ATHENS — Georgia coach Tom Crean gave an assist to the Bulldogs’ fans after landing the No. 7-ranked signing group in the 2019 class.
McDonald’s All-American Anthony “Antman” Edwards, the nation’s No 1-ranked shooting guard coming out of Holy Spirit Prep School in Atlanta, chose UGA in part to stay close to his loved ones.
But Edwards was also inspired by the Bulldogs’ 98-88 upset over eventual NIT champion Texas in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, Crean revealed.
Many viewed it as Crean getting Sugar Bowl revenge on the Longhorns’ program.
But Edwards also attended the game that day, and the energy that the capacity crowd brought to Stegeman Coliseum played into the elite prospect’s decision making.
“I think win or lose in that game, the atmosphere was incredible, and there was a lot of passion and juice,” Crean said at his spring signing day press conference on Thursday. “The fact we did win and score those kinds of points against a team like that was helpful.
“But the atmosphere in this situation was probably one of the biggest determining things.”
Georgia basketball set a single season attendance record despite an 11-21 finish, and the Texas game was one of seven sellouts.
The Bulldogs’ top recruits, like the fans, took note of the grit and resiliency Crean was building in close losses to NCAA teams like Auburn (78-75), Ole Miss (72-71), LSU (83-79) and Mississippi State (68-67).
“Building that level of resiliency, and building that level of toughness, and that level of belief and care, that’s the same thing you’re trying to get across to recruits,” Crean said. “The fact that people could see the way we were competing and coming back time and time again, when it didn’t go as well, they see this is a team that’s improving.
“We try to get across to them that we’re not recruiting to try to get in the hunt — we’re not trying to recruit to get a little bit better — we’re recruiting to be all the way in.”
The Georgia basketball fans did their part as Crean and his staff was doing theirs on the recruiting trail, and it helped lead to the highest ranked recruiting class in program history.