ATHENS - I got my first look at this year's edition of the Georgia men's basketball team on Friday night, as the Bulldogs beat Young Harris in an exhibition game at Stegeman Coliseum. Young Harris, coached by former Georgia interim head coach Pete Herrmann, made it a game for much of the first half before the Bulldogs were able to pull away for an 86-52 win.
Here's what stood out to me about the Bulldogs:
- Freshman Kenny Gaines, who scored a game-high 16 points, looks like a good one. Gaines came in at about the 14-minute mark, and a short time later he hit a face-up 3 from the top of the key. A minute later he made a steal, and after a fast-break pass-back from Thornton he made a difficult reverse layup. Gaines was the most impressive. He had a big block in the second half too. Gaines is very well-built, some good pounds on his 6-3 frame.
"He didn't show the nerves that maybe you anticipated he would," head coach Mark Fox said. "He had a lot of things where, wow, if he'd just have been a little more aware he could've been even more productive. But he had a very good first outing. He's a good player."
Fox added that Gaines ... er, gains ... from going against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team's star swingman. And Gaines may have felt a bit liberated on Friday by not being defended by Caldwell-Pope.
- Vincent Williams started at point guard and hit a couple 3s in the opening minutes. He doesn't look afraid to shoot. He hit another 3 later in the half as Georgia was struggling in the half-court offense.
- It's quite a stark difference at the PG spot when freshman Charles Mann is in there. He's so much taller, and didn't handle the ball as much as Williams, at least in this game. Mann did hit an outside shot, but he seemed more comfortable getting his points around the rim. When he' s on the court as the point guard Georgia is really tall, with five guys who can rebound and attack the basket. Mann defending another point guard is also a pretty good matchup, particularly when Georgia is pressing. But as a ball-handler is pretty rough at this point. During one brief span he committed turnover after turnover.
"He was doing something fundamentally wrong, and back-to-back plays he did it incorrectly," Fox said. "Great for that to happen tonight. Great night to have that mistake. I thought he played pretty well, to be honest with you. I thought Charles Mann, for a point guard in his first time out was pretty solid."
- At one point Fox took both point guards out, and Caldwell-Pope handled the ball. But that was just for the final minute of the first half.
- Caldwell-Pope didn't score until the 6:26 mark, giving UGA a 24-23 lead. But he still ended up with 11 points. I think Caldwell-Pope is going to see a big increase in his scoring this year, just taking a bigger go-to role with the departure of Gerald Robinson. KCP just ended up with the ball in the open court a lot more. The game is likely to come to him a bit more this year, rather than sometimes last year having to force himself into it.
- The other freshman, Brandon Morris, didn't really do much in this game. You can tell he's tall and athletic, it'll just be a matter of if he can use that ability to an advantage.
- First half starting lineup: PG Williams, SG Brantley, SF Caldwell-Pope, PF Djurisic, C Florveus. Second half the same except Thornton in place of Djurisic.
Junior forward Donte' Williams, assumed to be a sure starter, came off the bench. Fox said that was simply because Williams got beat out at in practice.
"A week ago he would've been starting. This week he didn't practice as well," Fox said.
Marcus Thornton played in a limited role for the opposite reason: Fox said Thornton may have been the team's best player during a closed scrimmage against Clemson, and Fox wanted to give a look to the other post players.
- The backup post players - Tim Dixon, Florveus and John Cannon - got extended playing time. It's hard to judge their improvement, given the size of Young Harris.
- It was a close game, with Young Harris leading by as many as five, until Georgia went to the press in the latter part of the first half. That's something we'll see more of this year out of this team.
"We have a more athletic team. We're obviously gonna see more pressure this year that we're gonna be able to apply," Fox said. "I thought it was pretty good to us tonight. I thought we made pretty poor decisions tonight with the ball. But some of that's to be expected with so many young guys."
- On that note, the Bulldogs played very sloppy in its half court, finishing with 24 turnovers. The Bulldogs look like a team still getting to know each other, with three freshmen getting playing time and a change in point guards.
"It was the first time out in front of (fans.) I think that's something that hopefully as we move forward will be less and less of an issue," Fox said.