The Southeastern Conference held its summer basketball teleconference on June 27, and in the opening statement, University of Georgia head coach Tom Crean mentioned that with all the new faces joining the team — nine to be exact — there are tough challenges in the early stages of year two. And learning what the team will be like without Nicolas Claxton could take time.
“We’ve got to have really strong patience and perspective,” Crean said.
It’s still the first week of July and the team is only halfway through the summer program, meaning we’re months away from the season’s opening tipoff. But, with the loss of Claxton and six others, the question should be asked: What’s to be expected out of the Bulldogs?
Claxton leaving for the NBA means that Georgia will be without their leader in points, blocks, rebounds and steals, so there’s plenty of areas that need addressing for Crean and his squad coming into this year.
True freshman shooting guard Anthony Edwards, a five-star player coming out of high school, headlines the new class that was ranked eighth in the country and has definitely brought some much-needed excitement to Georgia basketball. Crean mentioned that Edwards has already given a glimpse of how explosive he is, reaching 42 inches during the team’s vertical jump tests.
“He’s got so much natural talent, so much natural strength and ability,” Crean said of Edwards. “But at the same time, there’s a lot to learn, a lot to improve upon, a lot of new habits to create.”
In early June, the NCAA announced they will be moving the three-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to 22 feet, 1 ¾ inches. For a team that was already struggling from that area — shooting 32.2 percent last season — this might normally be a change causing concern. But, last year’s team was the worst a Crean-coached team has shot from beyond the three-point line, and having players like Edwards and Tyree Crump this upcoming year could help to improve on that.
For Georgia to improve from their 11-win season last year, they are going to have to show they can space the floor and knock down open threes and try to fill the void left by Claxton.
“We have no way to replace [Claxton] right now,” Crean said. “It’s a very tough blow when you lose a player that good… We have to live with that reality by making sure that we get our team better to overcome that every day.”