ATHENS — Georgia basketball will take to the road for its second and final exhibition, traveling to North Carolina to play UNC-Charlotte.
The new-look Bulldogs — 10 of the 15 players on the roster are new —tip off at 7 p.m. at Halton Arena. The 49ers were 8-21 last season, but the return three starters.
Georgia beat Valdosta State 93-81 last Friday night in Stegeman Coliseum.
Freshman combo guard Anthony “Antman” Edwards debuted with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, adding 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds co-starred, adding 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting with 4 rebounds.
But the hidden star may have been point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals during his time on the court. Most notably, Georgia outscored Valdosta State by 15 points when Wheeler was on the floor.
“I thought Sahvir Wheeler came in and changed the dynamic of the game,” Crean said of the 5-foot-10 freshman from Houston Christian High School, one of four Top 100-ranked recruits in the 2019 class.
Edwards, the top-ranked guard in the nation in 2019 and a projected NBA lottery pick, agreed.
“Sahvir is a great point guard, I love when Sahvir plays with me on the floor because I don’t have to feel like I have to bring the ball up the court, he can take the pressure off me,” Edwards said. “It saves my legs when they pick me up full court, so I can use go down and catch the ball of the wing and we can make plays.”
Crean said there’s plenty of room for evolution on his team, which opens the regular season at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 against Western Carolina in Stegeman Coliseum.
Edwards and Hammonds are clearly cornerstones, while Wheeler’s play at point guard will be watched closely as competition increases.
“I think right now what we’ve got to start to do is really get roles established,” Crean said. “They have got to earn roles. And then when you want your role to expand, you have to earn that expansion.
“That usually comes from doing a lot of extra work, and it usually comes from making your teammates better. That’s where I think chemistry, hopefully, will come organically from that.”
Crean pointed to rebounding as a key for Georgia, which is looking to replace the production lost when Nick Claxton declared himself eligible for the NBA draft last spring.
“We’ve got to have people to rebound the ball — you’re not winning in the SEC if you don’t rebound the ball,” Crean said.
“Then, you’ve got to find that edge inside of the rebound or the rebounding. I think guys that will rebound and understand the grit and toughness that goes into that”
Hammonds, a 6-9 245-pounder from Norcross, is being looked at to provide that power and muscle in the lane, as well as lead the team on a daily basis.
“I think the biggest thing for Ray is he’s got to be the same guy every day in practice, and that’s the leadership he’s got to bring,” Crean said. “He’s got to come in with an enthusiasm, as an energy source, and a guy that’s flying around. He should be a hard matchup. He should be a very hard matchup, no matter where we play.
“That’s what he’s got to do, but he’s got to get much more physical around the basket when they shoot.”
In summation, Crean concluded, “I think all in all, we’ve got grow as a team.”
The exhibition game will benefit the April 30th Remembrance Fund,” which the Charlotte Observer reported will support “the memorial and remembrance efforts from the on-campus shooting last spring in which two students were killed and four others were injured.”