Georgia basketball team gets younger, better

semerson@macon.comJanuary 3, 2013 

ATHENS -- The Georgia basketball team knows it will enter SEC play with a losing record. That doesn’t mean it has to start conference play without momentum.

The Bulldogs can extend their current winning streak to four with a win Friday night against George Washington.

“I know we started off bad, but we need to continue to win,” star guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said.

The modest win streak for Georgia (5-7) began with a home win over Mercer, which was followed by home wins over Southern California and Florida A&M. If there is a common theme, it actually began prior to that, when head coach Mark Fox decided to rely more on younger players, especially his three freshmen and sophomore center John Cannon.

Fox, in explaining the risk, harkened back to two years ago, when then-juniors Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left for the NBA.

“When you look back on it, Travis and Trey went pro, and instead of signing two guys in late May or June that weren’t good enough, we gave the scholarships to (walk-ons Matt) Bucklin and (Connor) Nolte, so we could sign Brandon Morris, Kenny Gaines, and we could have two more scholarships in that class,” Fox said. “We bit the bullet so we could have more quality young players. Now that we have them we’re playing them, but they’re gonna have some moments where you say, ‘Oh my goodness.’ But one day, they will be older and certainly more experienced, and that will be to their advantage.”

Morris has been receiving more playing time at forward, while Charles Mann has all but supplanted senior Vincent Williams as the main point guard. Gaines continues to provide an occasional spark off the bench.

“The last three games the freshmen have really good statistics, have played well and have carried this time, just as well as Kentavious,” sophomore forward Nemanha Djurisic said.

The youth is even more necessary with news that junior forward Marcus Thornton, a starter when healthy, is out indefinitely after knee surgery. There is a chance Thornton will pursue a medical redshirt.

“We’re trying to get our freshmen to be like sophomores, early in their career,” Fox said. “We’re trying to get Kentavious to play like a junior, early in his sophomore year. We’re just trying to get these guys to grow up really fast. That’s probably not gonna happen all the way. But we’ve gotta try to push them to mature.”

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