The date was March 17, 2001. I was sitting in my living room on my couch. The Dawgs jumped out in front of the Alaskan Dogs from the school in Illinois big early with a 19 point lead. There was the thought in the back of head that this is the same thing that always happens. The Hoop Dawgs jump out early and fade towards the end. That was a very hard game to watch. Illinois made every shot they threw up and I still have a bitter taste in mouth when I think about Mike Wood and that intentional foul they called on Hayes Hayes. This year will be the year of the Hoop Dawgs!! They have everybody back and they add Damien Wilkins. Let's take a look at each of the returning players
PG – Rashad Wright
4.8 assists/game 2.3 assist/turnover ratio
In college basketball, the point position is the most important position on the court. If one doesn't have steady play at this position a team is not going to go far anywhere. Rashad has 57 career starts under his belt and since his first start he has been one of the steadiest in the SEC. Wright is also a money player. It was his 3 that put the South Carolina game in Athens in overtime, and he tied up the Missouri game in the NCAA's his freshman year. He doesn't shoot it a lot, but he isn't afraid to take the big shot.
- He is very reliable with the basketball in his hands. He rarely makes a bad decision or a bad pass. This is witnessed by his exceptional assist/turnover ratio. He had a 3 game stretch where he had 18 turnovers. Take that out and his ratio is even higher.
- Wright has a good shooting touch and he is a good FT shooter. He does all the things that a point guard needs to do.
- Wright is not aggressive at all on the offensive end. This can be attributed to him not having to be aggressive.
For the dawgs to be successful, Wright will have to continue
his play from the past 2 years. This
will not be a problem for Wright. He
is one of the most underrated players in the SEC.
He and Mo Williams from Alabama are the top 2 point guards in the league
with the slight edge going to Wright.
WING – Ezra Williams
Early last year Williams was lighting it up. At one point last season he was leading the SEC in scoring. He was having a VERY good year until tragedy struck his family when his brother died. It was easy to tell that he was playing with a heavy heart, but he still produced. He is to be commended for the job he did working through adversity. This will be his 3rd year in the starting lineup. His lack of production towards the end of the year could also be attributed to stamina. This year that will not be an issue. The former Marietta High School state champion has entered this year with a brand new focus. He is now in the best playing shape of his life. That should translate into a good season.
- Williams has a really good jumper. Sometimes he doesn't shoot the ball with confidence, you can tell this by watching his follow-through, and he struggles when he does. When Williams is on fire, he is on fire!!
- Williams is a really good rebounding guard. With our lack of depth down low this really helps us.
- Sometimes Williams's shot selection baffles me. Kentucky of last year comes to mind. But he made those shots so it's hard to complain too much.
Williams will do the same thing that he has done the last two
seasons. He will give Georgia 16-17
pts a game, and 6 boards.
WING – Jarvis Hayes
In my articles last year, I thanked Mr. and Mrs. Hayes MANY times. Hayes is our superstar. He is the one who carries us when we need it the most. In Lexington last year he lit it up. In Gainesville in the second half he lit it up. Pepperdine…..Tennessee in Knoxville…..And the NCAA's Hayes lit it up. He is what Dick Vitale will call a PTP'er. Also when he is on the floor with Damien Wilkins, he can't be doubled up on the wing. LOOK OUT!!
- On the Offensive end what can't he do? He can shoot, drive the lane, post up, and fill the lanes on transition. What more do you need? Hayes is probably the most explosive wing in the nation.
- Hayes has that knack for the big game. Look what he did in Knoxville, Gainesville, and the NCAA's last season.
- Sometimes Hayes has a bad time with shot selection but who cares when he can make most of them
MVP!! MVP!!! Look for Hayes to make a run at the SEC Player of the Year, and the Wooden award.
POST – Jonas Hayes
With the way Hayes plays, he reminds me of an old man. He has a DEADLY baseline jumper and he has a knack for getting the rebounds down low and putting them back. Reminds me of playing with my pops when I was little? We are going to need to rely on Hayes heavily this year especially in the early going of the season. Hayes was a pleasant surprise last year. He gave Georgia some solid minutes off of the bench and he did a good job in subbing for Thomas when he had to.
- He has a DEADLY baseline jumper. He also isn't afraid to mix it up with those players who are bigger than he is.
