Georgia Looks To Get Back To Postseason

FAYETTEVILLE -- If it bothers Georgia coach Andy Landers that his seven Southeastern Conference women's basketball titles and 692 career wins have been overshadowed by Pat Summitt's six national titles and 852 wins at Tennessee, he doesn't let on.

Landers, in his 30th year, just keeps "coaching them up," as he did last season when Georgia reached the NCAA Elite Eight.

The Lady Bulldogs quietly went 25-10, with NCAA Tournament wins over Liberty, TCU and Purdue, before losing 62-60 to LSU in the West Regional finals.

Because they return four starters from that fast-closing team, the Lady 'Dawgs appear in the Top 5 of most national preseason surveys.

"That's because of the way we finished last year," Landers said, modestly. "We had some good matchups in the NCAA Tournament and played very well. It's difficult to make it to the Elite Eight. I think we'll be good again, but it's all relative to everyone else."

It's when talk turns to the practice floor that Landers really sinks his teeth into the discussion.

For Georgia fans who jabber about highly touted 6-foot-3 freshmen recruits Tasha Humphrey and Megan Darrah, Landers suggests caution.

"Right now we're on the verge of turning the heat up in practice," he said. "There will be a lot of bumping, making the post workouts not fun."

Landers was asked to elaborate.

"Two equals can't guard each other one-on-one on the block," he said. "Every possession, two seconds after the ball hits someone's hands, there's a loser. It's like wrestling, with two people locking up -- there's no place to hide."

It was more clear-cut inside for Georgia last season, with 6-foot-5 Christi Thomas patrolling the paint.

Neither Thomas nor 6-4 Kara Braxton is at Georgia anymore.

"We don't have that shot-altering presence this year," Landers said. "Plus, you knew Christi was good for 12 to 20 points and 7 to 12 rebounds every game."

While Georgia natives Humphrey and Darrah are good enough to have helped the Lady Bulldogs receive a Top 5 recruiting-class designation, they're still freshmen.

And Landers reminded, "If freshmen don't have all their I's dotted and T's crossed, being a starter tends to stumble them up and hamper their development."

Last season, Landers went the second mile with then-freshman guard Cori Chambers, a 5-9 talent who finally learned to listen.

"Cori was highly touted out of high school and had a typical growth pattern," Landers said. "She was coachable, but not coachable at first. The more she tried to please us, the better off she became. She changed her game the last two months of the season and had a good postseason."

Landers is glad he stayed the course with Chambers.

"She lost weight this summer, got quicker, shot the ball 600 to 700 times a day," Landers said. "It's apparent she gets it. Some kids get it, but don't have the hunger to do anything about it. Cori has that hunger."

Together with preseason All-SEC guard Janese Hardrick and Second-Team All-SEC guards Sherrill Baker and Alexis Kendrick, Chambers gives Georgia a loaded backcourt.

"Our guards will make us good," Landers conceded. "But last year at this time we had all the pieces to the puzzle. Right now those pieces are not as readily identifiable."

Desire Bostice, a 6-4 junior transfer forward from Fort Worth, Texas, could help inside, as could 6-2 senior forward Ebony Felder.

Georgia opens SEC play at home on Dec. 30 against Arkansas and coach Susie Gardner, a former Lady Bulldog who has beaten her former coach Landers twice -- once at Austin Peay and last year in Fayetteville.

If not for Gardner, Landers would be two games closer to his 700th win.

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