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Phillip King/courtesy
Georgia commit Elias King has left Shiloh High and now attends Lincoln Academy Prep in Suwanee, Ga. His father said he still intends to play for the Bulldogs, who have the No. 1-rated Class of 2019.

Georgia has No. 1 recruiting class in another high-profile sport, too

Chip Towers

ATHENS – Did you know Georgia has the No. 1 recruiting class for 2019? No, not in football. In men’s basketball.

I didn’t, either.

I didn’t know until Friday when I went to look up some info on Elias King. King is a 6-foot-7 small forward from Snellville, Ga., rated as a high 4-star prospect on the 247Sports composite. He is one of two members of the 2019 class currently committed to coach Mark Fox and the Bulldogs. The other one is Ashton Hagans, a 5-star-rated guard from Covington, Ga.

At the moment, at least, those two players give Georgia a better recruiting class than Gonzaga, Kansas, Maryland and Duke, the next four teams in the top 5 of the team rankings for basketball recruiting. Duke has only one commit, but he’s a 5-star. Of course.

The reason I was looking up King is it was brought to my attention that he recently withdrew from school at Shiloh High. And King’s withdrawal was ill-timed. It happened sometime right before the Generals played in the regional tournament. Without its star player, Shiloh lost in overtime to rival South Gwinnett, and its season is over.

I share that information merely because it was news to me – both that Georgia had the No. 1 recruiting class in basketball and that one of its star recruits had suddenly vanished from his high school team – so I figured it’d be news to the rest of you. Also, as a journalist I needed to make sure that this future Bulldogs’ departure didn’t have anything to do with bad behavior or a serious health issue.

I was assured it did not.

“He’s not in any trouble,” Shiloh coach Kim Rivers told me. “Elias is a good kid. It just didn’t work out. Sometimes that’s how it is.”

Didn’t work out?

“One thing I will say is all parents have a right to do whatever they want to do with their child,” Rivers said. “I just coach them to the best of my ability and push them to be the best player they can be. At the end of the day, parents want their kids to have what they want, and I’m going to leave it at that.”

Rivers didn’t want to provide any other details. So I got in touch King’s father, Phillip King, who confirmed for me Friday that his son had transferred to Lincoln Academy Prep School in Suwanee, Ga. King intends to finish his career there, he said.

“He’s playing with Lincoln Prep now,” King’s father said. “They’re in New Jersey this weekend.”

More important to Georgia fans is whether or not any of this will affect King’s plans to play basketball at UGA.

“He loves UGA,” Phillip King said of his son, who is listed as the nation’s No. 53 prospect on the 247Sports composite. “He’s fully committed to UGA. He’s a great kid, and he’s ready to do big things on the prep circuit. This was just a parent move to do what’s best for his kid.”

Of course, there’s another whole set of factors to weigh at Georgia right now. Namely, the Bulldogs (13-10, 4-7 SEC) have lost seven of their last nine games. Accordingly, there are increasing indications that Fox’s future at UGA could be in jeopardy beyond this season.

Fox has been with the Bulldogs for nine seasons and his led them to two NCAA Tournament berths in that span. Both of those resulted in first-round bounces. Unless something extraordinary happens in the next month – Georgia has seven regular-season games left, starting with No. 8 Auburn on Saturday in Athens – it appears that the Bulldogs will be left out of the Big Dance again this year. So that doesn’t bode well for Fox.

I asked King’s father if he had concerns about the direction of the program and whether Fox’s presence would influence King’s commitment to UGA.

“Stuff like that happens all the time,” King said. “There are plenty of colleges. And Coach Fox is a great guy. He’s going to bounce back. The guys are going to turn it around. But Coach Fox is wonderful. The whole staff is. We love Georgia.”

So, I just wanted to share that. It looks like Georgia, which just closed on the highest-rated football recruiting class in school history, is also recruiting quite well in basketball. At the moment, at least.