practicing at point guard and is capable of chipping in there or at small forward again.
“I’m just coming in and trying to learn every position that my coach wants me to learn just to help my team,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I may play three positions. I may not. Just whatever position I end up in is the position I’m going to focus on.”
If the Bulldogs are to improve on their 15-17 mark of a year ago, Caldwell-Pope will almost certainly be at the center of that progress. They lost Robinson and guard Dustin Ware, but return their entire frontcourt in Donte Williams, Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic and add three athletic freshmen in Charles Mann, Brandon Morris and Kenny Gaines.
They will rely on Caldwell-Pope to provide the scoring punch, and that is one of the main areas where Fox wants to see progress from his star sophomore. Caldwell-Pope was an inconsistent scorer last season, shooting just 39.6 percent from the floor, 30.4 percent from 3-point range and 65.4 percent from the foul line.
“I think he had a very good freshman year in many ways, but there is so much room for improvement with him and he understands that,” Fox said. “He’s going to have to shoot a higher percentage, he’s going to have to become a more efficient scorer. He probably was the focal point of most of the defense late in the year last year and he will be again this year, but I think that shouldn’t be new to him because I think he saw a lot of that at the end of the year.”