November 8, 2012

Dawgs set for opener

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox has never been one to place limits on his Bulldog teams, but there is something about his 2012-2013 squad - which opens its season Friday night against Jacksonville - that he's never been able to say.

"This is first team I've had that I really look forward to coaching every day. I look forward to seeing them every day and I can't say that's always been the case," Fox said Thursday. "That's not a knock on the first couple of teams I've had had here but this is the first one I've really enjoyed being with every day."

It's also the first in another respect.

Currently in his fourth year a Georgia's head basketball coach, this marks the first season that all 13 players on Georgia's roster are ones that Fox actually brought in and recruited.

"We just don't fight selfishness, we don't fight behavior and we don't fight the process," Fox said. "They're fully vested in how we want to function. There's much less push-back from them and they're very interested in each other succeeding. That's really something that excites us."

It's also a more experienced squad.

Although the Bulldogs feature a pair of freshmen playing key roles in guards Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, the return of sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to go along with a more veteran front line has Fox feeling a bit more optimistic in regards to how the Bulldogs will be able to play.

"I think we have a pretty complete roster. We've got some depth, we have athleticism and I think we have guys who are succeeding off the court and are succeeding in the classroom," Fox said. "We have the type of roster that we wanted to put together, one that gives us some versatility in the way we play, really in a couple of different ways if the situation requires that."

Speaking of Caldwell-Pope (13.2 points per game last year), Fox said the preseason All-SEC selection will be asked to step up his game in a number of ways, beginning with Friday night's 7 p.m. tip-off at Stegeman Coliseum.

"He has to be different. He has to be better. He was saddled with too much responsibility as a true freshman. We'd ask him to score, play 30 minutes per night to having to guard some really good players every possession. He was saddled with more responsibility than was probably fair, although he handled it well," Fox explained. "This year he's got to be better. He's got to be a more efficient player and he has to start making the guys next to him better. I think he can become more efficient. Good players make plays and great players make guys next to them better and the challenge for him is to make all his teammates all better. I think he's made progress in all areas."

Fox is also expecting much more from his frontline, an area that gave the Bulldogs very little offensive production a season ago.

"Donte's (Williams) better, Nemi's (Nemanja Djurisic) better, John Florveus is better, John Cannon's better …they're just physically better equip for the game down low in this area," Fox said. "That's due to physical maturity and another year of experience. Last year we had a very young front line, Marcus (Thornton) included. We're just more physically ready to finish plays there. We've got to do it when the lights come on but I think they've all gotten better."

NOTES: Fox said his team will open its season in the best shape it ever has in his four years as coach. … Visiting Jacksonville returns three starters from its 8-22 season a year ago. Friday's game is the first of three for Georgia against teams from the Atlantic Sun. The Bulldogs also host East Tennessee State (Nov. 23) and Mercer (Dec. 18). … The game against Jacksonville will not be televised but can be found on the Georgiadogs GTV web site (subscription required).