The Georgia Bulldogs have long been an enigmatic team in the SEC: you never know what you’re going to get from them on a night-to-night basis. After firing Mark Fox following an 11th-place finish in the SEC in 2018-19, the Bulldogs turned to former Indiana head man Tom Crean, who in his first two seasons finished 13th in the SEC, even with a high level of talent that he was able to recruit in the form of a top-40 recruiting class in 2018 (on a short cycle) and a top-15 class in 2019, which included the crown jewel in five-star and projected top 2020 NBA Draft pick Anthony Edwards. Moving on from Edwards and building on a more successful campaign than his first is what Crean is looking to do and will go a long way to determining whether or not the hire of Crean was really the right move for Georgia AD Greg McGarity to make.
Who’s Back, Who’s Gone?
Looking at this Georgia roster, it’s appropriate to first cover the players that they lost from last season’s roster, and that starts with All-SEC performer G/F Anthony Edwards, who looks to definitely be a top-five NBA Draft choice come November 18th. However, the Bulldogs lost a lot more than Edwards in fellow NBA Draft entrant F Rayshaun Hammonds, who led the Bulldogs in rebounds and was the second-leading scorer behind Edwards, as well as senior contributors G Tyree Crump (6.9 PPG), G Jordan Harris (7.1 PPG) and grad transfer G Donnell Gresham Jr. (5.0 PPG). In addition to those five players, there were also a trio of outgoing transfers in the form of F Amanze Ngumezi (Jacksonville State), F Rodney Howard (Georgia Tech), and F Mike Peake (Austin Peay), who all had limited roles last season. These losses add up to 69.4% of the scoring, 57.3% of the assists, and 73.3% of the rebounding.
On the other side of the coin, the Bulldogs do return two players who started at least 17 games last season in G Sahvir Wheeler (9.0 PPG) and F Toumani Camara (6.6 PPG) who look to take on bigger roles in their sophomore seasons. Junior G Tye Fagan and sophomore F Christian Brown played bench roles last season and former four-star recruit F Jaykwon Walton looks to play more of a role after only appearing in 7 games last season as a freshman.
With the amount of players Georgia lost, it was always inevitable that there would be some new faces in Athens. Those newcomers start with three grad transfers in second-team A-10 performer G Justin Kier (9.6 PPG at George Mason), G Andrew Garcia (13.4 PPG at Stony Brook) and F P.J. Horne (7.6 PPG at Virginia Tech). Top-15 JUCO teammates at Eastern Florida State College G Mikal Starks and F Jonathan Ned and fellow JUCO player F Tyron McMillan provide stability to the rotation, and four-star G K.D. Johnson and three-star F Josh Taylor round out the eight-man recruiting class that Crean brought in, ranking them 32nd in 247’s team rankings. These newcomers will take time to gel together, but these players bring in loads of experience to a team that lost a lot from last season and need more of a stabilizing presence.
G: Sahvir Wheeler
G: Justin Kier
G: Christian Brown
F: P.J. Horne
F: Toumani Camara
Bench: Tye Fagan
Bench: K.D Johnson
Bench: Andrew Garcia
Bench: Jaykwon Walton
Bench: Josh Taylor
Bench: Mikal Starks
Bench: Jonathan Ned
Bench: Tyron McMillan
The Georgia roster has a lot of question marks surrounding the rotation. The starting point guard job seems to be Wheeler’s to lose, but Johnson and Starks could factor into that conversation moving forward. With Brown being a returner on the wing, his role seems to be due to increase, and Kier is the best of the three grad transfers, so they take the two wing roles, with Garcia and Walton factoring into that conversation. Horne is a shorter power forward at only 6’5”, but he plays big and provides some shooting presence, while Camara locks down the middle. Crean played 11 players at least 23 games last season, so it’s likely that most of the team will see some sort of role in the big rotation that Crean could employ.
Looking to the Future
The Bulldogs currently have no commitments for the 2021 class, but they have three spots to play with moving forward. The Bulldogs are big game hunting for this class, as they currently are the leader for five-star F Michael Foster from Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix. They are also in on former Florida State commit and five-star G Bryce McGowens. If the Bulldogs can pull off one of these big-time commitments, there could be a domino effect that sees the Bulldogs return to the top-10 of basketball recruiting rankings.
Life without Anthony Edwards will certainly be a transition that will take time for Tom Crean, and the losses of Hammonds and the three senior guards will not make that transition any smoother. The newcomers that Georgia brought in will help stabilize this transition, but in an improved SEC, the road to greatness never gets easier. It’s hard to envision a non-bottom four finish for the Bulldogs this season, but there is a very real possibility that Wheeler and Camara take a big step forward and the grad transfers exceed expectations to lead Georgia to their first Thursday start at the SEC Tournament since 2016-17.
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