The Georgia Lady Bulldogs are one of the legendary powers in the SEC. During his tenure at Georgia, Coach Andy Landers has taken the Lady Dawgs to the NCAA tournament18 times in the 20 years since the tournament's inception, missing only in 1992 and 1994. Those 18 tournament appearances include 12 trips to the Sweet 16 and five trips to the Final Four. However, Georgia has always fallen short of the big prize and has no national championships in their otherwise storied history.
Hopes were high last season in Athens that the Lady Dawgs would finally bring home the national championship. With a team laden with senior talent -- including three first round WNBA draft picks -- and a top 5 ranking all year, Georgia fans looked forward optimistically to the NCAA tournament. But their hopes were dashed when Georgia lost in the second round on their home court to a determined Missouri team, failing even to make the Sweet 16. Georgia fans received another blow soon afterward when the immensely talented Deanna "Tweety" Nolan, who had entered Georgia as a partial qualifier and regained her fourth year of eligibility, elected to enter the WNBA draft rather than return to Georgia to complete her eligibility. So for the Lady Dawgs, 2001-2002 will be a season for rebuilding -- or perhaps reloading.
Players Returning: Georgia loses four starters, including top scorers Kelly Miller (15.7 ppg) and Coco Miller (15.6 ppg). Only 6-4 center Tawana McDonald (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) remains. In addition, Georgia returns the SEC Freshman of the Year, 6-5 Christi Thomas (11.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg). The most experienced returning guard will be 5-6 senior Camille Murphy (13.6 mpg, 4.1 ppg) who missed half of last season after tearing her ACL in January. Junior swing forward Tameiko Washington (11.2 mpg, 2.7 ppg) is the only other returning player who averaged more than 10 minutes a game last year.
Incoming Players: Georgia will feature a formidable crop of new faces this year. At the head of the list of incoming freshmen is 6-6 Kara Brown-Braxton from Beaverton, Oregon, a Naismith finalist and everybody's All-American, ranked as the #2 recruit in the country by both Bluestar and All-Star Girls Report. She's joined by her twin sister Kim Brown-Braxton, a 6-2 power forward, 6-0 forward Katie Frye from Georgia, 6-2 forward Jessica Pierce from Florida, 5-11 guard Whitney Law from Colorado, and 5-6 point guard Nikki Eason from South Carolina. In addition, forward Ebony Felder, one of the top recruits in the country last year who suffered two dislocated shoulders during pre-season conditioning last year and subsequently red-shirted, will be available. And finally, 5-11 guard Nicole Kaczmarski, ranked by some as the best high school player in the country two years ago, will be available to play in January after sitting out for a year after transferring from UCLA in mid-season.
Outlook: Georgia will be extremely interesting to watch this year. On the one hand, they will likely have the tallest collection of front court players in the country with 6-4 McDonald, 6-5 Thomas, and 6-6 Brown-Braxton. On the other hand, they'll be reliant upon inexperienced guards until Kaczmarski is available to play in January. Coach Landers has an abundance of talent to work with, but it isn't clear yet who will emerge to fill the void in the backcourt left by the departure of the Miller twins. But over the years, the Lady Dawgs have often graduated talented players in bunches, then still managed to land on their feet the following year. There's no reason to expect this year to be any different. Look for the Lady Dawgs to finish in the top 5 of the SEC and to make their habitual trip to NCAA tournament despite their heavy losses to graduation.