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Georgia head coach Tom Crean yells instructions to his players. The University of Georgia men’s basketball team fell to Ole Miss 70-60 on Jan. 25, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Georgia men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean spoke to the media on Jan. 27 prior to Georgia’s trip to Columbia, Missouri, for a matchup against the Tigers. Here are some takeaways from The Red & Black:

Remembering Kobe Bryant and others that died in the accident

Crean spoke about faith immediately when reflecting upon the tragic loss of former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, as well as his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the seven additional victims of the helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“In this world, we have no security, no eternal security without God,” Crean said. 

He went on to say that it is important to pray over children, teach children to pray and “do everything we can to stay centered in God,” because it is impossible to know when tragedy may strike and lives may be changed or lost forever. He said that doing these things is important every day, but “every once in a while, it really magnifies itself,” as it did on Sunday and in the days following Bryant’s death. 

Crean didn’t know Bryant personally, but he coached former NBA guard Dwyane Wade in college at Marquette, who was close with Bryant. One of Crean’s regrets in his career in basketball is never getting to see Bryant practice or do his own workout. 

Crean and his Bulldogs were together at practice on Sunday when the first reports came out of Bryant’s death. The team had split into two groups during practice; one group found out first and told the second group.

“At the end of the day, nine people lost their lives, and I can’t imagine what their families are going through,” Crean said. “It just ultimately comes back to ‘how do we stay completely secure with our relationship to God?’ to me.”

Looking for second conference win in Columbia

Looking ahead to Georgia’s game against Missouri this evening, the Bulldogs will emphasize rebounding, which has once again been an ongoing theme the entire season. Crean said that Missouri is a highly physical and aggressive team and recalled the Tigers’ physicality in their game last season when the Bulldogs were held to their lowest scoring performance of the season in a 64-39 defeat. 

Crean went on to say that the Bulldogs have to be sure to defend the Tigers’ guards, and “take real responsibility” while guarding their men, as well as maintaining their own offense in the face of aggression. 

“Whether we’re switching into something, whether we’re guarding the post straight up, whether we’re guarding the post in a switch, whatever it is, we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of our job defensively,” Crean said. 

Wheeler nearing full health 

Crean said he hoped that freshman Sahvir Wheeler was almost at 100% after an ankle injury on Jan. 15. Healthy or not, Crean said that Wheeler needs to “push the ball better,” and that the team needs him “flying up the court” to get the ball ahead and attacking when necessary while also knowing when to pull the ball out and let a play develop. 

Wheeler played 31 minutes, 56 seconds on Jan. 25 against Ole Miss and finished with 11 points and two assists.

 

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