Georgia’s Talented Sophomore Class is the Key to Bulldogs’ FuturePosted by Greg Mitchell on January 14th, 2014
If you had to describe Mark Fox‘s time at Georgia in one word, “flashes” might be it. The Bulldogs made the NCAA tournament in 2010-11, led by juniors Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins. But both entered the NBA Draft and Fox was forced into an immediate rebuild instead of entering 2011-12 with two experienced and fringe pro prospects (both players are now out of the league). The next positive jolt in Athens was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s SEC Player of the Year campaign last season. But again, Caldwell-Pope bolted for the NBA (this time, smartly), and Fox lost the opportunity to bring back one of the top returning players in the country. Georgia’s surprise 2-0 start in the SEC this year, however, has been keyed by several young players who will almost certainly stick around past April, and Fox could finally be headed to some sustained success in Athens.
Sophomore guards Charles Mann (22 points) and Kenny Gaines (22 points) were essentially a two-man show on Saturday against Alabama, and Georgia was still good enough to beat the Tide (although “getting beaten” has been Alabama’s thing this year). At 6’5” and 6’3′,’ respectively, Mann and Gaines can create the type of big guard mismatches that Missouri has employed this season and were big factors in last week’s road win against the Tigers. They’ve also both shown improvement over last season in several key areas, with Mann turning the ball over less and Gaines increasing his effective field goal percentage. Neither is yet skilled enough t0 make the jump to the NBA, so Fox will actually get to reap the fruits of their development over the next couple of seasons. You can throw forward Brandon Morris into the mix too. The sophomore has the highest PER of Georgia’s regulars and has taken a huge step forward from his freshman year. Versatile junior Nemanja Djurisic, fresh off repeatedly silencing Mizzou Arena, has another year of eligibility remaining too.
Building Towards The Future: Georgia’s Impact Sophomores
- Charles Mann (6’5” guard): 14.1 PPG, 55.8% eFG%, 3.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 19.2 PER
- Kenny Gaines (6’3” guard): 12.2 PPG, 49.6% eFG%, 2.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 18.9 PER
- Brandon Morris (6’7” forward): 9.2 PPG, 63% eFG%, 3.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 19.5 PER
To be clear, though, this isn’t an overreaction to one week of good basketball. Despite Georgia’s unbeaten conference start, they’re still on the wrong side of 100 in the RPI (#174) and a long way from becoming a consistent winner. It’s been a long time since Nick Fazekas was a part of the national consciousness at Nevada, and Fox is barely over .500 during his tenure at Georgia, but if the administration has patience there could be better days in the not-so-distant future. Most of the Bulldogs’ main contributors, in all likelihood, have two more seasons remaining in Athens. Fox’s ability to develop players shouldn’t be discounted: at Nevada he helped turn Ramon Sessions (three stars) and Javale McGee (no stars) from lightly-regarded recruits into NBA regulars. Georgia’s hot start to conference play may not last long, but it could be a sign there are more than just “flashes” of success on the horizon for the Bulldogs.