My grateful host has ably covered/is ably covering the situation everyone is already well aware of, every angle has been discussed around here so there's not much I can add (if only our former AD knew the value of not being seen), so I figured my guest spot should focus on something not too often discussed in these parts and perhaps be one step in the process of moving on.
Throughout Georgia fandom, we aren't generally well versed in the roundball, and with that hopefully about to become an emerging winner 'round here, I figured I'd help make some introductions.
Introducing, Mark Fox.
That, is Mark Fox. A westerner raised, he was born in Garden City, Kansas, before gaining an associate's degree from Garden City Community College, a bachelor's from Eastern New Mexico, and a master's from Kansas. He bounced around the coaching world a bit, before finally coming into the good graces of the south at 40 years old after accepting the head job in Athens. It was his first coaching job this side of the Mississippi and he's said all the right things as far as wanting it to be a long term home for he and his family. He and wife, Cindy Fox, have two young children.
Joining him on the men's hoops staff is Kwanza Johnson.
Johnson, like Fox, has an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, and advanced degree. Like Fox, he also has midwestern roots, being born in Oklahoma and playing at Tulsa under Tubby Smith before graduating from there with a B.S. in Economics in 1995 and in 1999 receiving his J.D. (law degree) from Tulsa as well. Also like Fox, he and his wife have multiple elementary school aged and younger children.
Joining Johnson as assistants are Stacey Palmore and Phillip Pearson.
Palmore and Pearson differentiate from Fox and Johnson in that they are raised in the south, but like Johnson and Fox are also late 30s/early 40s with young children. Palmore from the upstate, Greenwood, SC, has spent all of his coaching career in the southeast, most recently at Virginia Tech before joining Fox's staff last spring. Pearson was most recently the interim head coach at the University of Alabama, succeeding long time boss Mark Gottfried when he was let go mid-year.
Among the many in support roles for the men's hoops program are graduate assistant and former Nevada G Todd Okeson, who led the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 as a senior, and Director of Basketball Ops Kent Davidson. Davidson was Fox's coach in the early 80s at Garden City CC, part of a long coaching career that more recently has seen him as a head coach in the NBA Developmental League from 2001-2008 (where his NBDL teams reportedly had more players graduate to the NBA than any other) and the head coach of the middle eastern nation of Qatar last summer.
If you know one of the rare breed of Bulldawg known as a basketball fan, you may have noticed a new found level of excitement in them. That is because the aforementioned coaches took a team many had left for dead since another batch of unpleasantness in the spring of 2003 was followed by a largely unsuccessful and extremely frustrating several years, to unexpected success last season. Fox's first year saw Georgia defeating Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech, among others (the Yellow Jackets by the way, haven't won in Athens since 1976). And hopefully building on that success this year, some are already predicting a top 25 team coming out of a refurbished Stegeman Coliseum.
Junior forwards Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, both products of Hotlanta high school hoops, are the headline acts on the roster.
Thompkins is a kind of do-everything PF. He hits shots from outside, scores from the blocks, gets after it on the glass (7 games with 13 or more rebounds last year), plays solid defense, and is one of the more skilled players Georgia men's hoops has ever had. Leslie is also among the elite players in the program's history, and the improvements in skill he made under Fox allowed his athleticism to become a Sportscenter staple last season. There are too many dunks to list here, so if you'd like, follow the link and enjoy the New Human Highlight Reel.
But those two aren't alone. Seniors Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price are expected to hold down the blocks at C alongside Thompkins.
Both have been in and out of the starting lineup the last few years, and their ability to become consistent weapons will be huge if the Fox Hounds are to capitalize on their potential in 2010-11. (Oh, and like Thompkins and Leslie, both are from the emerging hot bed of prep hoops talent that is Atlanta).
Orlando's Cady Lalanne (first pic), and Atlanta's Marcus Thornton (2nd pic), and Donte Williams (3rd, obviously) are expected to help provide depth in the front court as freshman in the upcoming season.
Providing depth in the backcourt will be sophomore PG Vincent Williams, and in practice at least, JR walk-on Matt Bucklin. Fellow walk-on Connor Nolte, who you may know from his blog and great series of trick shot videos, helps give depth at F.
Lastly here, but certainly not least as they are the most important players on the floor, is the backcourt. One of the things that helps make some of the best college teams so strong is having good, athletic, and preferably experienced players handling the ball. Georgia has two year starter Dustin Ware, redshirted transfer Gerald Robinson Jr, and incoming JUCO transfer Sherrard Brantley running the show from the outside.
Ware is a familiar face, so I'll be quick with him.
He was a lightning rod of criticism last year for his seeming lack of athleticism, offensive ability, and lack of defensive pressure, but he performed quite well considering the extreme amount of responsibility and minutes he was forced to play thanks to an extremely thin bench. The hope is this season that a deeper roster can allow Ware to stay fresh, and be more productive in fewer minutes.
Brantley, formerly of Dublin HS, was a late qualifier who went overlooked and landed at JUCO basketball power Northwest Florida Community College, where he showed a propensity for knocking down deep shots (Georgia as a team last year made 150 three-pointers, Brantley alone made 105 for Northwest Florida and did so making an impressive 43%).
And then there is Gerald Robinson, Jr.
He began his college career at Tennessee St, where his dad was the tennis coach. But after tearing through the Ohio Valley Conference for two years, he decided to take on better competition. He's been much balley-hooed while sitting out a transfer year, and is expected to become a focal point for the team on the ball this season. If he is as good as he's been hyped, expect a player that can join Thompkins and Leslie as potentiall All-SEC and post season award winners.
There they are ladies and gentlemen, your 2010-11 Georgia Men's Basketball squad. Familiarize yourself with them know to beat the rush, and impress your friends when these guys are making noise this winter.