MBB: Hoop Dawgs prepare for season opener against FIU
Athens, Ga. — As Georgia prepares for its 2021-22 slate, there are more than a few new players on this season’s roster.
The Bulldogs have 10 new faces after a mass exodus of veterans left in the off-season.
Georgia head coach Tom Crean has done his best to help the team mesh before its season opener on Tuesday night against FIU.
“I think it’s a daily process,” Crean said on Monday. “I think that is the most important thing. Go in with a plan each day. Be ready to adjust the plan. Try to learn each other the best you can as coaches, but the best thing is for them to learn each other as players. That’s where the chemistry gets built.”
Crean pointed out that every player has done a great job of adjusting to the new norm of “togetherness.”
“Being in here when they don’t have to be in here,” he added. “Now, it is just a matter of building that level of playing together over some time. Hopefully, those kinds of things mesh for us.”
Georgia’s 2021 recruiting haul includes a trio of freshmen, five transfers and two graduate transfers. The Bulldogs only return five players from last season’s roster.
Crean said that he did the best he could in terms of filling roster spots
“I think a great example is I think it’s all about how it fits,” Crean said. “You have to do the best job you can. Now there were available point guards. We knew even if Sahvir (Wheeler) was back, and when the season ended we fully expected him to be, that we were going to take another point guard.”
The fourth-year head coach also acknowledged that he hopes this year’s group is better at the fundamentals of the game.
“We weren’t just going to play the way we played last year and have those kinds of turnovers,” Crean said “We’re going to have to be a better shooting team.”
The Bulldogs shot 45 percent from the field last season. Meanwhile, they managed to post a 35 percent shooting mark from the 3-point line, which was one of the worst in the SEC
Crean said that having a sharpshooter like Aaron Cook helps in that scenario
“We did miss out on a couple of guys, one that I felt we would have gotten, who is going to be a starter in a power (five) conference league right now, but at the end of the day we end up with Aaron [Cook],” he added. “We’ve been extremely happy and fortunate to have him. Recruiting never really stops and it never really stopped during the portal. It’s just part of it. You just have to continue to move forward.”
Cook, who has played previously at Gonzaga and Southern Illinois University, totaled 133 career games played and has racked up 974 points over the last couple of seasons.
Crean wants this new breed of Bulldogs to be more than one-dimensional.
“You have got to get talent,” he said. “You have to get people who can be multidimensional. The maturity aspect of the team is such a huge deal. We have a pretty good blend of old and younger. You have to keep making sure that you are looking at that and just navigate the waters as they come.”
Crean desires an NCAA Tournament berth bid this season and thinks this squad can help him accomplish that goal.
“That’s exactly what this offseason was like and I’m extremely proud of the way these guys have come into Georgia,” Crean said. “They have come in excited to be at Georgia and they have come in really working hard for Georgia.”
Another huge addition for Georgia is graduate transfer Jailyn Ingram, a native of the Greater-Athens area. He’s amassed more than 1,000 points throughout the past five years at Florida Atlantic University.
Ingram described Crean as a coach who wants the most out of his players.
“He wants guys to come in and put in a lot of work, develop their game to the best of their ability, and just let everyone play free and fast,” Ingram said. “I'm speaking for myself, but I'm sure I can speak for everyone else on the team as well, Coach Crean wants to play fast, shoot a lot of threes, get a lot of lay-ups, and I'm sure that is something that everyone wants to do.”
Ingram has faced FIU a few times, so he expects the Panthers to come out firing on all cylinders.
"They are a big run and jump team,” he said. “They try to take advantage of that, speed teams up to turn them over. They also like to play fast on offense. They have a fast pace. They like to shoot a lot of threes, get up and down the court, similar to how we play here at UGA, so it's going to be an exciting game."
Georgia and FIU will top-off at 7:00 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum.