Georgia head coach Tom Crean discusses penalties with freshman Anthony Edwards (5) after he comes off of the court. The University of Georgia men’s basketball team opened its regular season with a win by 91-72 against Western Carolina University on Nov. 5, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Georgia men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean spoke to the media on Friday after Anthony Edwards’ announcement to enter the 2020 NBA draft following his freshman season. Here are some takeaways from The Red & Black:

Anthony Edwards’ growth since arriving in Athens

Much can be said about Edwards’ first and only year at Georgia. It abruptly ended with the Bulldogs’ 81-63 victory over Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC tournament amid the national concern for COVID-19. He also added an SEC Freshman of the Year and AP SEC Newcomer of the Year award.

However, Crean believes that there is still so much in his game that has yet to be untapped. Edwards is only 18 years old.

“He’s one of the most improved [players] from the beginning of June to end of season that I’ve been around in all my years of coaching,” Crean said. “His desire to improve [and] his desire to work was incredible. … He’s been one of the greatest teammates that I’ve ever been around.”

Edwards finished third in the SEC in scoring with 19.1 points per game. He also led the Bulldogs with 43 total steals and 33 minutes per game. His explosive scoring ability was displayed multiple times throughout the 2019-20 season, most notably from his 33 points in the second half against Michigan State on Nov. 26.

Where Edwards needs to further improve

Edwards is labeled by many NBA scouting experts as the most natural scorer in this year’s draft class. Despite leading the Bulldogs with 72 makes from behind the arc, he finished with a mediocre 3-point percentage of 29.4%.

Crean understands that the 3-point line is a necessity if Edwards will ever become a true threat from everywhere on the court at the next level. Crean believes that Edwards’ struggles, for the most part, are because of a lack of trust from deep.

“He obviously can be a tremendous drive player and he’s gonna get even better with the ball screens, but I think what he’s got to do is trust the catch-and-shoot shot,” Crean said.

Edwards’ 3-point struggles heavily lowered his field-goal percentage, as he finished at 40.2% for the year. He also saw his fair share of inconsistencies from the free-throw line, finishing at 77.2%.

The chance of Edwards returning

Edwards’ decision to forgo his sophomore season at Georgia came as no surprise. He was projected at or near the top of the draft for the duration of the 2019-20 season and entered Georgia as the No. 2 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite.

Crean was transparent about Edwards’ thought process regarding arguably the biggest decision of his life to this point.

“It was a pretty easy decision,” Crean said. “This is not a situation where you ask ‘Is there a decision to make? Is there not? Should he go? Should he not go?’ It’s a different deal. He’s pretty much assured that he’s going to be [chosen] very, very high in the draft, if not the highest.”

One of Crean’s requests for whichever team selects Edwards in the upcoming draft is clear. If the team wishes to help Edwards become the most successful he can be, it must be one that’s relationship-based.

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