University of Georgia men’s basketball will be headed in a new direction in the 2009-10 season. Let’s face it, the only way they can go is up.
The Dawgs had an awful season in 2008-09, as it was filled with several issues that were hard to overcome, ranging from two starters being kicked off the team to the coach Dennis Felton being fired midway through the year.
One bright spot is that the team members returning are young, and the squad loses only two seniors in Terrance Woodbury and Corey Butler. True, Woodbury and Butler were two of the team's highest scorers, but their departure will allow for the up-and-coming sophomores Trey Thompkins, Dustin Ware, and Travis Leslie to shine.
With the addition of new coach Mark Fox, the coming year is bound to be an exciting one, to say the least.
Fox brings with him an intensity that the program has not seen in quite a while. He was a proven winner at Nevada, where he was 123-43 in five years as head coach. Let’s not forget that even though Nevada is not in the SEC, his Nevada teams did beat Georgia twice.
Fox, who was known as a strong recruiter during his 12 years as an assistant coach, has his work cut out for him. The state of Georgia has 12 high school players ranked in the top 150, but all but four are going out of state to play college ball (and the remaining four are going to play for in-state rival Georgia Tech).
Fox's style of coaching, in which he gets his players to play man-to-man defense, rebound, and run a fast offense should help in his recruiting process. It will also help his young team when they have to go on the road to face tough teams in Gainesville, Knoxville, and Lexington.
Depth on the roster could be an issue, as the team is losing two seniors and recently lost two role players, Zac Swansey and Troy Brewer, to transfers.
The freshman class that will soon be arriving to help includes Marlon Brown, a 6'5" small forward that will also be lining up across from A.J. Green at wide receiver on the football field; DeMario Mayfield, a 6'3" point guard; and 6'10" center Daniel Miller. Even though it is a small class so far, they should help shore up the bench.
Fox averaged 21 wins per season at Nevada, but with only two fourth-year guys on the roster for '09-'10, it will be hard for him to approximate that number in his first year as head coach of the Dawgs. Heck, some say that improving on a 12-20 mark is going to be next to impossible.
I do think that by the time Fox has a couple of recruiting classes of his own and Thompkins, Ware, and Leslie are seniors, this team will be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC Eastern Division.
It is going to be tough with coaches like Donovan at Florida, Pearl at Tennessee, Calipari at Kentucky, and even Trent Johnson (Fox's mentor) at LSU. I guess we will just have to wait and see if Mark will turn out like Donovan or if he'll be just another Dennis Felton.
One thing to remember is that all great coaches started at smaller schools before they were able to shine on the national level.