BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Georgia senior point guard William “Turtle” Jackson said the little things new coach Tom Crean is preaching could lead to big success for the Bulldogs.
“Coach Crean preaches details, the little things,” Jackson said at SEC Tipoff 19, the league’s annual media day event. “If he has an X on the court, and you’re an inch from that X, he’ll stop (practice), and you need to get right on that X, he’s very detailed.
“That’s what makes him so great, it’s the little things that develop into the big things, and that’s how we can win.”
That’s how Georgia beat UAB in both teams’ exhibition opener on Thursday night at Bartow Arena, 56-54, with Crean making personnel and defensive set adjustments and the players responding for the come-from-behind win.
“He’s always drawing up something and brewing up something,” Bulldogs freshman JoJo Toppin said. “It’s really comfortable when your coach is good with the clipboard.”
Crean took Marquette to the Final Four (2003) and rebuilt Indiana into a Big Ten powerhouse that enjoyed a 10-week stint as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team (2012-13).
Georgia was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC on Wednesday, and the Bulldogs have made just one NCAA Tournament appearance in the past seven years, most recently in 2015. The last time Georgia advanced to the Sweet 16 was 1996.
But the exhibition win was promising, and it showed how much progress the Bulldogs have made in their quest to improve despite losing former SEC Player of the Year Yante Maten.
Georgia senior post Derek Ogbeide, a 6-foot-9, 250-pounder, said the players are sold on Crean’s attention to detail.
“He understands almost every inch of the floor can be valuable, and it can be used whether it’s a scoring opportunity or a defensive opportunity,” Ogbeide said. “It may be one more step, but it’s a valuable step, and a step that may help us get to our goal.
“So only slightly different, but very impactful.”
Indeed, in Thursday night’s one-possession game at UAB every step made the difference until the final buzzer.
“I tell the guys, momentum is always up for grabs, and the game is always giving you something, and it may not be what you wanted, or what you planned for, or what’s pretty,” Crean said. “But you’ve got to find it, and our guys figured that out tonight.”
Georgia basketball PG William “Turtle” Jackson