Georgia signs Johnson, Arnold; re-signs Dean

"He's perhaps one of the real good big men in the country"

ATHENS, Ga. - When Coach Jim Harrick took the Georgia job three years ago, his first recruiting visit was to Albany, Ga., to establish a relationship with Dougherty High freshman Alexander Johnson. On Wednesday, the early investment in time with Johnson paid off when the highly regarded center signed with Richt and the Bulldogs. Johnson picked Georgia over Cincinnati and Alabama.

"He's perhaps one of the real good big men in the country,'' Harrick said. "He's as physically gifted as any player I've recruited at Georgia. ... He's big and strong and fast. He can handle the ball and bring it on the break. He's got a real good chance to be a McDonald's All-American if he has a good year.''

Wednesday was the first day of the week-long early national signing period. As a junior, the 6-foot-9 Johnson averaged 28.2 points and 16 rebounds as Dougherty won the Georgia AAAA state championship. He averaged 30 points per game in the state tournament, winning MVP honors. ranks Johnson as the fifth-best center among all high school seniors.

Georgia also signed Berkmar shooting guard Wayne Arnold Wednesday. As of late in the day the coaches were still awaiting paperwork on the signing, so Harrick would not comment on Arnold. Johnson and Arnold are regarded as the top two prospects in the state.

Georgia also officially re-signed guard Michael Dean of Rome Wednesday. Dean, who originally signed last year, will be eligible to join the team in mid-December. Meanwhile, as expected, the NCAA denied Damien Wilkins' appeal for his immediate eligibility. Wilkins transferred from North Carolina State last June and hoped to play this season without sitting out the year normally required of transfers.

Wilkins, a 6-foot-6 forward, will be a junior next season and can practice with Georgia this year.

Georgia opens its 2001-02 season Friday night at Stegeman Coliseum against Furman.

Charles Odum can be reached at

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