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November 26, 2008

Hoop Dawgs throw Mississippi Valley State a Beating

Last night, I was in Athens to catch the basketball game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. It was the fourth and final game of the Preseason NIT.

I was beyond pleasantly surprised by the 98-57 victory. Yes. It was an HBCU bottom feeder that had around nine new players from last year's squad. Yes. Their center was under 6'5". And yes. They are terrible.

But Georgia looked good. They looked the kind of good that Georgia Basketball generally hasn't looked when shooting in an empty gym...much less against live tissue. Out rebounding the other guy 50-21, and shooting 72% from the field in the second half has a way of leaving you a little warmer and fuzzier than normal.

Here are some observations regarding the freshmen:
  • Trey Thompkins - Felton's best recruit most certainly lives up to the 5 star billing. We haven't had a 6'9" player with the hands, body control, foot work and basketball instincts like this in a long, long time. For fans my age, imagine a black Alec Kessler that was blessed with broader shoulders and much more natural athletic ability right out of high school. His stat line from the night was 21 minutes, 23 points, 8-9 shooting, 6-7 on free throws, 7 rebounds and one turnover. He showed nice touch from outside and around the hoop. He is still not 100% healthy, and he's most certainly not in shape yet (recovering from dual ankle injuries makes conditioning dicey). If he can work himself into shape, he'll be a legitimate candidate for SEC Rookie of the Year and 2nd Team All-SEC Honors. He's a 4 for us, and he'll be starting soon.

  • Drazen Zlorvaric - The Serbian Diversion* looked unexpectedly impressive. He shot 7-8 from the field including 2 of 3 from beyond the three point line. He actually had four more threes that were taken from the "women's line." They moved the NCAA line back 12", and his first 4 makes were between the two stripes. He also had a nice finish inside, and he plays with great passion on offense. Drazen's game also includes a pretty solid handle for a 6'9" guy. My smart ass comment about his ball skills during the game, "He has the ball handling ability that Terrence Woodbury thinks that Woodbury has." He's not a 2 guard because he lacks that type of quickness, and he's still extremely raw defensively. But the kid has upside. He's the kind of kid that will look great one night, and awful the next until he figures things out. He's not Dirk Nowitzki or Tony Kukoc, but he does have the classic Euro big man game. Long, lean, good offensive fundamentals and soft. He's going to play the 3 for us.

  • Travis Leslie - He has all the physical tools you want in a small wing player. For comparison sake, he's a thicker and more complete version of Mike Mercer without the baggage. He also has a much more polished shot than the train wreck jumper that Mercer brought to Athens. However, Leslie doesn't yet play with the defensive intensity that Mercer played with. He can do things around the rim and in transition that guys like Mercer and Shandon Anderson might have done in Athens. Offensively, he's raw and defensively the consistency isn't there yet. Big upside.

  • Dustin Ware - Ware is probably closer to 5'8" than 5'11", but he's cat quick. His stat line was 16 minutes, 6 assists, 4 points and only 2 turnovers. Depending on how his offense evolves, I think he'll probably push Zac Swansey out of the point guard position next year. I imagine this year will be a huge learning experience for him.
All four of these kids have solid upside potential with Thompkins having elite All-SEC potential once he gets in shape and develops his body. Speaking of developing bodies...the UGA Strength Coach for Hoops really doesn't get enough credit. The work he's done with Albert Jackson, Corey Butler, Jeremy Price, etc is impressive. Jackson has the body of a grown ass intimidator. Unfortunately, he hasn't totally figured out how to use it or what his thumbs are for, but he's got the body that suggests Trey Thompkins' physical future is in great shape.

The problem with this roster and the future rosters is the complete lack of a shooting guard. In six seasons, Felton has signed only two SEC caliber "makers" at the two guard spot who could also play SEC caliber defense -- Billy Humphrey and Levi Stukes. The recruiting at that spot has got to improve. For the past 6 seasons, many long time hoops fans like me have said..."We need a Katu Davis type juco shooting guard to transform this lineup." I still feel that way. I'll probably feel that way next year to based on how recruiting is going for 2009 enrollments.

As for last night, we beat Mississippi Valley State. It's not exactly the Invasion of Normandy in terms of great all-time conquests. But, we looked promising, and the hoops fan base needed some kind of hope. I still have pretty low expectations for the season, but it's nice to know that there's raw material to work with from this recruiting class.

The next three games are:
    at Western Kentucky 12/2
    at Illinois (Chicago Neutral Court) 12/6
    vs Virginia Tech (home) - 12/9
We'll know more about what we have after those three games. Win two of those, and we can write off much of what happened vs. Loyola-Chicago to Trey Thompkins not playing. Go winless, and we'll have some visibility into the length of the season.

See Also:
-- Dawgs hammer Delta Devils - ABH
-- Good, better, excellent - Daugman


*I'm working on nicknames. Feel free to suggest them.


Anonymous said...

Thompkins was not a 5 star recruit. He is the man though

Anonymous said...

I nominate "Chili Cheese Slav Dawg" for Drazen. The man was fired up after hitting those first two last-year threes.
I also felt better about how close Santa Clara played us seeing Arizona really struggle with the Broncos.
I also thought that the Dawgs played very well defensively against Santa Clara.

Anonymous said...

Thanks PWD - I don't get to Athens as much as I'd like for hoops, so I depend on places like your blog for good info.

From memory - wasn't Stukes a Jim Harrick recruit? I could be very wrong about that...

Anonymous said...

Stukes wasn't a Harrick recruit. Stukes was a Felton recruit, he got him late.

Anonymous said...

The only HS recruits of Harrick's that lasted for more than 18 months were:

R. Wright
C. Daniels
S. Thomas

Ezra was signed by Jirsa. Damien, Jonas and Jarvis were transfers in.

Anonymous said...

The Serbia Disturbia

Anonymous said...

The Smooth Danube

Anonymous said...

Is this a new strength coach? Every returning does look noticeably different!

Anonymous said...

I saw Albert Jackson play at Oak Hill in his senior year of high school and he darn near had an "NBA body" then. The only real body "transformation" has been Jeremy Price. He needed it - a lot of baby fat and a large rear end last year, but it seems he's still trying to adjust to his new body at this point. We need him to go to work down low if we're going to be successful this year.

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