UGA Basketball

Tom Crean: Nic Claxton has been 'everything that I thought he would be and more'

Georgia forward Nicolas Claxton dunks the ball in a game against Temple in 2017.
Georgia forward Nicolas Claxton dunks the ball in a game against Temple in 2017. Georgia Sports Communications

Nic Claxton, point guard.

So maybe the 6-foot-11 sophomore forward won't be a bringing the ball up the floor in the traditional sense any time soon. But Claxton's ability to handle the ball caught Georgia basketball head coach Tom Crean's eye when his team participated in team workouts in April.

As a freshman, Claxton primarily played in the post and shot the occasional 3-pointer. After taking over for Mark Fox, who was fired at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, Crean has noticed a versatile player in Claxton. Not only can Claxton play inside and out, he has shown the ability to make plays off the dribble.

That has the Georgia coaching staff working with Claxton as a ball handler to further develop his game.

"He's everything that I thought he would be and more when it comes to that versatility," Crean said at Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Florida. "Really, the big thing for us in the spring was to get him confidence in stretching his game out, get him handling the ball even more.

"We played some four-on-four games where he was the point guard. I would put all the big men together vs. all of the smaller guys, all of the guards, per se, and we would go."

There were some limitations in this drill, however, when Crean would go big players vs. small players. The big men only had two dribbles and weren't allowed to post the smaller players up. The idea was to get the post players more comfortable moving without the ball.

Claxton was a player Crean singled out from his first day on the job. During his introductory news conference, Crean said Claxton possessed the kind of multifaceted game he looks for in players. He reinforced that opinion when asked about Claxton earlier this week.

"It takes guys a long time to really learn how to play away from the basket, deeper away from the basket. It really takes a long time for them to learn how to do more without the ball," Crean said. "But Nic's got the ability to do things with the ball, without the ball, and be an impact player on both ends of the floor."

As the players were getting used to their new head coach during the spring, Claxton said Crean's philosophy to offense should open up the court for Georgia.

“It’ll change big time," Claxton said. "I think it’ll make us tougher to guard. We’ll be more spread out and we’ll have more options, and different looks."

Claxton isn't the only player Crean has been working with.

In April, Crean casually mentioned that senior forward Derek Ogbeide was working more on his game away from the basket, which included shooting the 3-pointer. It created a natural follow-up, since Ogbeide has primarily shot the ball from inside the free-throw line during his three years at Georgia.

“Absolutely, everybody has been (working on the 3-pointer)," Crean said. "I said it with a straight face. But here’s the thing, if we were playing a game today, would he be ready to shoot the 3? Probably not, but we don’t play a game today, and I remind them of that."