Georgia Hoop Dawgs Preview

Dennis Felton

Barney Young Jr. breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the 2003/2004 version of the Georgia basketball Team.

Barney Young Jr. is a regular contributor to the Dawgpost, and you can talk hoops with him and other Georgia fans on The Porch as other Dawgpost Subscribers. We hope you consider Becoming a Member of the Dawgpost.


I remember it like it was yesterday.  Coming off of a road win in the SEC against South Carolina, I was thinking how psyched up I was for the NCAA's and SEC.  "Wow, we know how to win the close games and we know how to win when we play bad!" was the thought that was meandering through my head.  The next day, I get a call at 3:00 saying that we were pulling out of the NCAA's and the SEC tournament.  Now I must admit, I researched every little snippet of the Cole accusations and the only thing that worried me was Harrick Jr. putting his name on the Money Order.  Then it turns out that they pulled the team because Jr. told the players that practice could count as class time.  Academic fraud in a basketball class regarding basketball players?  Hmm…. 

But that is water on the bridge.   We were on the verge of greatness and now we have to start all over.  The best thing to do is to make the best out of it.  So here goes…. 

IT'S THE START OF THE DENNIS FELTON ERA!!!!!

Let's roll and get behind the 2003-2004 Hoop Dawgs.

Ok, where do we start?  Let's take a look at the new coaching staff:

New Coach:  Dennis Felton


Dennis Felton

At Western Kentucky Felton was very successful.  Last year was the most impressive job he did when he lost his star player and still won the Sun Belt conference championship.  His style is a stark contrast from Harrick.  His focus is defense, defense, defense, and more defense.  All of the "tough" talk is common talk amongst college coaches.   Every coach in America says the same things:

"I want your child to graduate, and if he comes here I will see to it."
"I want your child to grow as a person as well as a basketball player."
"We are laying the groundwork to win championships."
Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

That is the corporate line that all coaches give to recruits and their parents.  Felton is no different.  The bottom line on him is where will the team be four years from now?  Will Georgia be an SEC championship contender?   Or, will Georgia be a middle of the road SEC contender?  Felton has a very hard job ahead of him, because there are a million things working against him at Georgia.  Georgia is arguably one of the hardest places in the SEC to win in basketball.  Good Luck Coach Felton!  You are going to need it.

Felton brings with him a totally different philosophy on offense and defense.

On defense:

He said that his goal is to make teams hate to have to play us.  He preaches a very aggressive style on defense.  He likes to man up at the time line and trap when the ball goes on the wing.   This is similar to what Kentucky did last year, but Kentucky didn't focus on the wing as much as we will.  Our serious lack of depth this year will not let Felton play the style that he wants to play.

On offense:

Felton brings with him the High-Low post defense.  The High-Low Post (HLP) offense is two post players and three wing players.  In a nutshell, this offense relies on offensive spacing and awareness.  As with a motion offense, when there is a pass, there must be movement.  The more movement there is, the harder it is to defend because it is easier to guard a man standing still than a man who is moving around.  This offense is most effective when there is a post player who is a back to the basket threat.   The only player that fits that mold that Georgia has had in the program in the last 5 years is Anthony Evans.  This should be a major priority in recruiting this year. 

Now let's take a look at the returning players:

PG – Rashad Wright  
7.8  pts/game   5.52 assists/game  2.98 assist/turnover ratio

Rashad Wright is arguably the best point guard to ever wear a Georgia Jersey.  That is a very strong statement to put him above Vern Fleming and Littereal Green, but I believe it to be the case.  Had last season been played in its entirety


Rashad Wright

 he had a chance to beat Pertha Robinson's single season assist record of 169.  Rashad was 20 away from that last year.  This year he needs only 62 assists to become Georgia's all time leader.  Rashad has been Georgia's rock the past three years.  His assist to turnover ratio for his career is 2.21, and he very rarely makes mistakes.  He does what a point guard is supposed to do; he sets up the offense and makes sure that it runs.  The kid is a ball player.  Look for him to take more shots this year, because there aren't a lot of other players currently on the team who have the ability to do that successfully.  Coach Harrick just recently compared him to Eric Snow of the Philadelphia 76'ers.  Snow's numbers in college they are very similar to Wright's.

Strengths:

  • Rashad's basketball IQ is very high.  He is very knowledgeable of the game and how to play the point guard position.  He will be a very good coach when his playing days are over. 
  • Rashad plays good on the ball defense, and he always keeps himself in good basketball position to play defense.
  • Rashad is a VERY reliable ball handler. 

