NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia has the No. 1 shooting guard in the nation headed to Athens in Anthony Edwards, but the Bulldogs have yet to ensure the No. 1 player from the 2018-19 team is returning.
Georgia sophomore star Nicolas Claxton was noncommittal when asked if he would return for his junior season.
“I’ll talk about it with my family,” Claxton said following Wednesday night’s 71-61 loss to Missouri in the Bulldogs’ season-ending SEC tournament loss to Missouri at Bridgestone Arena.
Player have until April 21 to declare for the NBA draft this year. Early entry players can attend NBA pre-draft camps and individual workouts to get feedback. Players with remaining eligibility can withdraw until May 29 this year.
The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Claxton was a second-team All-SEC pick, leading UGA in scoring (13 points per game), rebounding (8.6), blocks (81) and steals (34), also finishing second in assists (58).
Claxton said he knows he has areas to improve.
“Definitely making sure I’m getting stronger,” Claxton said. “That’s something that’s going to come with time. Just making sure that I’m focusing on shooting, a lot of catch-and-shoot, finishing around the rim.”
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin indicated he believes Claxton will return and become a dominant player in the SEC.
“He’s long, athletic, (and) as talented as he is, I think when it’s all said and done, whenever he decides to leave college, he’s a guy that plays at the NBA level,” Martin said. “But I’m not sure he’s a guy that comes down and scores 30 points a night. I don’t think he impacts the game that way. He’s long, athletic, gets to the free-throw line, makes shots, passes the ball.
“As he continues to get stronger, he’ll be a dominant player in this league.”
Georgia coach Tom Crean, who completed his first season in Athens with an 11-21 record, said having a talented player with options like Claxton is a good problem.
“I’m in a great place with Nic, so we’ll just ride all of that out,” Crean said. “I’ve been down this road so many times with guys, and you want that. You want guys that aspire, and you want guys that have potential. It works itself out.
“Whatever ends up being the absolute best for him is what’s going to happen, and there’s a lot of improvement left in him, and he’s got a lot of basketball in his future, and he made a lot of strides this year.”
Crean does anticipate some attrition beyond the six departing seniors.
“I think attrition is part of the game,” Crean said. “From college football, college baseball, coulee basketball, women’s basketball.
“The bottom line for me is everybody gets coached, every day. There’s opportunities you take advantage of, or you don’t. There are decisions that have to be made as you go through it, and that becomes part of it.”
Sophomore guard Teshaun Hightower, who started 17 games this season, did not play for the third time in the past four games.
Freshman guard JoJo Toppin was also held out of action for the 14th time in the final 19 games of the season.
“I really don’t know, my mind can’t wander there right now,” Toppin said, asked of his future in the program. “This is a big loss, it hurts. Really not thinking about that right now, we just lost six seniors. I can’t think about the future right now.”
Crean has signed 6-foot-6 swingmen Jaykwon Walton (No. 67 in the ESPN’s 2019 top 100) and Toumani Camara (No. 96) in the 2019 class.