ATHENS – In Mark Fox’s eight years as Georgia’s head basketball coach, the highest-rated player he has ever signed has been a four-year starter in the NBA. The second-highest rated signed two weeks ago with the Bulldogs.
That, along with the signing of another high-upside player who visited other power-conference programs, would seem to point to an uptick in recruiting prowess for Fox and his staff.
Maybe. But don’t tell that to Fox, who pointed out that his two best players this year, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, weren’t five-star recruits. Or close to it.
“I mean, no one right now would want to trade J.J. or Yante off our team. Their ratings out of the gate maybe weren’t something that people would be excited about. So you’ve got to take that stuff with a grain of salt,” Fox said. “Rayshaun’s, I don’t even know where he is ranked. He’s a good basketball player and he fills our needs. And so we’re excited about him.
“Obviously the fact we’ve been winning the last couple of years helped us with Rayshaun, and hopefully that’ll continue.”
A reporter half-kiddingly followed up by asking Fox if he wouldn’t trade Frazier or Maten for any Kentucky players.
“I’m not trading any of my players,” Fox said, not cracking a smile.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the highest-rated player – and best, period – who Fox has signed at Georgia. The shooting guard from south Georgia was a McDonalds All-America coming out of high school in 2011, was the SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore, and was a lottery pick by the Detroit Pistons.
Hammonds, a 6-foot-7 forward from Norcross, is a consensus top 50 recruit. Fox made clear that he’ll play right away.
“Rayshaun Hammonds is a very versatile wing player who will make, I think, an immediate impact on our team. He’ll have the ability to play a couple spots right out of the gate,” Fox said.
But Georgia also signed Nicolas Claxton, son of former Georgia and NBA player Charles Claxton. Fox shrugged off the perception that Georgia got Claxton because he was a legacy recruit.
“He visited Florida State, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and I think he visited Baylor,” Fox said. “So it’s not like because his Dad played here it was a sure thing. It was a heavily-contested recruiting battle. But his Dad had a really good experience here, and in fact so did his mother. So I think it did at the end of the day probably help us.”
So what about Claxton as a prospect? He offers an intriguing skill set, a tall player who can shoot the 3, but who could grow into a post player. Fox said he believes Claxton will be a “really terrific SEC player.”
“Nic Claxton, depending on where he is weight-wise, continues to grow. At nearly 6-11 and has really good skills, a great three-point stroke,” Fox said. “He gives us an element don’t have on this year’s team with that length and skill, that combination.”