- Hayes gives away a bunch of height when he plays the SEC's taller players
Hayes will fill the same role that he filled last year. If he gives us the same thing that he gave us last year we can be happy. If he gives us more, we can be VERY happy.
POST – Chris Daniels
Chris Daniels was quietly Georgia's most valuable player. He usually had to guard the other team's biggest player and he had to battle down low for rebounds. He was a stat filler. He gave us 11.3 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. He came off the bench in Georgia's exhibition win last Friday. If Damien Wilkins starts ahead of him he would be the perfect 6th man because he can come in and give you so much.
- Daniels is a very good all-around player. He led Georgia in rebounds, steals, and blocked shots. He was also second in assists.
- He is very good on the offensive boards. He also is very good at drawing fouls. He went to the FT line more than any other Dawg.
- Because he is undersized in the post he gives up a lot of fouls. Daniels fouled out 8 times last year. This could also be attributed to Georgia's lack of depth down low.
- Daniels MUST improve his jump shot. In the high post offense, he will get some good looks at the basket. He passed a lot of those up last year.
Look at that first bullet under strengths. We need Chris Daniels. He is one of the main cogs on the team. With Damien Wilkins in the fold, it is possible that his minutes may diminish. No matter the minutes he plays, he will be a warrior for Jim Harrick.
POST – Steve Thomas
Thomas was on his way to a good season last year. He shut down Tayshun Prince in Lexington last year. Then the Tony Cole incident happened. After that Thomas wasn't the same player. Since he is our biggest player, we NEED him! We need Thomas to regain his February form from last year. If he does, Georgia will really be a force to reckon with.
- Thomas has shown in the past that he can be a good defender.
- Thomas has to be more consistent on the defensive end of the court. He has games where he shuts down one of the best players in the SEC then he has games where he gets dominated by some lesser players from Northern Illinois. He has to be more consistent. To his defense, he did go through a lot last season. I was proud of him for the way that he handled himself.
I am looking for Thomas to put the Year 2002 behind him and
come back as a KNOCKOUT post defender in 2003.
Georgia needs him because he is the biggest player.
He also gives us 5 extra fouls. Thomas
will improve on his numbers from last year.
Wing / Guard -- Michael Dean
I was one of the very few who liked Dean at the point. He did play out of control at times, but that is typical of a freshman. Everybody improves under Harrick so look for him to be better. He threw some crazy passes last year. Who saw the one he threw in the Pepperdine game? Dean has some very good court sense. He also has a good stroke and rotation on his jump shot. He will be able to give Williams some rest this year. He should see around 15 minutes of action a night. Maybe more depending on how Wayne Arnold develops. He could also back up Wright if we need him to.
X-Factor – Damien Wilkins
Wilkins will be the difference for us if we are to have either a good season or a GREAT season. I have only seen him play like 3 or 4 times, so I can't comment on his skills. I can say one thing about him. He looked REALLY out of place when I saw him play under Herb Syndek. At NC State, he was rarely in a position to showcase his talent. At Georgia, he will be able to show everyone what he can do. He could play on the wing, at the point and in the post. In the exhibition game last Friday, Damien was AWESOME. There was one play towards the end when he was running the point and he drove to the lane………….I thought to myself, "GOOD GRIEF!!!" Imagine a game where Jarvis, Williams, and Damien all have their offensive games going. With Rashad distributing the ball we would be unstoppable on the offensive end. YES SIR!! This is going to be a good year!
Berkmar boys (Clark Williams and Wayne Arnold), and the guy who didn't play
last year (Richard Wehunt).
Look for them to play roles similar to what Dean and Gibson did for us last year. Some games they will get about 15-20 minutes and some they will get 5-10 minutes. This will be their learning year. Georgia is still keeping their fingers crossed on Alexander Johnson. He didn't sign this week, so I am reading between the lines that we are expecting him here in December.
Let's now look at the Team Strengths and Weaknesses for Georgia:
Every time I look and see Jim Harrick on the sidelines, I am VERY grateful. If you need proof about how good of a coach he is go back to 1999. Georgia had DA Layne, Anthony Evans, Shawn Coleman, and a bunch of other kids who would have probably not made Wayne Arnold's and Clark Williams' Berkmar team that year. Well, I take that back, AJ would have made the team too. We only won 10 games that year, but my goodness if Jirsa had that team we would have only won either 1 or 2 if that. The program would have also been set back 3 or 4 more years. Harrick came in and we went to the NCAA's the next year.
