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July 16, 2008

Felton confident in UGA basketball

At first, the thought seems almost preposterous. Why in the world would Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton agree with Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt about anything?

However, when it comes to shortening the length of the current season, Felton says Hewitt makes a good point.

"I'm very much in favor for putting consideration into making our sport a one-semester sport," Felton said during Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "If we're really interested in helping our student-athletes by putting them in a better position to do well academically, then we need to come to the conclusion that this would very helpful."

Recently, Hewitt told the Knight Commission that the length of the current basketball season makes balancing academics and athletics difficult for basketball student-athletes.

Exactly when he would start the season, Felton isn't sure.

Hewitt proposed for the season to start later in November. Teams typically begin their campaigns midway through the month, with exhibition games running the first week.

The Knight Commission is an independent body that examines issues regarding academics and athletics and recently assembled the men's Academic Enhancement Group, which was formed by the NCAA to tackle the low APR rates in basketball.

"I haven't sat down and put pen to paper to see exactly when we should start, but for the last few years our coaches have talked about this during the spring meeting and what should be done," Felton said. "Everybody seemed to have a favorable attitude about the idea."

Two months ago, the APR report showed that Georgia ranked among the SEC's top three in football and men's and women's basketball.

The APR is a point system based on scholarship athletes' eligibility and retention for a pre-determined time period. NCAA sports falling below the established point cutoff (925) are subject to penalties including scholarship reductions.

In the report, it showed that Georgia's 20 sports were all within the acceptable ranges above the 925 cutoff and most scored higher than the national average for both Division I schools and for all public institutions.

Georgia's multi-year APR for football was 965, the best among all SEC schools. The UGA men's basketball rate of 958 was second behind only Vanderbilt.

Felton confident team can replace Humphrey

While there's no doubt the loss of Billy Humphrey will hamper the Bulldogs in their efforts this upcoming season, Felton is confident the numbers are there to take up the slack.

"We've still got plenty of depth in regards to perimeter players," Felton said. "I think we have a very competitive environment where players will be able to step up and fill the void that is there. I've got a lot of guys we can turn t; although we can't replace the level of experience we would have had if Billy were on the team."

Sophomore Zac Swansey figures to take over at point guard for the graduated Sundiata Gaines, with swingman Terrance Woodbury, Corey Butler, Troy Brewer and Gardner-Webb transfer Ricky McPhee making up the list of returning guards at Felton's disposal.

Signees Dustin Ware and Ebukah Anyaorah will also get their shots.

Ware is 6-0 shooting specialists with plenty of long-range ability, while Anyaorah averaged 26. 3 points per game last year for North Gwinnett.

Firing talk still miffs Felton

Felton knows speculation on jobs is the nature of the beast when it comes to college basketball coaches. That doesn't mean he has to like it.

Rumors were hot and heavy that Felton was about to be replaced before the Bulldogs made their magical run and captured the SEC Tournament championship to earn a spot to the NCAAs.

In a matter of days, Felton went from being a former Georgia coach to one being hailed as a program savior.

"All coaches know what we're dealing with," Felton said. "I went from having to answer questions about whether or not I was going be allowed to stay at Georgia to then the next day being asked whether I wanted to stay at Georgia.

"I think it's rather ridiculous but we (coaches) all know that's the way it is. Great coaches get fired all the time because of poor decisions. It is what is. We as coaches don't have any choice but to accept the atmosphere and work within it."

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