Dick Vitale calls out Georgia basketball’s biggest challenge

Georgia basketball-Justin Kier-Graduate transfer
Georgia coach Tom Crean is finding it increasingly hard to contain the frustration as the Bulldogs cropped their eighth straight SEC game and 13th overall in an 80-64 loss at home to Ole Miss on Saturday. (Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA)

ATHENS —Dick Vitale provided a blunt assessment of Georgia coach Tom Crean and the Bulldogs’ basketball program this week.

“Right now the level of talent (Crean) has does not come up with the level that’s going to the Auburns, Kentuckys, and Tennessees,” Vitale said.

“You can coach all you want, but it’s about players. You’ve got to get players.”

There are 1,580 players in the NCAA transfer portal at the time of this writing in the wake of the one-time transfer rule being passed earlier this year.

Georgia’s roster turnover is as active as any in the SEC. The Bulldogs have had nine players transfer out and six players transfer to date.

“Tom can flat-out coach, if he gets some players, they will see a masterpiece,” Vitale said. “And, he does things the right way.”

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But, Vitale added, Georgia has had “a bad cycle in terms of player personnel.”

UGA athletic director Josh Brooks is well aware of the challenges the men’s basketball program faces.

Brooks also has an idea of what needs to happen for the program to continue to improve each season under Crean’s direction after having nine players transfer out.

“As we look to recruit kids coming in to fill those spots, now we’ll have a true offseason to get them to mold, to get them in training, whereas last year we really didn’t have that,” Brooks said.

“If you think about it, we weren’t truly on campus last summer, whereas this summer we’ll be going on June 1. We’re going to bring student-athletes in and get rolling.”

Crean has six incoming transfers to date.

“We’ve taken some hits in our basketball program, and so have others,” Brooks said.

“We’ve got a coach who has got a history of developing players who have moved on to the NBA. We know his lineage, we have to take advantage of that.”

Crean recruited and developed NBA stars Dwyane Wade, (Marquette), Victor Oladipo (Indiana), and Anthony ‘Antman’ Edwards (Georgia), in addition to several other pros.

Crean, however, has yet to upgrade a UGA basketball program that has just one regular-season SEC championship in history and one NCAA tournament appearance the past 10 years.

Georgia has gone 11-21, 16-16 and 14-12 the past three seasons. The Bulldog have just one returning starter entering next season, P.J. Horne.

It makes for plenty of questions, some that can’t be answered until the offseason portal movement plays out and the full consequences of the one-time transfer rule emerge.

Vitale said that while transferring will help some players in college basketball, there are others he’s concerned about.

“You’re gonna see some kids wishing they didn’t make those moves,” Vitale said. “Some of those guys, maybe they are stars now, they are going to end up sitting on the bench saying what do I do?’ "

Georgia players transferred in:

• Kario Oquendo (Florida Southwestern, 6-4, 194)

• Jabri Abdur-Harim (Virginia) 6-7, 215

• Noah Baumann (Southern Cal) 6-6, 215

• Braelen Bridges (Illinois-Chicago), 6-10, 235

• Jailyn Ingram (Florida Atlantic), 6-7, 215

• Dalen Ridgnal (Cowley College), 6-6, 200

Transferred out:

• K.D. Johnson (unknown), 6-1, 190

• Sahvir Wheeler (unknown), 5-10, 180

• Christian Brown (Tennessee State), 6-6, 215

• Andrew Garcia (unknown), 6-6, 225

• Justin Kier (unknown), 6-4, 190

• Toumani Camara (Dayton), 6-8, 220

• Tye Fagan (Ole Miss), 6-3, 195

• Mikal Starks (unknown), 6-0, 185

• Jaykwon Walton (unknown), 6-7, 205

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