MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. — Georgia coach Tom Crean said he wants to be sure not to expect too much his basketball team too soon.
The media panel at SEC basketball’s “Tipoff 19” certainly aided his cause, the Bulldogs picked to finish 13th in the 14-team league, and none of the Georgia payers were among the 12 players selected to the first or second team.
The Bulldogs return three staters off last season’s 18-15 (7-11 SEC) team: Point guard William “Turtle” Jackson, center Derek Ogbeide and forward Rayshaun Hammonds. A four-man recruiting class includes Top 125 prospects Amanze Ngumezi (112) and Ignas Sargiunas (121).
Jackson an Ogbeide were the Bulldogs’ player representatives at the annual preseason media event in the Birmingham (Ala.) suburb.
The players, both seniors from Atlanta, said the 13th-place projection doesn’t effect them.
“I’m not worried about what anyone’s outside opinion is, we’ll go out here and listen to our coach, what coach thinks we need to do or where we need to improve,” said Jackson, a 6-foot-4 guard who’s the team’s leading returning scorer (8.4 points per game), assist man (115), 3-point shooter (52 makes) and and steals leader (23).
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Jackson said. “It’s all about your inside opinion, so I”m not worried about where anybody else picks us.”
Ogbeide, a 6-9 forward who like Jackson is from Atlanta, said Georgia has its own internal mantra.
“We go into practice every day with the same mindset and same focus, to go after it,’ said Ogbeide, who led the Bulldogs in field goal percentage last season (.591) and recorded three double-doubles.
“If everybody does their necessary jobs, we’ll make things happen.”
Crean said things aren’t happening fast enough, and he wants to make sure he doesn’t get ahead of himself with his new team.
“The biggest thing for us is I don’t make our expectations too high for where we’re at right now, or where we aren’t,” Crean said. “But I love their attitude of getting better.
“We have to continue to build the right habits and do it more consistently.”
Crean said he has placed so much focus on fundamentals that other areas of the team are behind schedule heading into Thursday night’s 8 p.m. (Eastern) exhibition game at UAB.
“We’re way behind X and O wise, we’re way behind in sets and scheme because we’re making sure we’re getting those fundamentals down,” Crean said, “and I have to catch myself not trying to go too fast, and I have to catch myself trying to put undo expectations that they aren’t ready for, and we have to find how we grow and not just go hard.”
Georgia’s home exhibition takes place on Nov. 1 home against West Georgia, leading up to the regular season-opening game on Nov. 9 in Athens against Savannah State.
SEC Men’s Basketball Predicted order of finish
(poll result from 40 SEC media members)
4. Mississippi State
11. South Carolina
12. Texas A&M
14. Ole Miss
First Team All-SEC
Daniel Gafford – Arkansas
Reid Travis – Kentucky
Tremont Walters – LSU
Chris Silva – South Carolina
Grant Williams – Tennessee
Second Team All-SEC
Bryce Brown – Auburn
Jared Harper – Auburn
Jalen Hudson – Florida
PJ Washington – Kentucky
Quinndary Weatherspoon – Mississippi State
Jontay Porter – Missouri
Admiral Schofield – Tennessee
SEC Player of the Year
Grant Williams – Tennessee