ATHENS - In the past month, Mark Fox has toured Italy, watched the new version of his Georgia men's basketball team play together, and golfed with Samuel L. Jackson. The head coach sat down with the media on Monday to discuss all of that.
We'll start with Italy and basketball. (Which means you have to scroll down past some ads to read the most interesting part. I'm slick like that.)
- The Bulldogs spent about 10 days in Italy, doing some sight-seeing and playing three exhibition games against pro teams. Two were from Italy, and one from Lithuania. They lost only to the Lithuanian team, on the same day they toured the leaning tower of Pisa.
"We didn't play with a great deal of energy and looked like an exhausted group," Fox said.
The teams, since they were pros, ranged in age from 19 to 35, estimated Fox, who said it ended up being a great experience.
- The team used the games as a chance to give less experienced players, including four freshmen, a chance to play. Every player a started at least one game, exception junior forward Marcus Thornton, who was sitting out as he rehabs after knee surgery. Starters such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Donte' Williams and Nemanja Djurisic played less than usual so that younger players could see some time.
Among more inexperienced players, including the freshmen, sophomore forward Tim Dixon stood out the most.
"Tim took a big step forward," Fox said of the 6-foot-9 forward, who played in 19 games last year, totaling six points and 17 rebounds.
- The plan is still to redshirt freshman Houston Kessler, whom Fox said "had some bright moments" on the trip. But Fox said the team is deep enough now, with a full allotment of 13 scholarships, that he's tempted to redshirt someone else.
"I would be less than honest if I said it didn't cross my mind, because I think we have a deeper team," Fox said.
- One thing Fox wasn't pleased about: "Our defense was awful," he said. "One game we gave up 94 points." But he added that in just 10 practices, broken up over a longer period of time, it was harder to address that.
- Perhaps the most important question about the trip: Did the players have proper culinary habits, or did they resort to American fast food joints?
"They enjoyed the Italian food, and the gelato. They ate pretty well," Fox said. "And when we did get to Rome and saw a Burger King, I think 11 or 12 of them went in there, which is to be expected. But I think they managed that part pretty well."
- Fox golfed on Thursday with Jackson, the same day the star stopped by the football team's practice.
"He doesn't have to act like a good golfer. He is. You can tell he knows what he's doing," Fox said.
Fox said Jackson was "very gracious" about talking about the characters he's played and the movie business.
"You start talking to him about it, and the roles. How much leeway do you have when you get a script As I learned it kind of depends on the director," Fox said. "And how much prep do you have to do to really play the part the right way. It's more work than people realize. But I don't think he'd trade his job, just like I wouldn't trade mine."
He incorporated some of that when he spoke later to Fox's players.
"He 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," Fox said. "I mean he was as down to earth as you can imagine. I really appreciated his approach to it. I don't know if he enjoyed it but we sure did."