Tom Crean has his guy. And maybe, the one who could jumpstart Georgia basketball’s turnaround.
Five-star prospect and second-ranked recruit (per 247Sports) Anthony Edwards did ultimately pick Georgia Monday morning. Edwards’ commitment brought a close to a wild weekend in which he canceled his final official visit (to Florida State) and the Bulldogs suffered another double-digit conference loss at home.
Edwards, from Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta, received 16 offers throughout his recruitment. Georgia, FSU and Kentucky emerged as Edwards’ final three, and he was scheduled to visit Tallahassee for the Seminoles’ bout with Louisville Saturday. That didn’t happen, which caused predictions on his choice to swing heavily in UGA’s favor.
Now, the Bulldogs have their first five-star since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played at Georgia from 2011 to 2013.
For now, Bulldogs fans can let out a massive sigh of relief and ignore the Bulldogs’ 1-9 record in SEC play. And forget, for at least the rest of Monday, just how much the team has struggled under its first-year coach.
“We’re not trying to recruit to get into the race. We are trying to recruit to win the league,” Crean said before the Bulldogs traveled to Alabama. “Are we in it right now? No we’re not, but we are trying to recruit to that and build to that, and it’s not about rushing. It’s not about grabbing someone just to grab someone. It’s about what is really going to fit here, what is really going to make a difference here, especially when we want to play the way we want to play.”
Before going any further, though, let’s get one thing straight: Edwards is a one-and-done player. He won’t be staying in Athens more than a season, barring some catastrophic injury. Even then, he might still go pro after one season. This is pretty normal for players of Edwards’ caliber — like Ben Simmons at LSU and Karl-Anthony Towns at Kentucky, to name a couple.
OK, now to the part Bulldog fans actually want to read.
A talented point guard
The Bulldogs aren’t short on players who can play point guard. Tyree Crump and Turtle Jackson can both play the point. Teshaun Hightower plays the position. What Crean doesn’t have this season, though, is a player who can truly excel at the position — a must-have for his offense to run fluidly.
The kid can play. He’ll almost assuredly waltz into Crean’s starting five in 2019-2020, and brings a type of skill at the position that the program hasn’t seen in quite some time.
Safe to say he’s got his go-to guy now in Edwards.
“We want to get players that are really going to fit at what we are really trying to do here,” Crean said. “This is what I would say about recruiting in general with this play. There is so much here. ... There is so much opportunity here in the program, at the school, life after basketball here.”
A chance to change perception
Georgia just landed a top-two recruit over Kentucky and Florida State — two ranked opponents with lots of talent on their rosters, both NCAA Tournament regulars.
Something about Crean’s recruiting pitch is working.
“There is so much opportunity here in the program, at the school, life after basketball here. That is what we are telling everybody, there is,” Crean said. “I think more that people get a chance to come and see it the better it is, that starts to speak for itself.”
Crean emphasized a culture change from the moment he stepped on campus.
He made it a point to sell out the marquee games on UGA’s schedule, tried to increase the excitement with a preseason tip-off event dubbed “StegMania” and even spent nearly an hour following the Bulldogs’ loss to South Carolina on February 2 speaking with visiting recruits.
“(The recruits) have to see the excitement of the games and I think people are seeing that,” Crean said. “We are just continuing to stay steadfast on what we think we are building and I think that’s a jump (in the right direction).”
In his coach’s words
A 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard from Atlanta, Edwards has drawn comparisons to NBA star James Harden.
As of his commitment, Holy Spirit prep sits at 11-13 and 8-1 in GISA Region 1.
“Anthony Edwards is an extraordinary human being,” said Tysor Anderson, Edwards’ head coach at Holy Spirit. “Whichever of these first-class universities is lucky enough to have him as a student-athlete, they are getting a hard working, fun loving, high character person who will forever be a great ambassador for their basketball program and institution.”