ATHENS — Georgia basketball “should” be well on its way to a rebuilt team by now.
Instead, coach Tom Crean has only recently met some of the new players for the first time, and Monday marked the first day of workouts since the NCAA postseason was shortened by COVID-19 on March. 12.
The Bulldogs, coming off a 16-16 season, have eight newcomers in the program as Crean looks to enter his third season as head coach.
“We’d (normally) be in Week 6 or 7 of our summer workout program,” Crean said. “We’d have had 4 1/2 to 5 weeks of spring, and a full summer, and that’s what puts you in a tough spot.”
It has been a total rebuild this season, with the roster now completely flipped since Mark Fox was head coach.
Georgia looks like it will be a decidedly uptempo team once again this season.
“We want to build and play faster, (and) we want to bring more pressure to the game defensively, and we want to truly be able to have depth be a real key for us,” Crean said on a recent Zoom call with reporters.
“We never got the style of play pace-wise where we would like to have it. We have to get better with strength, physicality and understanding what it takes on the defensive end.”
And at some point, Crean’s players need to get to know each other — on and off the court.
Sophomore point guard Sahvir Wheeler, the glue-guy and the face of the program, is finally back in Athens after an extended break workout out in his hometown of Houston, Texas.
Likewise for forward Toumani Camara, whose role is expected to increase significantly with departed junior Rayshaun Hammonds opting to leave UGA for the professional ranks.
Rising junior Tye Fagan is the only Georgia basketball player on the roster who has had a full year in the program, as Crean has been forced to recruit both freshmen and transfers alike.
“I wanted to get people that had won, people that had some success,” Crean said. “We have to get compatibility in players so we can build a connection.
“We have to get people who are compatible on the court.”
Two of the three graduate transfers were at UGA for the start of the summer workouts on Monday.
George Mason guard Justin Kier and Stony Brook guard Andrew Garcia were both taking part in workouts with coaches, who can oversee 8 hours of activity per week at this stage.
Crean said Virginia Tech graduate transfer center P.J. Horne is finishing up work on his degree and is expected in Athens by the end of the week.
The start of the season might seem far off, but Crean knows there’s much work to be done with so many new faces.
“You don’t have any success in business, sports, life without trust and communication,” Crean said. “Everyone is going through something new.”
The Bulldogs will play host to the Global Sports Invitational to open the season on Nov. 16, tipping off against Wofford
Charleston Southern and SMU are also in the invitational. The Bulldogs will play host to Charleston Southern on Nov. 22 and finish the event with a road game at SMU on Nov. 25.