ATHENS – Mark Fox has a vote in the coaches’ college basketball poll, and Michigan State is No. 1. Georgia, on the other hand, did get three votes in the same poll. But they weren’t from Fox, who left his own team off his ballot.
“I do believe in our team,” Fox said. “But we’ve got to hit a few benchmarks in our practice before I start doing that.”
There might be another chance to get a benchmark: Georgia will play at Michigan State this Sunday night in Grand Rapids, Mich., in an exhibition game, one of the many across the country that the NCAA has allowed teams to schedule this month in order to benefit hurricane relief.
The proceeds are being split evenly at each school’s discretion: Georgia is donating its half to the Red Cross of Georgia, Michigan State its half to Red Cross International Services. Fox is good friends with Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, whose nephew Matt Bucklin is a Georgia staffer.
Thus it’s a win-win for Georgia: The game benefits charity, but also gives the team an unprecedented chance to play a preseason road game that doesn’t count in the standings.
Michigan native Yante Maten, the Georgia senior and a preseason All-SEC pick, may not play as much because it’s an exhibition. The plan is for the Bulldogs to disperse minutes and see how players react in a road environment.
“All these guys, especially on the perimeter, with all these guys battling for time, I think they all deserve an equal opportunity to see how they play against some of the others,” Fox said.
Georgia’s season opens on Nov. 11 with a home game against Bryant. There’s an exhibition game on Nov. 3 against Valdosta State, also at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia also has a scrimmage on Friday against Clemson in Athens – that’s supposed to be a secret, or at least non-publicized, so Fox can’t talk about it or divulge the opponent. But someone else familiar with the program confirmed it.
A few other notes on the UGA basketball team:
- When asked about the point guard competition, Fox mentioned junior Turtle Jackson, freshman Teshaun Hightower and sophomore Tyree Crump. It appears Jackson is the favorite, but Hightower has been impressive so far, and Crump could get some minutes there while likely playing a lot of shooting guard.
- Senior forward Pape Diatta missed around eight practices with a sprained ankle. He’s practicing without limitations now but is “probably a little bit behind where we hoped he would be because of the injury,” per Fox.
- There’s good buzz about all the freshmen, with forwards Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton poised to compete for big roles. Said Fox: “Our freshman class as a whole has surprised us. And maybe because our upperclassmen have been so helpful to the freshmen. Our coaches aren’t having to teach the freshmen everything, because our other players are teaching them, which has been really great to see.”