Year Three of the Dennis Felton era at Georgia marks the continuation of his efforts to rebuild the program. For myriad reasons, last yearÕs squad -- whose 8-20 record featured the fewest wins for a Georgia team in 30 years -- had just seven players on scholarship. The remaining roster spots were filled by walk-ons, most of whom were discovered through on-campus tryouts.
The 2006 team, however, will have more scholarshipped players (12) than any Georgia team since 1997. How? The abolition of the "5/8 rule," and the NCAA's restoration of three scholarships it had originally taken away, have paved the way for an influx of new talent.
Georgia vs. Paradise Jam Field
Georgia has played just two of the five other teams appearing at the 2005 Paradise Jam. It is 2-0 against both Old Dominion and Wisconsin.
Georgia Across the Pond
The Paradise Jam will mark the eighth time that a Georgia team has left the U.S. mainland to play basketball. The 1988 Bulldog squad set the standard for international travel when it first played in the Phenix NCAA Ball in Tokyo before going straight to the Chaminade Christmas Classic in Hawaii. Following is a chronology of every Georgia trip outside the contiguous 48 states:
1988 Phenix NCAA Ball - Tokyo
1988 Chaminade Christmas Classic
1996 Rainbow Classic - Honolulu
1999 Great Alaska Shootout - Anchorage
2000 Puerto Rico Shootout
2001 Rainbow Classic - Honolulu
2004 Pre-Season Tour - Vancouver
2005 Paradise Jam - St. Thomas, USVI
Dogs Still More Like Pups
Last season Georgia had by far the nation's youngest team, with a 16-man roster composed of 13 freshmen & sophomores, along with a walk-on trio of two seniors and a junior. To prove this fact, a late-season informal survey showed that Georgia did indeed rely on its freshmen more than any other team in the country.
This season promises to be much more of the same scenario, with GeorgiaÕs 5-man freshman class playing vital roles throughout the team.
Woodbury Shines Under Radar
There were no trumpets blaring on the day in November of 2004, when Terrance Woodbury signed his letter-of-intent to play at Georgia. He didn't rank on anyone's list of top prospects around the nation. Through five weeks of pre-season practice and one game, however, the Georgia coaches are thanking their lucky stars that he's a Bulldog.
Woodbury was perhaps the least heralded signee of the 2005-06 freshman class. It didn't deter him from having one of the best pre-season camps among all Bulldogs, and he has carried his good work over into the regular season. Woodbury pumped in 14 points and added five rebounds in 26 minutes against Old Dominion, by far the most production of any Georgia freshman. In addition, at a slight 6-6 he was forced to guard ODU post players during the game and acquitted himself well performing such duty.
Schedule Ratchets Up in ‘06
The Georgia Bulldogs are wasting no time gauging their level of improvement over last season. Old Dominion is the first of 18 potential games against teams that played in the post-season in 2005.
"I'm extremely excited about our schedule, and it certainly starts out with a bang against a team as good as Old Dominion," coach Dennis Felton said. "This year's schedule will give our young team many incredible opportunities to grow and develop." Especially impressive is the way in which Georgia will end the 2005 calendar year. The Bulldogs play Oregon State in Portland on Dec. 17, at Nevada on the 21st, and finally return home to host Clemson on Dec. 28 and Western Carolina on Dec. 31. Dogs Win Only Exhibition
Sundiata Gaines led nine different scorers with 16 points as Georgia, playing without top returning scorer Levi Stukes, cruised to a relatively easy 82-60 win over Concordia in its only exhibition basketball game of the preseason on Nov. 5.
Five other Bulldogs, including three freshmen, scored in double figures against Concordia, a college of 31,000 students in Montreal. The Stingers were playing their fourth game in five days, a tour that included losses at Rhode Island, Duke and Davidson before the Georgia game.
Georgia never trailed in the contest but needed much of the first half before breaking free from Concordia. A short jumper by reserve Billy Humphrey gave the Bulldogs their first double-digit lead at 39-29 with 1:23 left before halftime.