Some refer to Harrick as arrogant. Harrick isn't arrogant; he is brutally honest. If a referee cost him a game he will let him know. If a player got lucky he will let him know. If a team is good or if they aren't good he will let them know. I remember when Dantzler asked Harrick back in 99 on his call in show if Dan Langhi was as good as Don McLean. He said an emphatic ‘NO'.
Some also call in his character. I can't criticize him for taking shots on kids. Nobody knows what happened with Kenny Brunner; they just took Mark Bradley's word as gospel. He admitted his mistake with Cole but keep in mind that he had formed a relationship with the kid, and he wanted to give him a chance.
It still turns my stomach how the dawgnation treated Larry Turner. There are a bunch of people who have accused me of things in the past. I am happy that they weren't held against me.
With X's and O's, Harrick is one of the best in the business. He will always have his team prepared and he doesn't get out-witted. Harrick is one of the biggest strength's of the team. In the college game, Coaching and experience means more than talent.
We have 3 wings (Ezra Williams, Jarvis Hayes, and Damien
Wilkins) that each have the potential to put up 20 a night.
All three of them are also all-around players who are good passers,
defenders, and rebounders. Georgia
will never have to rely on one player to carry us when they need it.
Each one of these three has the ability to step up and make the big shot
See my comments about him above. Wright is the most consistent point guard in the SEC.
He is the key to the offense.
Let's take a look at two teams who were very successful in
the NCAA's last year. At Kent
State, 3 out of their top 5 were seniors, and the other 2 are seniors this year.
Also look at the champions from last year.
Dixon, Baxter, and Mouton were all seniors; Blake and most of their
reserves were juniors. The good
Duke teams of recent always had a couple of upperclassmen who were key players.
Experience is a key factor in the college game because it leads to
consistent team play. Georgia has a
point guard who has 57 starts under his belt.
Williams has 64, Wilkins and Hayes are both in the neighborhood of 60.
Chris Daniels, Thomas Thomas, and Jonas Hayes are all 3rd year
players. Each returning player on this team has been to the NCAA's,
and all of the returning starters have started in a NCAA tournament game.
Experience is definitely a strength of this Georgia team.
Now for the….
Size and Depth down low
Bless Chris Daniels' heart; he played his tail off every game. But he is undersized down low, as is Hayes who also sees significant minutes in the post. Georgia doesn't have anyone who can post up and score with his back to the goal, but there are only 3 teams (Alabama with Erwin Dudley, South Carolina, and MSU with Austin if he plays this year) in the conference that do. In college basketball that post scoring isn't as important. Any big man with skills either goes to the NBA or is on his way to the NBA. Because we are undersized we have to be aggressive down low and on the blocks. This causes us to get into foul trouble and that is where our depth hurts us. When our players are in foul trouble, they play cautiously, and we get dominated down low (see the Alabama and Florida games in Athens last year). Some think that size will be a big problem for Georgia, but the Dawgs aren't much worse off than others. Georgia does need Thomas because he gives us an extra body.
The potential for Georgia this year is unreal.
They are a major player for the SEC championship, and they have the
horses to ride deep into March. Here
are the Keys for Georgia to have a good season:
1. We must hope that we don't get bitten by the injury bug. This is especially true for our post players. We can't afford to lose any of them.
2. Rashad Wright
has to continue his steady play. I
was debating on whether or not to put this because it is pretty much expected.
He is the top PG in the conference.
3. We will need
Chris Daniels to duplicate his stats from last year. He was another valuable player to Georgia.
4. Georgia must play really good post defense and block out well. There were some games that we got killed by second chance baskets. We must do a good job on this because we aren't big enough to contest 2nd and 3rd shot opportunities. This will get us in foul trouble and we don't have that many to go around our post players.
This is sore spot for a lot of people because they like to think that
they aren't a factor in the game. I
disagree completely. We must get a
better job of officiating from the refs.
This is true for the whole SEC. The
refs killed us in South Carolina both in Columbia
and Athens in particular, but those games weren't isolated incidents. We
weren't the only team in the conference that got hurt by them.
The referees are very powerful people on the court.
We have to get a better effort from them.
I am hoping that they don't take the position, "We are doing the best
job that we can", and they realize that they need to improve for the good of
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