Weaknesses:

  • Rashad has to learn a whole new system this year, and that has the potential to cut into his effectiveness.
  • Rashad isn't a consistent outside shooter.  He is the consummate pass first player, but there were some games last year where he aggressively looked for his shot.  It is important to this team that he takes some of those shots that he would have passed up in the past.  Rashad is going to have to change his game because with the new offense the ball won't be in his hands as much as it was in the High Post.  Let's hope that Rashad lets the game come to him and he doesn't begin to press.

Season Outlook:

Rashad's season will hinge on how effectively he can pick up the new offense.  The potential exists that the change will hurt his productivity.  Why?  Because not only has Rashad been a successful point guard in the past, he has himself in a comfort zone.  No matter what people may claim, it isn't as easy as it seems to break the comfort zone that a player has found himself in.  I think that Rashad will be able to adapt with flying colors.  Even though he isn't a consistent outside shooter, he is probably the best that Georgia has, so the Bulldogs will need his outside shot.   Look for him to become the reliable outside shooter that this team desperately needs.

WING – Damien Wilkins 7.5 pts/game  2.9 rebounds/game  
Damien is the best bet that Georgia has for a consistent scoring threat.  Damien has all of the tools required to score 18+ points a game this season.  Now he will be given his chance.  Let's see what he makes of it.  In the High Low post offense, Damien will get a lot of one on one opportunities, and he will have the ball in his hands a lot more than he would have in the High Post offense.   Damien is also Georgia's best defensive player, and the best on the team at creating his own shot.  He also knows that this is his last chance to showcase his skills and prove his worth, so we will definitely get to see what he is made of.

Strengths:

  • Athleticism.  Damien is really good at penetrating off the dribble and creating his own shot.   He will get ample opportunity this season because he is Georgia's only player that can create his own shot with consistency.
  • Defense.  Damien is Georgia's best on the ball defender.  He also has the quickness and size to give smaller players fits.

Weaknesses:

  • Outside shot.  There was more than one occasion last year when Damien would shoot a three and it wouldn't even hit the rim.  He must develop some consistency in this area.

Season Outlook:
This is the year of Damien Wilkins.  Look for him to lead the team in Scoring and maybe even rebounding.  This offense is made for him because it gives him a lot of dribble penetration opportunities.  Creating off the dribble is the strength of his offensive game.

POST – Jonas Hayes 6.7 pts/game  4.4 rebounds/game  
So far in his career at Georgia, Jonas has been a role player in the post.  This year he will be asked to take on a much bigger role.  With the new offense, he will not see his baseline jumper as much as he saw in the past, but he is a player that is experienced and won't make a lot of mistakes.  To top it off, Jonas is one of the best kids that you will meet.  Nobody ever affiliated with Jonas has anything bad to say about him.

Strengths:

  • Jonas is very good at getting position in the blocks.   This makes him an effective rebounder

Weaknesses:

  • Jonas gives away a bunch of height when he plays the SEC's taller players.

Season Outlook:
Jonas will be counted on to play a major role this season.  He is sidelined for a couple of more weeks with an ankle injury.  Jonas should play a lot of minutes this season.  Georgia will need him to play one of the post positions in the HLP offense. That will be a new role for him.

POST – Chris Daniels 9.8 pts/game  7.1 rebounds/game   3 assists/game


Chris Daniels

What do you need?  A point, CD can give you that.  A rebound?  No problem.  An assist, steal, or block?  Chris Daniels can do that too.  He is Georgia's best all around player.  Chris Daniels is a natural small forward, and he possesses the size of a NBA combo guard which is 6-7 220.  He is at a point of his development that those who don't follow the team closely consider him an exclusive post player.  To help out the team, he has been a post player for Georgia, and a very good one.  Chris has been undersized his whole career, and he has answered every challenge thrown at him.  In the new offense, he won't get many scoring opportunities, but Georgia will need him on the boards and on the defensive side of the court.

  Strengths:

  • Chris is a very good all-around player.  He led Georgia in steals and blocked shots.  He was third in assists, and second in rebounds.
  • He is very good on the offensive boards.  He also is very good at drawing fouls.   He went to the Free Throw line more than any other Dawg.

