ATHENS — Tom Crean is like any other basketball coach when it comes to stressing fundamentals and going back to basics.
But this year’s Georgia team is taking it to another level.
These Bulldogs, lacking height but filled with athleticism, are aiming to be interchangeable to the extent that UGA doesn’t list positions. “B” — for basketball player — is the descriptive for each.
Crean’s message is that he plans to have interchangeable parts from the opening tip this season.
The Georgia men’s team, predicted to finish ninth in the SEC at the league’s media days earlier this week, opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at Stegeman Coliseum against Division ll Valdosta State. Admission is free.
Crean anticipates a high scoring contest, though he’s concerned it could get sloppy.
“We’ve worked hard on our ball handling and driving, but I’m hugely afraid that with a team like this in Valdosta State, that was fifth in the country in Division II last year in points efficiency, that it could be a track meet,” Crean said on Thursday. “We just don’t want it to be turnover fest.”
Georgia returns five players from last season, but 10 of the players are new, including nine freshmen.
Freshman Anthony “Antman” Edwards is the most notable newcomer. He’s a projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and was widely considered the top prospect in the 2019 signing class.
Edwards told media following the Stegmania fan event last Friday that he was working at point guard duties, among many other things.
Crean explained how the Bulldogs are working to have a versatile team that can change positions on the floor without breaking stride.
“We try to put them in different situations, we have what we call our leopard offense,” Crean said. “ We’re a spot team, we’re not, ‘You’re the 5 man, you’re the 2 man,’ It’s ‘You’re in the 2 spot, you’re in the 5 spot.’
“The point guard is a little different, but other than that it’s spot oriented. We’re trying to teach guys a lot of different places to be.”
So long as the Bulldogs end up on the right side of the scoreboard, the momentum figures to grow.
Georgia set attendance records last season despite a 10-21 mark. UGA has already sold out its season-ticket allotment (5,750) with another 2,000 designated for students unavailable to the general public in the 10.523-seat arena.
Georgia coach Tom Crean