Albert Jackson isn't na´ve.
The senior knows the Bulldog basketball program has a long way to go before it gets to the point where it can be considered an annual contender in the tough SEC.
Still, as Georgia (4-4) prepares for Saturday's game against Illinois at the Gwinnett Center, Jackson believes the correct steps are definitely being made.
"At this time last year, we were more individualistic; this year we don't have those kinds of problems," Jackson said. "This year, we're more of a team. Everybody has each other's back; everybody is ready to make that next step together. Because we were individualistic, we weren't able to make the step forward that we needed to make."
Jackson credits head coach Mark Fox for that.
While Fox and his staff are currently trying to come up with the proper game-plan to implement against the 8-2 Illini, Jackson said Georgia's lessons aren't just coming on the court.
"With us, it's been a part of developing a winning atmosphere and building character," he said. "Since the news staff has come in, we've learned to care about ourselves both on and off the court. Eventually, that's going to carry over and we'll be able to start winning some of these games."
That's what Fox is counting on.
"We want our guys to function like winning people all the time. If we do that, those traits will start to show on the floor and in these high-level games," Fox said. "You most certainly want to see those things start to appear on the floor. I thought in New York we played well for a half, but we didn't sustain it in the second half. We just have to be more consistent, but there is progress. We just need to be more complete than we are right now."
Overcoming the Illini won't be easy.
Coach Bruce Weber's squad beat Georgia 76-42 in Chicago and feature a balanced starting lineup that includes 6-foot-9 forward Mike Davis (12.5points, 9.9 rebounds) and 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale (10-9, 5.8).
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. The game will televised live on ESPNU.
For the Bulldogs, it's been 10 days since Georgia last played, losing to St. John's in the SEC-Big East Invitational at Madison Square Garden.
The break was due to Georgia's final exams, which ended on Wednesday.
"It's been a long break, but we're ready for the break from class and just concentrate on what we like to do - play basketball," point guard Dustin Ware said. "Everybody did pretty well, from what I understand, but it's definitely nice to have that stress behind us before we get back into the swing of things."
Georgia has one more game before Christmas - Florida Atlantic on Dec. 23 - before hosting Pepperdine on Dec. 30.
The Bulldogs will open up the new year with a road game at Missouri (Jan. 2) before hosting Georgia Tech on Jan. 5. Georgia tips off SEC play Jan. 9 at Kentucky.
"Right now, we're just trying to limit those mistakes we've been making and just try and be as competitive as we can," Jackson said. "This little stretch of games before and after Christmas is really going to get us ready for conference play."
NOTES: Fox said that sophomore forward Trey Thompkins has been nursing some minor injuries, but is expected to play.
The Bulldogs' offensive struggles are cerČtainly no secret. Its current scoring average (63.5) is the second-lowest for Georgia in the past 50 years. Specifically, the Bulldogs could benefit greatly from increased production along the perimeter. They average just four 3-pointČers per game, the lowest mark since 1988, the second year of the 3-point shot in basketball.
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