ATHENS — Tom Crean spent the one year anniversary of his hire as Georgia’s head basketball coach in Florida on Saturday, decompressing.
“I’ve just been watching some game film, saw the ending of the Kentucky-Tennessee game,” Crean told AJC-DawgNation in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. “That’s how I decompress, I watch film.”
Crean also does some recruiting, to the extent Georgia has an unprecedented four Top 100 players in its 2019 class with the April signing day fast approaching.
To put that in perspective, Duke has three ESPN Top 100 players, and Kentucky has two.
Crean is still studying the 2018-19 season, however, unlike other coaches who might not want to watch another second of tournament basketball after their teams have been eliminated.
Crean says every SEC tourney game is an opportunity for him to learn the league better, something he believes he must do en route to taking Georgia basketball to the top.
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“I have a much better handle on where we’re at, what we need to do,” Crean said. “You have to learn the landscape of your university and surroundings, but you also have to learn the landscape of the league.”
Building a No. 1-ranked team at Indiana in the Big Ten was one thing, but Crean says the SEC presents its own challenges.
“You have to keep making sure you are getting skill players in recruiting, as in any league, but the level of athleticism and guys that can get their own shots in the SEC is so impressive,” Crean said, “and I’ve never been a league that rebounds like this from top to bottom.”
Georgia could return the SEC’s No. 2 rebounder from this season if 6-foot-11 sophomore Nicolas Claxton decides to return for his junior year.
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Rayshaun Hammonds, a highly skilled 6-foot-8, 240-pounder, will be back running in May after foot surgery and should ascend to an All-SEC level.
The 2018-19 season may be over on the court for the Bulldogs, but it’s certainly not on the recruiting trail, where Crean is putting together arguably the best signing class in school history.
Indeed, the Friday commitment of 6-foot-6 forward Christian Brown gives the Bulldogs four ESPN Top 100 players, arguably the top 2019 class in the SEC.
Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards is a 6-4 shooting guard ranked No. 5 in the nation by ESPN who has committed and is expected to sign in April, along with Brown, the No. 60 player in the country.
Georgia already has two ESPN Top 100 signees in 6-6 forward Jaykwon Walton out of Montgomery, Ala., (No. 67) and 6-6 forward Toumani Camara (No. 96) out of Hollywood, Fla.
“The biggest message to the staff was we are not going to rush anything in recruiting,” Crean said, asked about the philosophy he has applied to this recruiting class. “We have to get people who will impact the program and establish it with the guys who are here.
“We’re gonna really kick the training up this offseason after this mandatory seven-day break. This is not going to be business as usual.”
Crean said he is driven every day he arrives on campus and looks at the athletic programs around him.
“I was extremely excited when we got the opportunity to come to Georgia without really knowing a lot about the landscape or what it would take to build it,” Crean said. “I’ve learned a ton, and the passion and excitement the fanbase had with the record attendance means a lot to me.
“Every day, I’ve thought more and more it’s all here for us, and we have to take advantage of everything we have here at Georgia, just like the other spots, and just like that football program across the street.”