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Georgia freshman Sahvir Wheeler (15) jumps to make a shot. 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)

Freshman guard Sahvir Wheeler was the shortest player on the court in Georgia’s season opener against Western Carolina. At 5-foot-10, that could be a common occurrence throughout the 2019-20 season.

Wheeler’s play style contradicts his smaller stature. Instead of standing behind the 3-point line and getting his points from the outside, he prefers to drive to the basket — even if a center stands between him and two points.

“I tell people everyday ‘Listen, y’all are going to have a problem guarding No. 15,’” Anthony Edwards said after the 91-72 victory over Western Carolina. “I feel like Sahvir thinks he’s 6'4" the way he attacks the rim. Him just having confidence in himself, that’s what really matters.”

Wheeler’s confidence was evident against the Catamounts. He finished with 19 points, the second most on the team behind Edwards, and added three assists, three rebounds and a couple of spinning baskets in transition.

But the Bulldogs almost missed out on Wheeler’s talents. Originally, the Houston native was committed to Texas A&M. When head coach Bill Kennedy was fired, Wheeler decommitted from the Aggies and reopened his recruitment. Georgia was in the mix.

Amir Abdur-Rahim — an assistant coach for the Georgia last season — took the lead in recruiting Wheeler. Abdur-Rahim had an upper hand because he recruited Wheeler when he was apart of the Texas A&M staff from 2014-18. Wheeler made his commitment and signed for the Bulldogs not long after his recruitment started. Even though Abdur-Rahim left to become the head coach at Kennesaw State, it didn’t affect Wheeler’s decision.

“I came down for a visit and you gotta love this place, right? Athens, nothing like Athens,” Wheeler said. “As far as the academic standpoint, life outside of basketball, the education that Georgia has is second to none ... Just so many opportunities here so I feel like I made the right decision.”

Now Wheeler is getting settled in with all his new teammates on the court. Crean said players love to play alongside Wheeler because of his infectious energy and his overall unselfish and tough play style.

One of those teammates is another novice to Athens in Donnell Gresham Jr., a graduate transfer from Northeastern. Gresham and Wheeler have formed somewhat of a bond between each other. The two go to breakfast together on Sundays when they can, and Gresham said he just enjoys being around Wheeler.

“Sahvir has a great character, he’s a good person,” Gresham Jr. said. “He’s definitely a bright kid and I see a big future with him.”

That bright future doesn’t just include basketball. Wheeler plans on majoring in finance, something he’s been around all his life. His dad and uncle both worked on Wall Street and impressed that mindset upon Wheeler. When he finishes his basketball career, Wheeler plans on taking on his dream job and become general manager of an NBA team.

For now, Wheeler will have to stick to the court. Crean doesn’t have Wheeler in the starting lineup but has been using him as a spark plug off the bench. Wheeler said he’s always ready to do anything to win, and Crean said he’s playing with a confidence that will be continually built on in the future.

“He walks in the gym, and he feels like he can play,” Crean said. “I think he would feel like that in Athens, Georgia, or Athens, Greece ... That's the bottom line with a kid like that.”

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