ATHENS — Georgia coach Tom Crean and his basketball Bulldogs will put their progress on display at Stegeman Coliseum in the exhibition home opener against West Georgia at 7 p.m. tonight.
Admission is free, but fans can be assured the Bulldogs’ players have already paid a price with a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the offseason.
Georgia opened the exhibition season with a 56-54 win at basketball-crazy UAB on Oct. 18 in what could prove to be an important first step for the program.
The players learning how Crean operates under pressure, and the head coach saw how his players stepped up in the face of adversity.
“It was a great experience with that band being right there by our bench, so it was hard for us to hear Coach Crean, in the SEC that’s the atmosphere you’ll get a lot,” said 6-foot-11 sophomore Nicolas Claxton. “I loved how Coach was calm under pressure throughout the game, and he was confident and composed and I feel like that will spread in late-game situations.
Derek Ogbeide, a 6-9, 250-pound senior forward/post, said it was more than a typical exhibition.
“It was important because we fought for it, and we worked extremely hard for that win,” Ogbeide said. “Spacing was a point of what we needed to improve on in terms of learning from that game, and we’ve adapted to implementing those schemes and concepts.
“We expect to play the way we’ve been practicing to play, with a fast tempo, coming downhill with all the right principles.”
Crean said tonight’s points of emphasis are on “consistent rebounding” and “better decision-making with the ball” after the Bulldogs had 20 turnovers in the exhibition game with the Blazers.
Georgia’s new head coach said it’s always going to be something, because his visions for the program are to replicate his accomplishments at traditional basketball powerhouses Marquette and Indiana.
“Satisfied, happy, content — those are four letter words to coaches, and I don’t think you coach like that,” Crean said on Wednesday. “What I’ve learned over a period of time, especially when you take over a new situation, you don’t want to be too patient.
“We want to push them, and demand from them and really force the concentration and focus they have to have to pick things up and play through fatigue, because that’s what the game is.”
That’s what will be on display for Georgia basketball fans at Stegemen Coliseum on Thursday night, the start of a process with players that Crean really likes.
“I like the guys, I love working with them, but there’s a lot of room to grow,” Crean said. “ We have to get better, I mean we’re picked 13th in this league.
“But we want them to consistently feel like they are getting better, and we want them to know that by what we show them and what they see, but you never back away from demanding more of them than they think they have in them.”
Georgia basketball opens the season at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9 against Savannah State in the second game of a doubleheader which features the women’s team also playing in Stegeman Coliseum at 6 p.m. against St. Bonaventure.
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