Weaknesses:

  • Because he is undersized in the post he gives up a lot of fouls.  Daniels fouled out 5 times last year and 7 times the year before.  This is mainly because he is undersized, and Georgia doesn't have any depth down low.   It would have been nice to play defense like Kentucky did, but we didn't have the personnel to do it in the post.

Season Outlook

Like the other three seniors, Chris Daniels is very important to this team. There were times where he was passive because he was in foul trouble and couldn't afford another foul. Florida in 2001 is a prime example of this. Look for him to duplicate his numbers from the past three years. 

Newcomers:  Newman, Stukes, Sikes, Gibbs, Wehunt, Wolek, Waldroup

I don't comment about players that I haven't seen play, so I can't say much about the freshman.  Here is the little I know about each

Steve Newman:  Looked serviceable in the exhibition games.   Flops a lot, and it will be hard to get those calls in the SEC.  Has a very slow release on his shot that needs to be worked on.

Levi Stukes:  Isn't afraid to shoot the ball.  Needs to learn to move his feet better on defense, and play team defense better.  This means talking on switches and rotating on traps.

Marcus Sikes:  Never seen before.

Corey Gibbs:  Will be a warrior and future all-SEC team member.

Buzz Wehunt:  Plays like his brother.  Can shoot the lights out and struggles on defense.

Steve Wolek:  Only saw for a couple of minutes.  Can't really tell much about him.

Joey Waldroup:  Needs to get in better shape. He is a bit soft around the middle and weak in the upper body. Once he gets in proper condition and adds more muscle, we can talk about him contributing.

Let's now look at the Team Strengths and Weaknesses for Georgia:

Strengths

Senior Leadership:

Georgia has 4 seniors who have been through the wars of the SEC.  They know how to win the big games, take the big shots, and shut down the big players.  These seniors have been to war, and that fact should help out the newcomers.

Rashad Wright:

He gives Georgia the best point guard in the SEC.

Weaknesses

Size and depth down low:

To put it bluntly………Georgia doesn't have any.  Jonas and Daniels are warriors, but after them Georgia will be relying on freshmen and walk-ons.  Look for teams to consistently go down low on Georgia and get them in foul trouble.  Georgia must stay out of foul trouble to have a chance.  Corey Gibbs is about four weeks away from practicing, so he should be ready for the SEC. 

SEC Experience:

The only members of the entire UGA Basketball program that have experience in the SEC are the four seniors.   Naturally, one would expect a rough first couple of years while the new staff gets acclimated to what it takes to win in the SEC.  The SEC hasn't played that well in the postseason, but that doesn't take away from the fact that a team can get beat on any given night in the league.  The seniors know what it takes to win in the SEC.  It is up to them to teach the younger guys.   We aren't talking about next year, but next year Georgia will be even more inexperienced than they are now, and that isn't a good thing.

Outside Shooting:

I am going to be blunt again……..Georgia doesn't have any.  There isn't one player on this roster that has proved that he can consistently hit a shot from 15 feet and out game to game.  This is where Rashad is going to have to step up.

Here are the prospects on this season:

Georgia Will Win

9 – 12 games if:  The seniors don't mesh with the newcomers or Georgia gets a major injury to Rashad Wright, Chris Daniels, or Damien Wilkins. This can also happen if Georgia doesn't find someone that is able to hit an outside shot with consistency. Percent chance of happening:  19%

13 – 16 games if:  Damien Wilkins averages 20 points a game, Rashad gives Georgia 12 points and 8 assists, and one of the newcomers averages double digits. Percent chance of happening:  49 %

17 – 19 games if:  Damien Wilkins averages 20 points a game, Rashad gives Georgia 12 points and 8 assists, and one of the newcomers averages double digits.. Percent chance of happening:  26%

20-22 games if:  Damien (24+ ppg), Rashad (19 ppg), and Chris Daniels (15 ppg/9 rpg) are all first and second team all-SEC performers and one of the newcomers is SEC freshman of the year. Georgia will also need to get 8 points and 8 boards from Jonas. This will take a heck of a coaching job.. Percent chance of happening:  5.9%

23+ games if: Well Moses parted the Red Sea so miracles are possible. Percent chance of happening: .1%

There you have it.

Barney Young Jr. is a regular contributor to the Dawgpost, and you can talk hoops with him and other Georgia fans on The Porch as other Dawgpost Subscribers. We hope you consider Becoming a Member of the Dawgpost.

  

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