November 3, 2011

Will youth be served?

Georgia coach Mark Fox said he'll be paying close attention to a number of different aspects regarding his young Bulldog squad during Friday night's exhibition game against Morehouse College.

Topping that list will be the performance of what just might be the youngest front court in the entire SEC, one which Bulldog fans can see for themselves as action tips off at 7 in Stegeman Coliseum. Admission is free.

Three true freshmen - Nemanja Djurisic, John Cannon and Tim Dixon help make up that group, while another, JUCO transfer John Florveus, will be getting his first taste of major college basketball.

Two others - Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams - are sophomores with senior Connor Nolte back but only having played a limited role before.

"They all have different traits that you like. Nemi's (Djurisic) has some days when his skill just jumps out at you, and John Florveus' athleticism has jumped out at us, Tim's ability to finish plays with his skill level, John Cannon's physicality … they've all done something that we like, but none of them are complete yet," Fox said. "They have so much to learn and experience as they start to get their feet wet."

Thornton has liked what he's seen as well.

"It's a collectively good group, because we're young down there. We're pretty much all freshmen, a few sophomores, but overall we're doing well," Thornton said. "People want to learn. They want to be able to contribute and they want to play team basketball."

They're also healthy.

Except for some typical bumps and bruises, Georgia will go into its season a lot healthier than they did last year when Trey Thompkins' ankle injury during a Halloween workout forced Fox to completely alter his early-season plans.

"A year ago we had to completely re-invent our team, change our rotations, things we had worked our entire offseason for at the start of the year, then change it all on the fly back to the original plan," Fox said. "Fortunately everybody is healthy so you kind of know what we're trying to do, we just have such a vast amount of inexperience."

Friday's game will also obviously mark the Stegeman Coliseum debut of heralded freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The 6-foot-5 guard and McDonald's All-American is being counted on to pick up the offensive slack for the Bulldogs with Thompkins and Travis Leslie no longer on the team, but Fox said he's going to be patient with the rookie, who has impressive all throughout preseason camp.

"I don't know if he will start, I think we want him to be intelligently aggressive offensively. He's been very coachable," Fox said. "It shouldn't surprise me because he is such a great kid, but for somebody of his caliber he's been unbelievably coachable, which I think is going to help him get up to speed quick."

Speaking of speed, Fox said look for his Bulldogs to try and force the tempo more than they did a season ago.

"We'll try to play a little quicker," Fox said. "This team is more mobile and we need to take advantage of that, but at the same time we can only play as fast as we can play well and we're going to need to make good decisions."

That's where Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson Jr. come in.

Whatever success Georgia has in pushing the action with such a young team will largely depend on how consistent and turnover-free the two senior guards can be.

"That's the point, we do have veteran guards," Fox said. "Dustin's assist-to-turnover ratio was terrific last year and our experience in the backcourt is one thing we hopefully do have, and we'll need those guys to be better than they were a year ago because we don't have experience anywhere else."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]