ATHENS — This year’s version of the Georgia men’s basketball team goes on full view for fans for the first time on Thursday night. Which five players are the first to go out there remains uncertain.
Two can be penciled in: Senior guard J.J. Frazier and junior forward Yante Maten, who were preseason All-SEC selection. A third seems very likely: Sophomore Derek Ogbeide, probably as the center.
After that, as it usually is, it’s a question of experience over potential.
“We were arguing as a coaching staff who the first five is,” head coach Mark Fox said before Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve got a couple we all agree on, we’ve got a couple we don’t. We’ve got great competition, we really have. I don’t think the first five is settled, the second five is settled, and tomorrow will be part of that whole equation, figuring out who eventually earns a spot.”
Junior small forward Juwan Parker would seem another good candidate. He’s an experienced starter, he just hasn’t played in 19 months, other than last year’s one exhibition game, when he aggravated his Achilles injury.
Pape Diatta, the junior college transfer, has also looked good in practice and has a shot at starting. Or he could come off the bench in the stretch-4 role, or as Parker’s replacement at small forward. Or both could start, with Parker as shooting guard.
Tyree Crump, the hot-shooting freshman guard, can pour in the points, so maybe he’s a starting shooting guard. Or does his defense make him a reserve right now? Jordan Harris, the other freshman, is sort of the opposite, stronger defensively and rebounding but not as dependable an outside shooter.
O what about sophomore Turtle Jackson, the point guard who played sparingly last year, but has come on strong in the offseason and could allow Frazier to move to shooting guard?
Then there are veterans Kenny Paul Geno, Houston Kessler, Mike Edwards and E’Torrion Wilridge. It would be a surprise, but not a shock, to see any of them starting. That’s where the Georgia basketball team is as it starts the season: Two very good players and a deep bench, but a question about how good the supporting cast can be.
Georgia was picked last month to finish fourth in the SEC this year. Fox was asked what he thought about that.
“I never really thought about it, to be honest with you. I don’t know, maybe hopefully you guys are right for once,” Fox said.
But, it was pointed out to Fox, his team actually finished higher than fourth – tied for second – in 2014 and 2013. Maybe he should hope the media is wrong?
“Yeah I hope you are wrong, I hope we win it,” Fox said. “We’ve got to worry about trying to stop somebody. …
“No one rises to low expectations, you should think within yourself, within your team, you should think you should be good. If other people think you should be good it should be a compliment. But it doesn’t really make any difference, you’ve gotta go out there and perform.”