When Georgia made the decision to hire Tom Crean as their new head coach in mid-March of last year, there was a newfound exuberance around the program that hadn’t been there in years.
The excitement was well deserved, as Crean’s resume consists of 18 seasons between Marquette University and Indiana University and helping develop players like Dwayne Wade and Victor Oladipo. Additionally, Crean coached his teams to the NCAA tournament nine times with a Final Four appearance in 2003 with Marquette.
Crean’s first season with the Bulldogs didn’t quite live up to the hype. Although he wasn’t expected to completely turn around the program in one year, going 11-21 — the lowest win total for Georgia since the 2004-2005 season — wasn’t encouraging either.
Change is typically a good thing after the season Georgia just had, and the upcoming squad is most certainly going to look a lot different than the previous one. Seven players have departed: four graduating seniors, two transfers and Nicolas Claxton, who was the 31st overall pick in last week's NBA Draft. Claxton is sure to be the hardest to replace, as he was the biggest contributor for Crean, leading the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals.
It’s not all bad news, though. Crean just reeled in the eighth overall recruiting class for 2019 which includes Anthony Edwards, the No. 2 ranked player in the 2019 class and future projected lottery pick. Crean is also bringing in four other top-100 recruits, including small forward Christian Brown from Oak Hill Academy.
Claxton’s move to the NBA makes it clear that this team now falls on the shoulders of Edwards. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard is talented in many aspects of the game, which has brought much hype towards his arrival, and he’ll have to live up to it if Georgia is going to have a successful season. Edwards is an aggressive scorer with an abundance of athleticism and steady finishing at the rim. Couple that with the ability to pull-up from mid-range and beyond the three-point line, and you have possibly one of the biggest recruits in Georgia basketball history.
The biggest beneficiary from the signing of Edwards could be junior forward Rayshaun Hammonds. Edwards has impressive passing skills and vision, which the duo could use to their advantage around the rim. Last season, Hammonds was second on the team with 12.1 points per game and was a solid two-way player before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. If Hammonds can stay healthy, he should have another productive season paired with Edwards.
The biggest question for Georgia is who will emerge down-low to help replace the production Claxton and Derek Ogbeide had last season. If Crean can find a consistent duo around the rim, and if Edwards proves to be worth the hype, it could be an exciting spring in Athens.