ATHENS — Tom Crean opens his fourth season as the Georgia basketball coach when the Bulldogs play host to Florida International at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
The latest version of Georgia basketball features 10 newcomers including seven transfers from other Division I programs, giving UGA the highest influx of incoming scoring in the nation.
The Bulldogs figure to quickly get to work on putting more points up against the Golden Panthers, who like Georgia like to push the tempo.
“They are very much a high-octane offense,” Crean said of FIU. “Defensively they will come at us with pressures.”
Crean said it’s paramount his new players mesh quickly and learn to make the extra pass in the half-court, and get the ball up the court quickly.
“We have to be a ball movement team, we have to be tremendous at throwing the ball ahead,” Crean said. “We have to be a five-man transition team and a five-man rebounding team that becomes hard to score against.”
FIU coach Jeremy Ballard has as much confidence as ever in his program.
“This is the biggest, longest, deepest and most talented team we’ve had in my three years at FIU,” Ballard said.
The Panthers, like Georgia and most all other programs, has several new players via the transfer portal.
Both programs are plenty excited about the new talent they have brought in, but Crean said there are challenges that come with that.
“The most important thing is for them to learn each other as players,” Crean said “That’s where the chemistry gets built.”
Jailyn Ingram, who played at Florida Atlantic last season and is one of the Bulldogs’ newcomers, said once the season starts things will pick up quickly.
“Obviously we’ve been meshing in practice, but once you get on the court, it’s totally different,” said Ingram, who grew up 25 minutes from Athens in nearby Madison, Ga.
“I think some guys feel they have to do certain things and can overthink the game, but each exhibition we’ve gotten better,” He said. “The more we play live opponents instead of each other in practice, we’ll be able to mesh better.”
Georgia dropped a 76-65 exhibition game at Charlotte on Oct. 24 before beating Morehouse last Friday in the second and final exhibition game, 64-49.
Crean, still putting the finishing touches on this season’s team, hired David Gale as Associate to the head coach/Director of Basketball Strategy on Monday.