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March 25, 2008

Felton Looks Towards Next Year

A few days ago, the Athens Banner-Herald went one on one with Dennis Felton to discuss his thoughts on the 2008-2009 Georgia Bulldog basketball team. Felton is clearly optimistic about the future -- as he should be.

To me, the entire issue facing Georgia Basketball boils down to this question:
Can we capitalize on the SEC Tournament Championship to build a foundation for long term success? Or will this be the basketball version of Georgia's 1990 National Championship in Baseball?
The '90 Baseball Title was a wildly unexpected event that Coach Steve Webber could never come close to replicating. Will we go the Steve Webber route, or the Mark Richt 2002 route where we leverage a defining championship moment to "blow the lid off the program."

There are plenty of other examples of programs and coaches not building on their "One Shining Moment." Consider these two coaching one hit wonders:
  • Paul Hewitt's 2004 GT Squad -- The Yellow Jackets have been unable to capitalize on their '04 NCAA Finals appearance. Hewitt has gone 66-58 overall (27-37 in ACC play) with two losing seasons and two NCAA Tourney appearances in the four seasons following his one great season with the Nats. Overall, he is 114-102 in the seven years not involving the big '04 run.

  • Mike Davis' 2002 Indiana Hoosiers -- Obviously, the Hoosiers aren't a one hit wonder, but is Mike Davis? In the six years following the Hoosier's NCAA Finals appearance, Davis has gone 107-80 with only 2 NCAA tournament trips at IU and UAB. He was completely unable to capitalize on his success at IU following his big run in Year 2.
Going Forward:
Felton's success going forward depends on shoring up the structural problems with the program around the talent gaps, player attrition and offensive scheme. I'm more optimistic about addressing the talent and attrition issue than the scheme problems.
  • Talent Gap (Slashers): The program desperately needs a slashing wing player who can attack the basket. Mike Mercer filled this role nicely for Felton last year, and Sundiata Gaines was aggressive from the PG position as well. Woodbury can do this a little, but it's not the strongest part of his game. UPDATE: reports that Travis Leslie has committed to enroll for the 2008-2009 season. He might be exactly the type of player we need here. (Leslie = 3 stars via / 4 stars via

  • Talent Gap (Bombers): The offense needs two consistent long range bombers. Woodbury and Humphrey are both very streaky and both seniors. With the three point line moving back a little next season, we're going to need more bombers in the pipeline. Felton feels like Troy Brewer can put on the muscle to become that type of player. I hope he's right, but I'm skeptical. Regardless, I think the program desperately needs more point marksman to make this offense go. Particularly after Woody and Billy leave.

  • Player Attrition: Felton has yet to make it through a complete season / off season without losing a key player. He feels that he's getting a better quality person and player into the system now, and attrition should go down. I agree with him. That said, the best way to keep players in line is to win! When players see the fruits of coach's hard ass approach, they are much more willing to listen to him and fall in line. The SEC tournament will hopefully go a long way in helping convince the existing players and potential recruits that Felton's approach will / can work.

  • Offensive Scheme: I still think this is a train wreck. The nine minute second half scoring drought against Xavier in which we only made one field goal did little to eliminate my five year old concerns in this area. I don't expect the scheme to fundamentally change any time soon. However, better players make even the worst schemes look better. Winning brings in better evidenced by Travis Leslie committing this year.
If Felton addresses the talent gaps and stabilizes the attrition issue, the scheme will become less of a problem. If those three things are addressed, then this tourney title can become a solid foundation for long term success, and not a house of cards.

The potential is there.



UGARef said...

I agree whole heartedly with your assessment. The main problem with our offensive scheme is that when we need buckets coming down the stretch, there is no way to get easy open looks. When we stand around looking at each other until 5 seconds left in the shot clock, it is tough to keep depending on tough fade away shots to produce offense.

stick jackson said...

Agree, Paul. The often frustrating "two steps forward, one step back" approach to climbing out of our hole was one thing, but the three steps back that followed the departures of Mercer and Brown were more than many could take, and not easy on anyone in year five.

The five steps forward that the SEC title represents changes the whole dynamic, for the next couple of years, at least. If DF can stop the attrition of valuable players and continue to improve recruiting, then I think he'll be OK.

On that note, the addition of the slasher and dunker Leslie and talk of a possible pick-up of a shooter (Anyaorah) may be more progress.

It won't always be pretty, but with the right players steals, threes and rebounding will get the job done most nights.

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