Georgia Bulldogs: Georgia basketball

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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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Georgia hasn’t done much to slow Jadeveon Clowney's pass rush in its first two meetings with South Carolina and its star defensive end. So offensive coordinator Mike Bobo joked that the Bulldogs might have to get creative with how they attack him in their third meeting this fall.

“I think we’re going to do the old Burt Reynolds ‘Longest Yard’ and not block him and let [quarterback Aaron] Murray throw it at him,” Bobo cracked at Thursday’s UGA Day meeting in Augusta, referencing the infamous scene in the 1974 football movie where Reynolds’ quarterback character repeatedly pegs a vicious opponent, played by gridiron great Ray Nitschke, in the groin.

Aaron Murray
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJadeveon Clowney has harrassed Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in each of their first two meetings.
Getting serious, though, Bobo said the Bulldogs have focused their pass protection schemes on Clowney in various ways over the last two seasons and he still accounted for three sacks, four tackles for a loss and a fumble that led to a back-breaking touchdown late in the Gamecocks’ 2011 win in Athens.

At some point, it’s a given that one of the top defensive players in the nation is going to make a big play, Bobo said.

“We can’t throw the ball backwards when he’s about to sack us and we’ve got to hold onto the ball and not turn a bad play into catastrophe,” Bobo said. “That’s what’s got to happen when we play him because he’s going to get [his]. He’s a great player. ... We’ve just got to play hard and like I said, he’s going to make some plays and we’ll do some things to hopefully try to discourage him.”

The key is doing what they can to limit the damage -- and they’ll try to scheme toward that end again in September.

“I think our guys are eager to play that game. We were obviously embarrassed [last year] and got thoroughly whipped by that defense,” Bobo said of the Bulldogs’ 35-7 loss in Columbia last season. “So we’ll be ready for that game, I promise you.”

Bobo made his first-ever appearance Thursday on Georgia’s summertime circuit of alumni association tour stops, and he was joined by men’s basketball coach Mark Fox, athletic director Greg McGarity and Jere Morehead, who will succeed Michael Adams as university president this summer.

Among the other points Bobo and Fox made in interviews prior to the event:

• He called the third tailback spot behind Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall a “big concern for me,” as the Bulldogs’ depth at the position was not ideal during the spring. He expects that signees A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas will both play this fall.

“They’re going to have to play,” he said. “You say that and you never know, but we’re going to go in there with the idea of getting them ready to play and it might not be week one. It might be, ‘Hey we’re getting them ready to play’ and they’re playing on special teams and by week four, week five, that confidence they’ve gained on special teams has enabled them to play scrimmage downs.”

• Bobo said freshman receiver Tramel Terry is ahead of schedule in his return from a torn ACL suffered last December and should begin running routes this summer. He added that All-SEC offensive guard Chris Burnette -- who missed spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery -- “has really changed his body since being out” and looks to be in great shape for when the Bulldogs open preseason camp in August.

• Fox said assistant coach Kwanza Johnson remains on Georgia’s staff as of now. TCU has approached Johnson about an assistant coaching job and Fox said he should make a decision in the near future.

• Fox said Georgia will likely not know the dates of its 2013-14 SEC games until August.

• Bulldogs forward Nemanja Djurisic is going home to Montenegro for UGA’s May semester, but plans to rejoin his teammates on campus for the second summer session. Fox said he expects all of Georgia’s players to be on campus for at least part of the summer, which will provide them with valuable preparation time as they prepare for preseason practice in the fall.
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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Bulldogs among SEC's hottest teams 

February, 9, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Don’t look now, but Georgia is all of a sudden one of the hottest teams in the SEC.

[+] EnlargeKentavious Caldwell-Pope
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesKentavious Caldwell-Pope is leading the Bulldogs, scoring 17.8 points a game and 6.4 rebounds a game.
Entering today’s 5 p.m. game against Texas A&M (14-8, 4-5 SEC) at Stegeman Coliseum, Coach Mark Fox's Bulldogs (11-11, 5-4) have won four in a row, all in SEC play. That matches Kentucky for the league’s longest active winning streak.

But the streak has greater historical relevance than simply where it ranks this season in the SEC. It’s the longest regular-season SEC winning streak for Georgia in a decade, dating back to February 2003 when the Bulldogs beat Vanderbilt, Alabama, South Carolina and Ole Miss in consecutive games during Jim Harrick’s final season as coach.

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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ESPN 300 ATH Langley at UGA again 

September, 24, 2012
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For the second weekend in a row, ESPN 300 prospect Brendan Langley (Marietta, Ga./Kell) was in Athens on an unofficial visit. Just like his last trip revealed, Langley was now being courted by two coaching staffs at Georgia.

The basketball coaches got first crack at impressing the two-sport athlete on Saturday.

“This trip was very similar to a football visit but of course it was focusing on what life would be like if I played basketball too,” Langley said. “I got a chance to see all of the facilities and I really liked Stegman Coliseum. I spent some time with Coach Mark Fox and Coach Philip Pearson. I did not get to go into too much depth because they had another guy there on an official visit for basketball.”

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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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UGA commit Juwan Parker interview

August, 26, 2012
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Oklahoma SG Juwan Parker picks UGA

August, 19, 2012
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Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox didn’t get the first Parker brother he went for -- but 13 years later, he got a crack at another one. He got his man this time around.

Shooting guard Juwan Parker (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington) announced Sunday he has verbally committed to Georgia.

“This feels awesome right now,” Parker said. “I’ve been recruited by so many schools for such a long time. It feels good to have this done.”

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Smoltz, Johnson paddle off for charity 

August, 14, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia men’s basketball coach Mark Fox will host the third annual Suits and Sneakers Gala on Saturday -- with the American Cancer Society benefit featuring a new sideshow this year.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brad Johnson -- also the brother-in-law of Bulldogs football coach Mark Richt -- will square off in a pingpong challenge where fans can support the player of their choice with donations to Team Smoltz or Team Johnson.

“[Richt] thought it would be a neat way to bring attention to the event,” Fox said. “Hopefully people will donate money to their favorite guy and then the winner gets all the money in his name toward the cause. So that’s an interesting, fun twist this year. Those guys have been gracious to do it. They’re both extremely competitive, so that will be fun.”

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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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The NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate (APR) findings today and the Georgia football team’s four-year score tied for third in the SEC.

Although Georgia football's single-year score (942) in 2010-11 -- the most recent academic year included in the four-year APR total -- was its lowest since 2003, Mark Richt’s program tied Alabama for third in the SEC with a 970 four-year score. Vanderbilt led the league at 978, followed by Florida at 972.

Georgia’s men’s basketball score of 960 ranked ninth in the SEC, well behind conference leader Ole Miss (990). However, Mark Fox’s program posted a perfect 1,000 score in the 2010-11 school year alone.

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DawgNation asked ESPN senior national basketball analyst Dave Telep to breakdown the University of Georgia's 2012 basketball class. Here is what he had to say about the group Mark Fox brought in this year.

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