A 9-2 run to open the second half enabled Georgia to turn the game into a blowout. Four different Bulldogs scored in the early spurt, capped by a fast-break layup by Younes Idrissi, pushing the Georgia lead to 49-33 just three minutes into the second period.
Despite playing just one exhibition, the Bulldogs also managed to squeeze in a scrimmage against fellow Division I member College of Charleston. In accordance with NCAA rules, the scrimmage took place last Sunday in the privacy of the two teams, and neither score nor official stats were kept. It was the first time Georgia had ever ventured into this relatively new practice among D1 schools.
Injuries Plague Dogs' Preseason
Injuries have prevented these Bulldogs from practicing at full strength except for only a few occasions this fall. As many as five Georgia players missed significant amounts of practice time with various injuries. They include:
> Dave Bliss. The Bulldogs starting center has battled a herniated disc in his back throughout the summer and fall, but he appears able to withstand his discomfort to a certain degree.
> Rashaad Singleton. Tendinitis in his knee has forced the freshman reserve center to the sidelines several times this fall. > Younes Idrissi. First, the lanky sophomore suffered varicose veins during the summer. Just before the start of pre-season practice, he sprained a ligament in his left knee, which caused him to miss the first nine days of workouts.
> Levi Stukes. The BulldogsÕ top returning scorer suffered from a lower back strain, an injury that caused him to miss GeorgiaÕs only exhibition game. He has recovered to full strength, however.
> Kendrick Johnson. The freshman forward was thought to be lost for the season when it was determined that he needed surgery to repair chronic ankle problems. Just a couple of days into pre-season practice, however, Johnson decided to give it a go. He played six minutes in the BulldogsÕ exhibition game and has practiced sporadically since.
Busy Off-Season for Travelers
To a certain pair of Bulldogs, packing a bag for St. Thomas this weekend seemed like a breeze, considering their travels last summer.
Guard Kevin Brophy, a sophomore from Melbourne, Australia, spent most of his summer in Athens. He finished it, however, playing basketball for his home country as part of the Australian team at the World University Games. The competition took place in Izmir, Turkey between August 12-21. Brophy played seven of the eight games of the tournament, averaging 3.1 points in 10-plus minutes.
Steve Newman, meanwhile, participated on a 12-man team of current and former collegians that toured East Asia during late June and early July. Sponsored by Athletes in Action, the squad played 10 games in a 12-day span, and it included a couple of players that Newman will see during this seasonÕs non-conference schedule: Lamar Hurd of Oregon State and Shawan Robinson of Clemson. The team was coached by Morris Michalski, basketball coach at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn.
Together, We Will Already
With one of the nation's youngest teams, once again, and with yet another large freshman class, Georgia coach Dennis Felton is going to great lengths to promote harmony and a productive team chemistry. ThatÕs primarily why he put the Bulldogs through what could best be called a ÒBoot CampÓ in mid-August.
It garnered no publicity and attracted almost no public attention Ñ not surprising with a 5:30 a.m. starting time Ñ but the week-long camp served its purpose. Felton enlisted the help of UGAÕs Army ROTC detachment, and it was more than happy to oblige. Bedecked in fatigues, the Bulldogs navigated their way through a series of exercises designed to test not only their stamina but also their ability to work in unison. Among the drills included rapelling down the Journalism building on campus, and log-rolling in a soft sand pit.
The camp was deemed a success after the week had concluded. Felton can only hope it yields results that are similar to those when he last did it. His 2002 Western Kentucky team marched through Boot Camp before winning 28 games and taking the conference title.
Can We Expect Similar Things at UGA?
Make of it whatever you wish, but coach Dennis FeltonÕs record after two seasons at Georgia (24-34) is identical to the slate he compiled in the same time frame at Western Kentucky. He inherited programs in similar shape at both schools. However, at Georgia he has worked to rebuild the BulldogsÕ program despite the shackles of an NCAA investigation.
In FeltonÕs third season at Western (2001), the Hilltoppers made a giant leap forward, winning 24 games, taking the Sun Belt Conference title and playing in the NCAA Tournament.