The Many Hours

ATHENS - One was a can’t-lose local star, the other a much-needed Texan.

Georgia added two basketball signees Wednesday in Athens Christian guard Will “Turtle” Jackson and forward E’ttorion Wilridge, of Beaumont, Texas.

Bulldogs coach Mark Fox couldn’t provide a guess as to how many hours were invested in recruiting Jackson, the 6-foot-5, 165-pound do-it-all who averaged nearly 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as a junior. 

“That’s a great question,” Fox said. “I don’t even know how to begin to answer that.”

Jackson was in eighth grade when he and Fox began talking. Since that time, the Georgia staff saw Jackson grow as a player and person at national AAU tournaments, local high school games and during visits to campus. Once a verbal commitment to UConn, proximity and the relationship Fox and the staff cultivated helped the Bulldogs eventually win out. 

“One great thing about Turtle is, he’s very driven to get better,” Fox said. “Most of the conversations with him were not so much about the recruitment as they were about, how can I get better? His first question would always be, how do you think I played? How can I get better? I love that approach that he has to the game. Very humble kid.”

Jackson would see time on the court for the Bulldogs right now, according to Fox. And he’s the first local Bulldogs signee since Carlos Strong and Terrell Bell came to Georgia from Cedar Shoals in 1992.

“He’s a terrific player, even better person,” Fox said of Jackson. “He’s been coached well, he’s been raised right. He’s just a terrific young man and we’re very excited about him.”

While Jackson was on the radar for years, Wilridge’s late-October commitment caught most by surprise. The 6-foot-6, 170-pound standout held offers from Auburn, Iowa State, Marquette and Texas A&M and averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks a game as a junior at Central Medical Magnet High. While his commitment, announced via Twitter, was overshadowed by the Georgia-Florida football game, his versatility fit a dire need on Georgia’s roster. 

“We knew, especially when we had another spot open at small forward, that’s a huge need for us,” Fox said. “We needed to get another guy there and we still do. We need some length and athleticism and a guy that can play both spots was attractive to us.”

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