Georgia Bulldogs: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

ATHENS, Ga. -- In the short term, SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s decision to leave Georgia for the NBA was a devastating blow to coach Mark Fox’s program.

[+] EnlargeMark Fox
Dale Zanine/US PresswireMark Fox hopes recent NBA draft picks will help Georgia on the recruiting trail.
The sophomore was one of the conference’s most skilled and well-rounded players and yet the Bulldogs still failed to post a winning record -- the third time in Fox’s four seasons at Georgia where that was the case. However, Fox prefers to use Caldwell-Pope’s accomplishments and likely status as a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA draft as confirmation of his pitch to recruits.

Fox inherited a mess when he took over for Dennis Felton in 2009, accepting leadership for a program that was not competitive on the floor, struggling to retain its best players -- much less place them in the NBA after productive college careers -- and in complete disarray academically. It was a problem that predated Felton as all of those problems existed on some level for more than a decade.

“When we started, it was all just about, ‘Take my word for it. We’re going to develop players and you can become a pro here.’ And ‘Take my word for it. You’re going to graduate,’ ” Fox said. “We couldn’t really show you anybody [who] was going pro, and we couldn’t really show you a great graduation record.”

When Fox took over, Georgia hadn’t had a single player drafted since Rashad Wright in 2004. The Bulldogs hadn’t had a first-round pick since Jarvis Hayes in 2003 and totaled only three first-rounders since 1990. But by the end of his second season, Fox’s staff had helped a pair of Felton recruits, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, develop into NBA draft picks -- with both players going in the second round of the 2011 draft and getting traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in draft-day trades.

Caldwell-Pope would give Fox his third NBA pick since completing his debut season at Georgia, a total that would tie Florida and Vanderbilt for second most among SEC programs in that timespan -- although well behind conference leader Kentucky’s 15.

And the Bulldogs have made significant progress in the classroom, as well. Georgia’s men’s basketball program scored a 990 on the NCAA’s most recent Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, ranking second in the SEC after posting one of the nation’s worst multi-year APR scores only a few years ago.

Further, every player who made it to his senior season under Fox at Georgia has earned a degree.

“So what’s been really important for us is to really establish some of those things, so now when we go in there, we’re not just blowing smoke and asking people to trust you,” Fox said. “You can actually show them that, ‘Hey, we do develop players and you can get drafted and you will earn a degree.’ That’s been really important.”

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DawgNation week in review 

April, 20, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Short of national signing day itself, nothing creates a bigger buzz around RecruitingNation than when we unveil and update the ESPN 150.

That list of some of the nation’s top prospects dropped on Thursday, with a number of Georgia targets making the list. Georgia doesn’t count an ESPN 150 member among its three 2014 commitments thus far, but that could change soon.

This week, we took a look at Georgia’s chances of landing some of the top ESPN 150 players on its board and also updated the Bulldogs’ efforts to land some other top talent, including:

  • Defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest), who said Georgia leads.
  • Defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross)

Fox talks new signee, recruiting 

April, 18, 2013
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MACON, Ga. -- Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox officially announced his team’s newest 2013 signee Thursday afternoon. He met with reporters at the UGA Day tour stop in Macon on Thursday evening to discuss the newest Bulldog, Kenny Paul Geno, recruiting and the Bulldogs’ 2013-14 schedule.

Geno, a 6-foot-6 small forward, averaged 23.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game as a senior at Boonesville (Miss.) High School. The high riser likely will bring fans to their feet with his leaping ability, but Fox likes his long-range shooting ability even more.


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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. -- With Georgia on spring break, it has been a fairly quiet week around DawgNation before spring practice resumes on Tuesday and the NFL-bound Bulldogs hold their pro day on Thursday.

But we still kept readers up to date on football practice and recruiting with a number of updates this week.

On the team side, we took a look at a couple of key positions to watch this spring. The offensive line was by far the biggest question mark last year at this time, but the group returns everyone and should enjoy more reliable depth this spring and fall. And the secondary must replace three starters this season, so we took a look at some of the contenders who can help their causes this spring.

We also provided a quick update on former five-star defensive end Ray Drew, who hopes to continue his progress from late last season and emerge as a starter on the line this fall.

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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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Caldwell-Pope wins SEC's top honor

March, 12, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Typically conference players of the year come from teams whose league records are better than .500, but Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s performance this season was apparently too good for the SEC’s coaches to ignore.

They voted him as SEC Player of the Year, making the sophomore the first Bulldog to win the award from the SEC coaches and just the second UGA player -- joining Dominique Wilkins in 1981 -- to win any sort of SEC player of the year award since 1965.

“I was really shocked,” said Caldwell-Pope, whose Bulldogs (15-16, 9-9 SEC) face LSU on Thursday in their first SEC tournament game. “There are a lot of great players for Florida and whoever. I was really shocked to have won. Now that I’ve won, it’s a joyful feeling just knowing I won it.”

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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.”

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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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ATHENS, Ga. -- Not only has Brandon Morris been practicing to become a college basketball player since he arrived on Georgia’s campus last month, he has also taken time to sharpen his international etiquette.

[+] EnlargeKentavious Caldwell-Pope
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesGeorgia starter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope won't see a lot of playing time in Italy, as coaches will focus on getting to know the newcomers.
The freshman forward and his new teammates leave for Italy on Friday and they’ve already received some basic instructions on the differences between Italian and American culture.

“It’s a certain way you’ve got to go eat in restaurants, like a way you’ve got to hold your fork, a way you’ve got to place things,” Morris said.

The NCAA permits college basketball programs to make such a trip every four years and Bulldogs coach Mark Fox targeted this summer as an opportune time because of the youth on his roster. Morris is one of four UGA freshmen and five sophomores -- including returning starters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team’s top returning scorer, and Nemanja Djurisic -- all of whom will benefit greatly from the 10 practice days leading up to the trip and the three exhibition games they will play while in Italy.

“I think the trip really for us began with the practices,” Fox said. “We started being able to really practice with this team and see what they can do so I think without question we see it as a business trip and as an educational trip. They’ll certainly have some chances to do some fun things, too.”

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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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Georgia swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the Bulldogs’ lone representative on the SEC men’s basketball coaches’ postseason awards list.

Caldwell-Pope made the league’s all-freshman team after ranking fourth among SEC freshmen in scoring (13.6 ppg) and sixth among freshmen in rebounds (5.2 rpg). Overall, the Greenville, Ga., native is 11th in the league in scoring, fourth in steals and fifth in made 3-pointers per game.

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Game rewind: Georgia 76, Florida 62 

February, 25, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s 76-62 win against Florida on Saturday was a big upset by any measure, but it’s not like the Bulldogs stole a win from the 12th-ranked Gators.

Not only did the Bulldogs never trail, they led even before the opening tipoff.

Gerald Robinson hit a pair of free throws before tipoff after the referees called an administrative technical foul on Florida’s Casey Prather for dunking during pregame warmups. It was a precursor of things to come, as Robinson and the Bulldogs (13-15, 4-10 SEC) would score with uncharacteristic efficiency throughout while the Gators (22-7, 10-4) regularly shot themselves in the foot.

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