Yes, the Bulldogs won the SEC tournament last season, but he wasn’t expecting to change the minds of all the preseason prognosticators in one weekend. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s letting the predictions of a last-place finish in the SEC East get to him.
“They can say what they want, but we got a championship out of it, so it doesn’t matter to me,” said Woodbury, the 6-foot-7 senior who started all 34 games last season.
It doesn’t mean he isn’t out to prove the doubters wrong, either.
Woodbury knows that carrying over the momentum of last year’s strong finish won’t be easy – particularly without departed starters Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss.
“I’m sure everybody’s going to doubt us, but we’ve got a bunch of newcomers coming in, and I feel like we’ve just got to go out there and play our hardest,” Woodbury said.
The task hasn’t been made any easier for the Bulldogs this preseason, as the team has muddled its way through a litany of injuries.
Woodbury has battled an ongoing ankle injury, while junior Albert Jackson sprained two ligaments in his ankle and freshman Trey Thompkins, who was being counted on to fill part of the void left by Gaines and Bliss, has dealt with a string of injuries since signing with the Bulldogs.
With so many key players struggling to stay on the court, it hasn’t been easy for the Bulldogs to iron out a lot of preseason issues, but Jackson said he doesn’t think there will be any lingering problems once everyone is ready to get back into the lineup.
“All the guys have been working really hard, staying after practice to work on defense, watching extra film and things,” Jackson said. “I think guys are preparing themselves while they’re hurt, and when you’re a talented player, you can just slide right back into things.”
Jackson and Woodbury should be back in action when Georgia tips off its season tonight against South Carolina-Upstate, which finished last season with a 7-23 record in their first year playing in Division I, at 7:30 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. Woodbury practiced fully this week, while Jackson said he plans to play despite his ankle not being 100 percent.
“I’m just a little bit sore, but feeling pretty good overall,” Jackson said. “I’m feeling about as good as I can right now.”
Thompkins will not play, head coach Dennis Felton said, but is working his way back into playing shape. He had been wearing a boot to protect his injured ankle, but Felton said he began working without it Monday.
The challenge SC-Upstate presents doesn’t figure to match that of a tough non-conference schedule that has Georgia playing Illinois, Virginia Tech, Missouri and Georgia Tech in addition to two tournaments, but Felton said the Spartans will test the Bulldogs’ fundamentals.
“They do what they do very, very well,” Felton said. “They run an offense that’s sort of intricate, based on reads and reactions to the pressure defense, loaded with back cuts and things like that. They’ll shoot the ball and spread the floor. They present a good challenge for us in this first game.”
Just as important for the Bulldogs, however, will be taking that first step toward another conference crown.
Between attrition and injuries, there are still a lot more questions than Felton might like at this point in the season, but as guard Zac Swansey said, there are at least a number of good options for solutions.
“We’ve gone through a few lineups,” Swansey said. “There’s a lot of ways that Coach Felton can do it, and what he decides to do is up to him. I guess we’ll see come game time.”