I know, football season is just now getting hot and heavy. But if you're in town Friday night, Mark Fox, Andy Landers, and both Georgia basketball programs will be having their season opening shindig, Basketbash, starting at 7 p.m. in Stegeman, and it's free for everyone. Nemi's excited, you should be too.
We'll preview Landers' Ladies later on, but for now, let's take a look at what Mark Fox's program brings to the table in his 5th season leading the Bulldawgs. Each of the last two seasons has been a bit disappointing, with both seeing a 15-17 record when all was said and done. Will this year be any better?
No, it probably won't. But I've been wrong before, and I'd love to be wrong here. Gone from last year's team are seniors John Florveus and Sherrard Brantley, and of course SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (now of the Detroit Pistons). The season opens with an exhibition against UNC-Pembroke on November 4th, with the first official game Friday the 8th when we host Wofford. Georgia Tech comes to town a week later on November 15th, followed by a trip to the Charleston (S.C.) Classic. Some smaller schools come to town in late November and throughout December, before our non-conference schedule closes with trips to Boulder to face Colorado, and then to D.C. for a game against George Washington. Our SEC slate begins with a trip to Missouri on January 8th. The full schedule can be found here.
So, who will be suiting up for the Dawgs? Let's start with the frontcourt. There are several tall guys on the roster, although what we can expect from them is a bit unknown. Senior Donte Williams made huge strides between his freshman and sophomore years, but his junior season saw him fall back (from 7.8 points per game to 5.1, and from 5.1 rebounds per game to 4.8). 6'9 and a good athlete, Williams still can be bullied on the blocks, but he is a solid rebounder and nice touch around the rim offensively. Junior Marcus Thornton has struggled through countless leg injuries, and redshirted last season after starting 20 games the year before. A solid defensive player and former Georgia Mr. Basketball, so the talent is there but the knees may never allow it to show up in red and black. Junior Nemi Djurisic has started 22 games the last two years, and played significant minutes off the bench when he wasn't starting. Wide shouldered with the ability to step outside and hit 3s (I just said he could make them, not that he could make them consistently), he's averaged around 7 pts and 4 rebounds a game in both seasons. Plagued by inconsistency, Djurisic is the most likely big man to provide scoring punch, and may be the team's leading scorer this coming season.
I'd expect at least one of those 3 (Williams, Djurisic, and Thornton) to start, and most likely 2 of them. John Cannon, a 6'10 junior from North Carolina, and Tim Dixon, a 6'10 junior from Columbus, each started a pair of games last year, and will provide depth behind them at the PF and C spots.
Sophomore Cameron Forte joins the front court mix after being the 4th leading scorer in the country last year among D-1 junior colleges. The 6'7 F is expected to compete at SF, but his offensive game does most of it's work around the rim, so he could see action as a PF as well. He'll likely compete with Brandon Morris for the starting SF spot, with the Lithonia native having started 20 games there last year as a freshman. The 6'7 Morris is an excellent athlete, and should be a boost defensively for a team that'll likely have to win games by holding the scores to the 60s. 6'8 Houston Kessler redshirted last season, so the son of former Academic All-American Chad Kessler (and nephew of the late, great Bulldog C Alec Kessler) will get to make his Bulldog debut this year. Known for his shooting prowess in high school, he'll add a dimension most of the other Fs lack, and that's the ability to stretch the floor. 6'6 Kenny Paul Geno was a late signee this spring from Booneville, Mississippi. He was an under the radar recruit, so not many are sure what to expect from him, but he will add depth at SF.
The perimeter options for Mark Fox and his staff got a little thinner when a bomb accident took out incoming walk-on Dusan Langura, while the Switzerland native was fulfilling his military obligation to his home country. But PG Charles Mann returns for his sophomore season, and despite starting just 8 games last year, he produced plenty and got the majority of the minutes running Fox's offense last season. 6'5, with an excellent ability to get into the lane and draw fouls (he led the team in assists and free throw attempts last year), Mann is expected to be the team leader on the floor. He's strong defensively, but his outside shot was in significant need of improvement. If he can hit from 18+ feet consistently, it would greatly enhance his offensive game and make him a potential NBA player. Likely starting alongside Mann will be fellow sophomore Kenny Gaines. Gaines' minutes increased down the stretch last season, and he took advantage with big games at South Carolina, at Tennessee, and at Ole Miss. The 6'3 Atlanta area native used his thick frame and athleticism to score at the rim last year, but like Mann, an improvement in his outside shooting would go a long way into making him a better offensive threat.
Competing with Mann and Gaines for minutes at the G spots will be freshmen J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker. Frazier, from Ludowici's Faith Baptist Academy, is a jitterbug type PG. 5'10, but lightning quick on the dribble with a solid shot, he'll be a change of pace from Mann and could possibly play alongside him at stretches in a 2 PG lineup if Fox wanted to go that route. Parker comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the 6'4 wing was widely considered one of the best shooters in last year's high school class. Considering Gaines' and Mann's issues in that regard, it wouldn't be surprising if Parker worked his way into the starting lineup before the year ends to give a different balance to the beginning of games.
Well there we have it folks, you're 2013-2014 Georgia men's basketball team. And don't forget, Friday at 7 in Stegeman, Basketbash! with games, events, prizes, practice, and it's free!