ATHENS — It’s been said a team improves most from its first game to its second game, and Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean certainly hopes that’s the case.
One thing Crean wants to see in the Bulldogs’ second game of the season at 7 p.m. on Tuesday against The Citadel in Stegeman Coliseum is better ballers movement and effort.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s grad-transfer Donnell Gresham, projected NBA lottery pick Anthony Edwards or freshman Sahvir Wheeler bringing the ball up the court, Crean wants more and better.
“I think the ball’s got to move better, offensively, (and) we’ve got to do an even better job of getting to the offensive glass,” Crean said on Monday. “I think just playing competitive longer, and really understanding that it’s not just about a hard to play, it’s not competitive you are. It’s winning those battles when the shot goes up.
“It’s getting back when you’re tired and making sure we’ve got the rim covered in the ball stopped in transition.”
Georgia opened the season with a 91-72 win over Western Carolina last Tuesday night in a game that was closer than the final score.
Edwards’ scored 24 points — the most in a season-opening game since Dominique Wilkins had 26 in 1979.
But also, there was Wheeler with 19 points, which was third-most by a freshman in his debut.
“He’s a winner I mean he’s a pure winner,” Crean said. “He always has been, and he’s infectious. People like playing with him. He moves the ball. He works extremely hard, extremely hard and what I like is he’s controlling what he can control.
“He’s making passes. He’s defending at a really high rate.”
Crean is equally pleased with Gresham, who at 6-foot-3, provides more of a defensive presence in addition to putting another player with point guard skills on the floor.
“We needed maturity, and he was a winner,” Crean said, explaining why he sought Gresham as a graduate transfer out of Northeastern. “We knew we needed a guy who could do different things. We saw on film that he could move without the ball. He could make shots. He’d been extremely well-coached in high school, in AAU, and at Northeastern. To me, that was a plus.
“He fit what we wanted, character-wise, certainly academically.”
So now it’s a matter of players like Wheeler, Edwards and Gresham — the primary distributors — applying the lessons learned in game one as a team with 10 new players works to gel together.
Wheeler said things are coming together quickly.
“I think the chemistry has been pretty good, especially with a majority of the team being new players,” Wheeler said. “I think we are working well together for it being so early in the season. I think it will just continue to improve as the season goes on.”
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