Georgia Bulldogs: Kenny Gaines

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Fox wished SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope well Monday after the sophomore guard announced that he will skip his final two seasons of college to enter the NBA draft.

“I think he went back and forth some and he took his time,” Fox said. “He took his time, but it wasn’t easy. Even today, in thanking me today and he’s very appreciative of his experience that he’s had at Georgia. He really has enjoyed playing here and he’s got an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream and he’s chosen to do that.”

ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks Caldwell-Pope as the No. 21 overall prospect and No. 6 shooting guard in the June draft and projects him as a mid-first-round selection. Fox said he believed Caldwell-Pope weighed the proper information before making his decision.

“He went as far as to investigate what life would be like if he’s a guy that’s drafted and is placed in the D-League,” Fox said. “He’s researched this thing very, very well, very deeply and I thought he handled it very well to be honest with you.”

But Caldwell-Pope’s departure likely lowers the ceiling for Fox’s club in 2013-14, much like when juniors Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie entered the 2011 draft and the Bulldogs slipped from 21-12 and a spot in the NCAA tournament to 15-17 the following season.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Half-court buzzer-beaters, last-second jump shots, ill-timed and questionable whistles -- all of those elements have contributed to a series of last-minute losses for Georgia in the last two months.

“We keep it interesting,” said Bulldogs forward Nemanja Djurisic, whose team’s most recent loss came Saturday, when Alabama’s Trevor Releford drained a 60-footer at the buzzer to give the Crimson Tide a 61-58 victory.

[+] EnlargeGeorgia
AP Photo/Vasha Hunt/Alabama Media GroupEven with Alabama's win over Georgia last weekend, the Bulldogs' average margin of loss in a 13-game stretch in SEC play is just 4.6 points.
But while Djurisic and the Bulldogs have lost more than their fair share of heartbreakers since late January, they have also proved something to themselves.

“We know we can compete with any team in the league if we play the way we can play to win,” Freshman All-SEC point guard Charles Mann said. “So that’s not really a big problem with us. It gave us a lot of confidence.”

This young Georgia team got off to an atrocious start, first by dropping seven of their first nine games of the season and then by starting SEC play with a 1-4 mark. And yet as the season progressed, SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the way, freshmen like Mann, forward Brandon Morris and shooting guard Kenny Gaines began to settle in and the Bulldogs suddenly became competitive.

Entering Thursday’s SEC tournament opener against LSU (18-11, 9-9 SEC), Georgia (15-16, 9-9) has won eight of its last 13 conference games -- and every game the Bulldogs lost easily could have been a victory. Their widest margin of defeat in that 13-game stretch was a 10-point loss at Ole Miss, but that came in overtime after forward Donte Williams missed a tip-in that would have won the game at the end of regulation. Including that loss, Georgia’s average margin of defeat in those games is just 4.6 points.

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KCP's role changes as sophomore 

October, 18, 2012
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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.”

UGA freshmen have chance to start 

October, 12, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Fox proved he isn’t afraid to play freshmen by giving heavy minutes to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Nemanja Djurisic last season. Georgia’s basketball coach all but guaranteed on Tuesday that he will do more of the same this season with newcomers Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris.


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Notebook: Fox likes Georgia's depth 

October, 10, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Fox doesn’t know for sure how his reconstructed team will fare against an expanded SEC schedule, but Georgia’s basketball coach thinks this will be the deepest and most athletic Bulldogs team he has fielded.

The Bulldogs lost starting guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware from last season’s 15-17 club, but the roster of key contributors otherwise remains intact plus three freshmen -- point guard Charles Mann, shooting guard Kenny Gaines and small forward Brandon Morris -- who will play key roles this season.

“We have more pieces this year,” Fox said at Tuesday’s season-opening press conference. “We’re a deeper basketball team, we’re more athletic than we were, we’re a more physical group, certainly a more experienced group than we were last year. We are going to miss the experience of Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware in the backcourt, but that’s really the only key pieces we lost off last year’s team.

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Fox dishes on Samuel L. Jackson's visit 

August, 27, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Samuel L. Jackson didn’t reveal the contents of the mysterious briefcase he carried in “Pulp Fiction,” but the actor shared plenty of thoughts on life with Mark Fox and his Georgia basketball team when he visited Athens last week.

Jackson
Jackson
Fox said he and assistant coach Stacey Palmore hounded Jackson with questions during a round of golf, and he met with Georgia’s basketball and football teams that afternoon, as well.

“He was very gracious talking about different characters he played and how much preparation goes into it and how he got into acting. You name it,” Fox said. “He was very open and talked about how stars deal with fame and how some people mismanage their money and what pitfalls guys can fall into. He talked to our team about some of that, which I thought was terrific. He was as down to Earth as you can imagine and I really appreciated his approach to it. I don’t know if he enjoyed it, but we sure did.”

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Georgia basketball notebook 

July, 30, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox and most of his players met with reporters Monday to discuss their upcoming trip to Italy and their summer practice sessions leading up to the trip.

We’ll have more on the Italy trip tomorrow. For now, here are some updates on the status of the team after adding freshmen Kenny Gaines, Houston Kessler, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris to the roster.

• Fox did not address whether junior forward Donte Williams will face any game punishment related to his May arrest for marijuana possession. Williams said Monday that the case was dismissed and that he passed three drug tests, showing that he is not a drug user (more on this tomorrow, as well)

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MACON, Ga. -- When he arrived at the University of Georgia, Mark Fox circled the summer of 2012 as the ideal time to take his Bulldogs basketball team on an NCAA-permitted summer tour.

Nemanja Djurisic
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comTo focus on the Bulldogs' rebuilding, rising sophomore G Nemanja Djurisic passed up an opportunity to play with his native Montenegro's national
team this summer.
Because of the leadership turnover on his roster, the Bulldogs’ nine-day trip to Italy in August will be particularly valuable as a team-building exercise. Georgia’s four new signees -- Kenny Gaines, Brandon Morris, Charles Mann and Houston Kessler -- will even be allowed to join the team in Italy, so the practice and game time allotted before and during the trip will give the Bulldogs a head start in preparing for life without departed guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware.

“We thought this might be the time to go,” Fox said Tuesday at the UGA Day gathering in Macon. “It’s unfortunate that it’s an Olympic year, but it’s a perfect time for our team to go because we had a lot of young guys that played a lot last year. We return all those guys, and we’ve got a lot of new, young faces. It’ll give all those guys a chance to jell, figure out who the leader is on the court and get used to each other.”

Sophomore forward Nemanja Djurisic would have missed the trip had he decided to compete for the national team of his home country, Montenegro. Djurisic was a member of the national team several times as a junior player, but decided the timing was not right for him to join the team this summer.

“He had an opportunity to, but just felt like the time commitment was just too great,” Fox said. “He was going to have to be gone for nearly two months and he just didn’t feel like that was the wisest thing to do. So he’ll hope to play for them again later.”

The NCAA permits a basketball program to take such a trip every four years, allowing teams to practice 10 times leading up to the trip.

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