speedy sahvir

Georgia sophomore Sahvir Wheeler (2) drives the ball towards the basket. The University of Georgia men's basketball team beat Jacksonville 98-65 on Dec. 4, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

There have been a plethora of positive notes for the Georgia men’s basketball team through the first three games of the season. Sahvir Wheeler is the first SEC player to have three consecutive double-doubles in 20 seasons. Against Jacksonville, the Bulldogs recorded 67 deflections — a “barometer of active defense” according to head coach Tom Crean — which is the most since Crean took over the program in 2018. In that same game, Georgia had six players in double digits. The list goes on.

It’s not all looking up for the Bulldogs, though. With eight new players on the roster and an altered summer workout schedule, growing pains were to be expected. Case in point: turnovers. Crean’s group has turned the ball over 56 times through the first three games, which is more than the previous two seasons.

Despite his commanding start to the season as a floor general and scorer, Wheeler is front and center in Georgia’s turnover problem. He knows it, too. Besides leading the team with 16.7 points and 10.7 assists per game, Wheeler has given the ball away 16 times.

“I think that’s something I need to improve on,” Wheeler said in a virtual press conference on Monday. “There aren’t mistakes that necessarily the other team is [causing], just kinda me sometimes trying to make a play that’s not there or [making] an unforced error.”

To compensate, the 5-foot-10 guard is watching film and recognizing areas where he can refine his playmaking skills. After all, he’s only a sophomore who runs a high-paced offense and has to gel with eight new teammates.

After Georgia’s 84-62 win over North Georgia, Crean said he was clapping on three of Wheeler’s five turnovers because of his ability to see cuts to the rim on the fastbreak and in the half court.

“We've got to have a better break and our kids got to learn how to run and get under those passes from [Wheeler],” Crean said in the postgame virtual press conference. “I'm proud of the way he's playing.”

The turnovers don’t only stem from Wheeler. Four other Bulldogs have committed more than five turnovers, and everyone on the roster except Jaxon Etter, who has logged nine minutes through three games, has turned the ball over at least once.

Those turnovers can come from errant kick-outs that result in backcourt violations, charging fouls or trying to make plays that aren’t there. Crean also thinks they can come from being too unselfish.

“When you have a guy that passes the ball like Sahvir, everybody else wants to get in on that part of it too, which is not a bad thing,” Crean said in a virtual press conference on Monday. “But you've got to recognize what's there.”

Crean also knows that within his offense, there’ll be turnovers and they can’t expect to be perfect. He just doesn’t want his players to give the ball away carelessly. Just like many other things given his new-look roster to start the season, Crean said Georgia’s ball security is a “work in progress.”

“So there's going to be some learning with that,” Crean said. “But we'll continue to build on it and try to make the game as simple as it can possibly be for guys to deliver the ball in places where guys can do something with it.”