New head coach Mark Fox was hired in April, and since then it has been a whirlwind of excitement and a healthy dose of renewed enthusiasm for the Bulldogs beleaguered basketball program. Georgia finally gets to show off its new look tonight at Stegeman Coliseum when it hosts North Georgia in the team’s first exhibition game with its new coach.
“It was a lot of question marks when a coach gets fired, and nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” point guard Dustin Ware said. “But since his first speech, I’ve just been truly excited to start working and start playing for him.”
Georgia struggled through the final days of Dennis Felton’s administration last season, suffered through an 11-game winning streak and slumped to the finish line under interim coach Pete Herrmann with a 12-20 record. It was a low point.
But Fox’s hire brought a clean slate, and the new-look Bulldogs are excited to get the season under way.
“We’ve been working really hard in practice and we’re all real excited to get out there in the games and start competing,” Ware said.
Tonight’s game won’t count in the standings, but it means a lot in terms of evaluating the players and getting a feel for how Fox’s system will work.
Ware and forward Trey Thompkins both return from last year’s team, but veterans Terrence Woodbury and Corey Butler are both gone, meaning the pressure will be greater on Georgia’s returning youngsters.
Fox said Thompkins will have to shoulder a larger load in scoring and Ware will need to take increased ownership of the offense, while many of the other roles on the team remain up for grabs.
But while tonight’s contest may provide some answers, Fox is quick to caution that success won’t be completely measured by what the scoreboard or the stat sheet says.
“It’s important that we find success, but we have to be careful how we define it,” he said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think we can just define it with wins and losses. We are young, we are rebuilding. I think we have to look at certain milestones of improvement along the way.”
That doesn’t mean he’s not hoping the Bulldogs can pull a few more wins out of this year’s team than they did a year ago, and even if it doesn’t count in the final standings, that task begins tonight.
“The bottom line is that we keep score to find a winner and it’s important we win some of those games,” Fox said. “It’s not keeping confidence – we’ve got to build some, because I don’t know if this group really had a lot when I came in.”