"The improvement our team made throughout the 2013-14 season was very encouraging, and with the loss of only one starter, the expectations for the coming season will be very high," McGarity said. "Mark and I discussed not only this past season, but spent the majority of our time focused on the next four-year period. We discussed our recruiting plans, scheduling, academic progress and continued development of our program moving forward, and Mark fully recognizes the expectations in these key areas."
So, what does this mean for Georgia's hoops as we embark on that "next four-year period"? That's not easy to say right now. What we do know for sure is that Mark Fox isn't going anywhere (rumors of a move to Washington St popped up this spring, but never seemed like anything other than message board nonsense). That means we return at least our head coach, and likely all of his assistant staff and all but one significant contributor from the past season in senior Donte Williams.
The staff question is one that will likely lead to some eye rolls. Mark Fox's biggest issue since arriving in Athens has been his recruiting. He simply hasn't done a good job with it, often missing on big names locally before scrambling for scraps in the spring and often having to reach down to the bottom of the recruiting barrel when others start competing with us for the often very limited amount of quality players available in the last signing period before they get to college. Although it should be noted that a lot of staff moves happen around the Final Four, when basketball coaches have an annual convention and a lot of moves happen as resumes get handed out. It was about this time last year that rumors of Kwanza Johnson leaving the staff for TCU started coming out, and they took a month to get confirmed and another month before Jonas Hayes replaced him. So while all indications are right now that the staff should remain in tact, we'll have to wait and see on that to remain the case over the next few weeks.
The other critical area for Georgia men's basketball right now with the coaching staff looking like a settled situation is recruiting. College is not forever, and you have to constantly be bringing in new kids. With Donte Williams graduating, and John Cannon also out the door, that leaves two spots open for Fox to fill this spring. Although with Nemi Djurisic, Marcus Thornton, and Tim Dixon graduating after next season, and the 2015 class being pretty highly regarded across the state and southeast with names like Athens' own Will "Turtle" Jackson (already committed to UConn), Wheeler duo Daniel Giddens and Jaylen Brown, Locust Grove's 7'er Doral Moore, among many other future high major signees that will come out of Georgia high schools next year, Fox may keep one of those scholarships open in hopes of better being able to fill in next year.
But make no mistake about it, getting a strong haul in 2015 is critical for the program's future success. Even if we miss on some, or all, of those names mentioned above, we need to land several high quality pieces to help keep things from falling back off as they had before this season's SEC success. And that pursuit is hitting its' final stages over the spring and summer, with much of the foundation having to already be in place if you want to land the kid. So if you want to gauge whether this extension is just one of many, or his last here, that 2015 class should tell the tale.
But there is still a need in 2014. Some kids are back on the market thanks to coaching moves like perhaps Augusta's Ahmed Hill who was with Marquette until Buzz Williams went to Virginia Tech. Or Alabama's TJ Lang, who was with Va Tech until Williams arrived and has decided to open things back up. And as the coaching carousel keeps spinning around (with Mike Montgomery and Cal being the latest domino to fall), you never know what can happen. The transfer field is another place we might target guys, particularly those who have graduated (and thus eligible to play right away), but Temple big man Anthony Lee chose Ohio St. I haven't seen us mentioned with Tennessee Tech big man M.J. Rhett, but he'd also make a lot of sense for us.
That's where we stand now though. Fox is back. Mann, Gaines, Morris, Thornton, Djurisic, Parker, and Frazier come back as players who averaged more than 10 minutes a night next year giving us a nice 7 man rotation. Tim Dixon may or may not step up in Donte Williams role, but adding at least one quality big man this spring seems to be a must looking at the size we have returning (and thus the desire for a Lee, or Rhett, among others who could contribute immediately and at a proven high level collegiately). As McGarity says, expectations are high next year given what we have returning, and a trip to the NCAAs seems like a must. Whether we can make it, and if we do, just how far we go, will depend a lot on how Fox does this spring. And whether futures seasons under Fox will look more like November and December, or January and February, depends a lot on how Fox and his staff do with 2015 kids over the spring and into the summer. It's time that we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!