November 11, 2010

Time to tip it off

Junior guard Dustin Ware said the Georgia basketball team is tired of talking about expectations. It's time for the Bulldogs to go out and play.

Come Saturday night in Stegeman Coliseum, that's exactly what Ware and company will do when Georgia opens its 2010-2011 campaign against visiting Mississippi Valley State.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

"We're just going to do what we've been doing and that's work hard and try to get better," Ware said. "If we do that, the results will take care of themselves."

Bulldog fans are no doubt hoping for the best.

Following last year's 14-17 campaign, coupled with the return of stars Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, expectations are indeed high for the Bulldogs, who have received Top 25 mention by a number of preseason publications.

Of course, the Bulldogs will be without Thompkins for an undetermined amount of time while he recovers from a high-ankle sprain.

But with the addition of guard Gerald Robinson and returnees that include Leslie, Ware, forwards Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes, head coach Mark Fox hopes his squad will be able to hold its own until their leading scorer and rebounder from last year is able to get back on the court.

Defensively, Fox said his Bulldogs still have plenty of room to grow.

"We're working to become a better defensive team because I don't think we're anywhere near where we need to be," Fox said. "One of the things we've talked about is getting better defensively without fouling. We're a little bit thin up front as it is, so we don't need to beat everybody up and send them to the foul line. We're much better on some things than we were this time last year, but we've still got a ways to go."

At least the Bulldogs are tuned into what Fox wants done.

Since his arrival in Athens, players have spoken in depth how their second-year head coach has changed the locker room mentality from that of a losing one to one where success is expected.

But according to Barnes, it's also a more disciplined program.

"Before he got here our team was just a wreck. But (Fox) came here, he set his rules down and ever since then we haven't had any major problems," Barnes said. "He's showed us how to be men on and off the court."

If Fox didn't have his team's attention before, he did on Aug. 27, 2009 after he made the entire team run the steps at Sanford Stadium.

"We started to grasp that he meant business pretty quick when he made us run Sanford Stadium," Barnes said. "When he got here, he told us 'I'm not going to adjust to y'all, you have to adjust to me.' At first we thought it was a joke."

Ironically, Barnes already knew that wasn't the case.

Fox had already made Barnes run the Sanford steps following a little disciplinary issue in May of 2009. So when the entire team had to do the same in August, Barnes knew Fox wasn't fooling around.

"I told the team about that and they thought I was kidding," Barnes said. "They soon found out I wasn't."

Apparently, that was just part of Fox's grand plan.

Besides making a more disciplined player, Ware said Fox has also taught the Bulldogs how to be more competitive.

"He's taught us how to be tough and how to compete; not just in games but in anything we do," Ware said. "As kids you know how to compete. But here you've got to learn how to compete when you're tired, when things aren't going right, how to push through and how to be mature in everything you do. That's something I think everyone of us has been able to learn."

Ultimately, Barnes believes the results will show on the court - perhaps this year.

"He's taught us how to win, that's the big thing," Barnes said. "He's taught us how to come out here every day, to compete hard and to play with the best. We showed last year we could do that. I think we can do that this year, too."

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