Dawgs Give Fans Reason to be Encouraged

ATHENS - Despite an overall losing record (14-17) and last-place finish in the SEC's Eastern Division, Georgia gave fans reason to be encouraged in coach Mark Fox's first season.

The Bulldogs were a competitive bunch and notched significant victories over the likes of Illinois and Georgia Tech on their nonconference schedule and over Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida in league play.

They won a game in the conference tournament, knocking off Arkansas by 13 points, and played Vandy tough before fading over the last 10 minutes of an eventual 12-point setback.

Had they been able to hold onto leads better, they just might have come close to breaking even in league play for the first time since 2007.

In six of their 11 league losses, they led at halftime, including double-digit advantages against Arkansas and Mississippi State.

"We fought all year, but as a team, we expected to win some of those games," Trey Thompkins said after a spectacular sophomore season that saw him finish in the top 10 in the conference in scoring and rebounding. "We never shortchanged ourselves on the fact that we were inexperienced with coach's system or we were a young team.

"We came out to fight just like all our opponents did. We expected to win just like any other team would."

With only two seniors who saw significant playing time (guard Ricky McPhee and center Albert Jackson) departing, there is reason for optimism in the program.

The key will be what Thompkins decides about his future. He remained non-committal following the loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament about potential plans to enter the NBA draft.

If he returns for his junior year, Georgia would have two of the most talented players in the league in Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Leslie also scored in double figure and was the team's No. 2 rebounder despite playing forward at only 6-foot-4.

The Bulldogs will add two transfers to the active list next season. They are Gerald Robinson Jr., a 6-1 guard from Tennessee State, and Connor Nolte, a 6-7 swingman from Furman. Cady Lalanne, a 6-8 power forward from Orlando, Fla., was the only November signee.

Robinson could be the outside shooter the Bulldogs need to keep defenses from packing in on Thompkins and Leslie.

But perhaps just as important to the program's long-term success is that Fox's first team laid a foundation with its attitude and competitiveness.

"Oftentimes at the end of the year you sense guys are just waiting for it to end," Fox said after the tournament loss. "I never sensed that with this team. And they were excited to come to the gym every day, and today also.

"I just told them that, you know, they've made an impact on Georgia basketball. They've given us some momentum forward and earned some respect back for our program. And I'll always be appreciative of that."

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