Felton to "turning every stone" for talent

ATHENS - Georgia coach Dennis Felton will "turning every stone," this offseason to find more talent for his undermanned basketball team, he said.

Meanwhile, the players he does have will be home working, and there's plenty of progress to make.

"We have a tremendous amount of room for growth in strength. Of course, we still have a lot of room to improve in skills, too," said Felton, who is now 39-49 in three seasons at Georgia.

"We have some very young, very developing players who have the potential to make a big jump." The Bulldogs still hope to receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament on Sunday, but it's more likely their season ended Thursday with an 80-67 loss to Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

"When the season is over, it does close a chapter but only on this year's team," Felton said. "It's turning to the next page in the process of building our program."

Georgia is 15-15, a seven-game improvement from a year ago, but they lost seven of their final eight games and finished 5-12 in conference games (including their tournament loss).

"There have been various nights this year I have been disappointed in the lack of progress or the step back we might take, but overall I'm pleased with the progress," Felton said. "Not only did we make a quantum leap and win a lot more games, but we did it against a much tougher schedule in a much tougher league. And we did it while being seriously affected by injuries. If we hadn't suffered all the injuries, we'd be in even better shape right now."

The Bulldogs lost guard Terrence Woodbury (back) and Kendrick Johnson (ankle) for the season, and starting center Dave Bliss was bothered all year by a slipped disc. Woodbury and Johnson are expected to make full recoveries by next season, but Bliss' injury may be more problematic.

"I don't know exactly what to say about what the prospect of David getting healthy is," Felton said.

Bliss plans to return next year regardless of his condition, he said.

Georgia expects to lose only senior walk-on Jay McAuley this year. They will add 6-10 center Albert Jackson from Oak Hill Academy and have room for one more signee. Felton wants that player to be a post player and won't rule out signing a junior college player, he said.

"We're recruiting anybody and everybody we think can help us," he said.

A player who can shoot would help a lot. Georgia's biggest problem this year was its inability to run a consistent offense or hit shots. The Bulldogs finished last in the league in shooting percentage at 43 percent.

"Our offensive execution was far ahead of our just making shots," Felton said. "Certainly we're still a group of sophomores and freshmen many times in terms of our execution, but our shot-making was more of a factor. You could see all the easy shots we missed at times, especially down the stretch."

Despite their swoon to end the season, most of the Bulldogs were optimistic about their future following Thursday's loss.

"That," freshman Mike Mercer said. "is going to inspire us even more."

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