How do UGA basketball signees feel as they wait for decision?
Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet for Tuesday night calls for a chance to talk about how the firing of basketball coach Mark Fox could impact Class of 2018 signees.
Amanze Ngumezi sounds hopeful about the future of Georgia basketball.
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward from Solomon C. Johnson High School in Savannah ranks as the nation’s No. 26 power forward and the No. 103 overall prospect on the 247Sports composite for 2018.
He signed with UGA on Nov. 15. That was a time when things looked hopeful for the Mark Fox era.
That run has ended. Fox’s ouster last Saturday ended a period of uncertainty for Ngumezi. Yet it hasn’t darkened his outlook for the program.
What if the Bulldogs hire Thad Matta? He’s hopeful things will work out to benefit Georgia.
“I look at the search as another step in the future of the program,” Ngumezi said. “I’m eager to see who they decide to hire and hopefully we keep Coach Jonas [Hayes] on staff.”
That, according to Ngumezi, might be the biggest recruit for Matta, if the former Ohio State coach decides to take the job that has been offered to him.
“Keeping Coach Jonas around is important to me because of the way he recruited me and the relationship that he and I have built in that process,” he said.
Ngumezi said he’s in close contact with Norcross (Ga.) senior forward JoJo Toppin, the other forward the Bulldogs signed in November.
They both feel the same way about Hayes.
“I feel like with Coach Jonas on the recruiting staff we can get any player that is big in the state of Georgia,” Ngumezi said. “That’s why I feel like he needs to be around because he knows how to recruit the players that will turn this program in the right direction.”
He had a natural personal connection with the man he thought was going to be his college coach. But he said the Georgia’s decision to move ahead without Fox did not stun him.
“The change of coaching hasn’t affected me in a big way,” he said. “I fell in love with Coach Fox and his staff as well as his family. But I also understand that college basketball is a business and that things like this happen. I’m just trying to wait and see what happens.”
Committed to UGA or to the previous staff?
Where do the loyalties lie for Ngumezi? Is it to the previous staff? Or is it now to Georgia basketball?
“I committed to Georgia because I felt like it was the best fit for me,” he said. “The coaching staff was a plus. With the hiring of a new coaching staff, I’ll have to sit down and meet the new coaches. Then we can go from there.”
He sounded very sensible in his reasoning for what lies ahead.
“I can’t think of a scenario that would make me not want to play for the University of Georgia,” Ngumezi said. “But just because I can’t think of one doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist.”
The future of UGA basketball
The Bulldogs signed Ngumezi and Toppin in the Class of 2018. That was during the traditional early period for basketball. Georgia has lost both of its verbal commits in the Class of 2019.
That’s 4-star forward Elias King from Lincoln Prep Academy in Gwinnett County. King ranks as the nation’s No. 55 overall prospect for 2019. When King and 5-star guard Ashton Hagans committed after the Bulldogs’ win over Georgia Tech this season, the Bulldogs briefly held the No. 1 ranking for their 2019 class on the 247Sports composite.
Hagans is reclassifying to the Class of 2018. The general instability regarding the last few weeks of the Fox era gave some of college basketball’s elite the chance to woo Hagans.
“I feel like there is a chance to [still] sign Hagans, and you could say he completes the 2018 class,” Ngumezi said. “Either way, we are coming in strong.”
Look for the Bulldogs to have at least one more scholarship to play with for 2018. That is if both of the team’s November signees stick with their letters of intent and do not ask for a release.
Georgia had 13 players on scholarship this season; three of those slots are coming open after the three seniors exhausted their eligibility.
Ngumezi said he doesn’t know much about Matta.
“I don’t know much about Coach Matta,” he said. “I’ve been hearing good things about him and his coaching technique and the players he has put in the NBA.”