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Head coach Tom Crean walks down the sideline. The University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 81-69 on December 18, 2018 in Stegeman Coliseum. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rac86114@uga.edu)

Technically, the Tom Crean era started in March 2018 when he was hired as head coach of the Georgia men’s basketball team. But the Bulldogs went 11-21 in his first season with a .111 winning percentage in the SEC, tied for the second worst full-season mark in program history.

Now with Anthony Edwards firmly in tow, Crean’s vision for the program is looking more and more like the reality. The nation’s No. 2 overall prospect headlines the nation’s No. 7 recruiting class, both according to the 247Sports Composite. Edwards and four-star forward Christian Brown signed their letters of intent on Wednesday.

Alongside assistant coaches Chad Dollar and Joe Scott, Crean held a press conference on Thursday to discuss the signings. Amir Abdur-Rahim, another assistant coach on last season’s team, accepted the head coaching job at Kennesaw State only hours before on Thursday morning.

Crean called Edwards a transformative talent who will transform the program. But Crean said he has a lot of untapped potential.

“We want him to be as complete a guard as he can possibly be,” Crean said.

Crean’s second recruiting class currently includes Edwards, Brown, Toumani Camara and Jaykwon Walton. But there is more work to be done. Teshaun Hightower, Ignas Sargiunas and JoJo Toppin are all reportedly transferring from Georgia. Crean went as far to say that Georgia has three scholarship spots left, meaning he expects Hightower, Sargiunas and Toppin to transfer.

“We’re not done,” Crean said.

Crean also said two preferred walk-ons have committed to the program to replace seniors Christian Harrison and Connor O’Neil. Crean didn’t have any further comment on the walk-ons, citing uncertainty as to whether or not he was allowed.

As for who Crean is recruiting, he said he wants more size in the paint and more guards. Point guard Sahvir Wheeler has an official visit scheduled on Friday, but Crean said the front court also needs some attention.

“This is the best rebounding league I’ve ever been in,” Crean said. “I don’t see that going anywhere. We’ve got to make sure we’re addressing that constantly.”

When Georgia tries to entice more highly-regarded players to the program, the entire coaching staff collaborates.

“Time and time again as a coach, I always get the question of, “Who’s recruiting that guy?” Dollar said. “And on this staff and in this program it’s [all of] us.”

A lot of things change in college basketball. Crean said so himself while talking about Abdur-Rahim’s departure and JoJo Toppin entering the transfer portal. But some things don’t change. Among them is Crean’s message. One thing he repeats over and over is the need for Georgia high school prospects to stay in state. Georgia has everything a player could possibly want, Crean said. The campus, the education, the passion for sports.

Edwards visited Stegeman Coliseum to watch Georgia beat Texas on Jan. 26. Crean said the energy inside that arena was an important factor in Edwards’ decision.

But besides that win against Texas, not a lot went right for the Bulldogs last season. It wasn’t just the losses that piled up. An early-season flight was delayed because the plane got stuck in the mud. The Bulldogs had to go into crisis management mode when Crean made some comments about his players that he later regretted. Then a stuffed bulldog thrown onto the court made national headlines.

So for Georgia, a brand new season with a brand new recruiting class is a good sign. But Crean still harps on player development, and Edwards won’t be exempt from refining his skills.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why he came here,” Crean said. “He know’s he’s going to get better. And he gets to do it in his home state.”

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