October 13, 2009

Fox, Dawgs ready for start of practice

On Thursday the Georgia basketball team will tip off its first official day of preseason drills and first-year head coach Mark Fox can't wait to get started.

It's been a busy six months for the former Nevada coach, who was hired to take over the Bulldogs' struggling basketball program last April.

During that time, he's put together his first staff, traveled to just about every Bulldog Club all while attempting to make recruiting inroads and getting to know the players who will make up his first Georgia team.

"I think that our players were ready for a fresh start. Last year was a difficult year for them and they will admit that to you. But they're young, they're resilient and ready for a new season to have a chance to go out and play, represent Georgia in the right way so it doesn't surprise me that they've taken to us the right way like they have," Fox said. "I think they're all good kids, they recruited good kids here and are a group of kids who have been very receptive to what we've been trying to do."

The Bulldogs return nine players from last year's 12-20 campaign, led by sophomore Trey Thompkins (12.6 points per game) who helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the U19 World Championships in New Zealand last summer.

Point guard Dustin Ware (7.2 ppg) and forward/center Albert Jackson (4.5 ppg) join Thompkins as returning starters, while Chris Barnes (4.4 ppg), Jeremy Price (5.1 ppg), Ricky McPhee (3.6 ppg) and Travis Leslie (6.3 ppg) return after seeing significant playing time.

Sophomore Drazen Zlovaric, Matt Bucklin, redshirt freshman Ebuka Anayorah, true freshmen Vincent Williams and DeMario Mayfield, along with senior transfer Tyler Whatley make up the rest of the squad.

The Bulldogs also have junior Gerald Robinson who came to Georgia via Tennessee State, but the point guard will have to sit out this season due to the NCAA's transfer rules.

But Robinson won't be the only Bulldog who'll be learning something new.

Fox will be introducing an offense which Fox explains is a variation of the Triangle made famous by Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who has used the offense to win 10 NBA championships with his current team and former squad the Chicago Bulls.

"We're one of the few teams who play the way that we play on the offensive end so from that standpoint it is new but what we tell recruits is you can look at our previous teams and we've had post players how led us in scoring, had perimeter players who have averaged over 20 points per game," Fox said. "We can structure the way we play offensively to give our players the most shots, that can be interior play or exterior play and that's one of the reasons we do what we do offensively because it gives us the flexibility to go to the hot hand wherever our hot hand will be."

Fox admits it won't necessarily be an easy offense to learn.

Barnes agrees.

"It's going to be real tough. He's showed us two plays and already there are like 12 different options, so you have to be a smart player," Barnes said. "But everybody's bought into the system and if we do what we're supposed to do I think we can beat a lot of people."

The Bulldogs will enter preseason relatively injury free.

Jackson has the only injury of note after a dislocated finger caused a fracture which resulted in the Kentucky native wearing a case. However, Fox said that Jackson has not missed a day of summer workouts and will be able to practice without any limitations.

"We're just ready to get started," Fox said. "I think it's an exciting time for Georgia basketball. We're ready to go."

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