Mark Fox's Georgia Bulldogs are about to embark on a miracle mission in the SEC basketball tournament. After finishing third in a league which was almost a punchline at times during the regular season, they basically have to win the tournament to make the Big Dance.
Even if they don't do that, however, it's hard to view the 2013-14 season as anything but a success. Coming into the year there were serious questions about whether a KCP-less 'Dawg squad could win more than a couple of SEC games. If I'd told you preseason that Georgia would win 18 games in the regular season, 12 of them in conference, you would have called me nuts. Crazy. Cuckoo.
And the good news is that the 18 win Bulldogs return all but two players in 2014-15, senior Donte Williams and recently departed John Cannon. So there's room for optimism. But there's not a lot of room on the roster for new recruits. It's long been the established wisdom that a good coach could come to Athens and build a perennial tournament contender just by recruiting fairly well in state. The thing is, nobody since at least Tubby Smith has done it.
Mark Fox isn't exactly closing the borders, either. Only 6 of the 13 players Fox has recruited in the past three cycles were from the Peach State. 4 of those came in the 2012 class which consisted of a quartet of homegrown players. Even then at least a dozen players from the Empire State of the South were ranked by Rivals in the their top 100, and none chose to come to the Classic City.
2014 appears no different. There just aren't a lot of talented players left on the board, much less talented players who have an interest in the still unproven Bulldogs. The young Bulldog guard rotation looks set for the next couple of years, so if Mark Fox does add to the roster, I'd expect him to look inside for a big guy to replace Cannon and a versatile forward who can replace Williams.
One prospect still on the board is Norense Odiase, a 6'8, 240 pound peer forward from Elev8 Sports Academy in Florida (by way of Crowley, Texas). Odiase needs to mature physically, and his footwork, well, needs work. But there's potential, including some nice flashes of athleticism as you can see in his senior video:
Another is Lexington, Kentucky forward Jackson Davis. Davis recommitted from Rice, and Georgia is among a handful of schools trying to bring him on board (others include Notre Dame, Mississippi State and Minnesota). Davis is a little quicker than Odiase, and actually showcases a pretty good outside jumper for a guy who projects inside at the college level:
So there's not a lot of recruiting buzz around the Hoop Hounds this cycle. So what? The excitement in Athens is already in Athens. Mark Fox hasn't recruited lights out at Georgia according to the national press. Or really according to anyone for that matter. But he has done a good job of steadily improving the Red and Black roster with players who have developed over time. For now, that's what it will take for Georgia to have success. Maybe one day Mark Fox will recruit national top 10 classes to Athens. But for now, the best sales hes going to do is convincing the players on the current roster to come to work every day and keep improving. Until later . . .