Dawgs open season with exhibition

ATHENS - Playing time is no longer a given in Stegeman Coliseum, and that's a good thing for Dennis Felton's Georgia basketball team.

The Bulldogs, who limped to an 8-20 record last year while having just seven scholarship players, finally have a full roster. An influx of five athletic freshman this season will give Felton some choices now if his veterans aren't getting the job done.

That's good news for Georgia fans, but it will mean more work for the returning Bulldogs.

"I don't see any resistance. They know they needed help," Felton said. "If anything, I think they want (the freshmen) to develop as quickly as posible."

Today is most fan's first chance to see the full-strength Dogs as Georgia takes on Concordia at 4 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. It will be the team's only exhibition game of the year. The regular season starts Nov. 18 against Old Dominion in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Junior guard Levi Stukes said he understands the new reality on the team.

"Coach wouldn't have gotten these freshmen if he didn't think they were going to be a big part of what we're doing here," he said.

Stukes may not play today due to a chronic back problem, and he's just one of several Bulldogs to be hampered by injuries in the preseason. Forward Younes Idrissi sprained his MCL the day before practice began and missed two weeks. Center Dave Bliss has missed half of practice the team's practice time due to back spasms, Felton said. And freshmen Billy Humphrey (groin, hip flexor) and Rashaad Singleton (tendinitis) have been limited.

"We're still paper thin, particularly in the post," Felton said.

Whether any of Georgia's freshmen is good enough to start will remain a mystery until game time. Felton traditionally refuses to announce his top five before a game.

"The guys who play the hardest and perform the best are the guys who're going to play, and that changes daily," he said.

Whether the youngsters start or not, there's little doubt they'll see some action.

"They'll have the chance to contribute right away," Bliss said. "It's just a matter of who takes advantage of that. I wouldn't expect them to be superstars right away, but they definitely have all the talent they need to get to that point."

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