Georgia signed a top 5 national talent out of its home state in Anthony Edwards in 2019. The Bulldogs only signed one more of the state's top 10 prospects since Edwards was in Athens. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Georgia basketball recruiting: The next coach will have to fare much better in this one area

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s usually the Intel. This entry flashes a crossover dribble to discuss UGA basketball recruiting on the hardwood going forward.

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Tom Crean no longer provides the leadership for the Georgia men’s basketball program. That was what the official press release stated on Thursday evening.

The Georgia program had withered on the vine the last two seasons prior to this year’s unsavory 6-26 slate. The Bulldogs had finished up 14-12 and 16-16 in Crean’s two seasons prior to this year’s schedule.

It reached the point where a case could be made the task of recruiting elite in-state talent to UGA was akin to Georgia Tech attempting to recruit the in-state football talent from the state of Georgia.

The triage looked like this: Homestate recruiting. Hometown team. But lacking the momentum, the on-court success and the pro developmental potential of other nearby options.

Ironically, the 247Sports Composite basketball recruiting rankings for the basketball program initially offer up a counterpoint to that line of thinking, though.

Georgia’s signing classes (per the 247Sports Composite rating) for the last few cycles were actually quite credible.

  • 2019 (with No. 1 overall Anthony Edwards): No. 11 in the nation
  • 2020: No. 17
  • 2021: No. 60
  • 2022: N/A (No commits or signees)

Those figures can be misleading. Georgia basketball had put together some solidly-ranked classes. Those classes were boosted by signing a quantity of high school talent, but maybe not so much overall quality.

Want to know what says a lot more about the state of the Georgia basketball program?

Consider the in-state recruiting. There have been several reports of late about a disconnect regarding the state’s high school basketball coaches, its AAU coaches and the UGA men’s program.

During lean years, it is not likely that the Georgia basketball program will ever beat out Auburn, Duke, Kansas or North Carolina for an elite hoops prospect. If it has any chance at all, it should be with an in-state prospect.

That success rate on that front can be found by tracking the number of times Georgia basketball signed one of the state’s top 10 prospects from 2019-2022.

  • 2019: 1 (No. 1 in Georgia Anthony Edwards)
  • 2020: 1 (No. 10 in Georgia Josh Taylor)
  • 2021: 0
  • 2022: 0

That is a problem. If a coach can’t recruit the home state when his teams are struggling to finish above .500, it makes the rebuild that much tougher. It makes the recruiting pitch quite difficult.

Georgia was not able to capitalize on the much-needed program momentum generated by the electricity of having Edwards in Stegeman for that one season.

To be clear, there were players to be found in the state in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Check out the roll call of programs that either signed or earned a commitment from more than one of the state’s top 10 prep prospects during that same span.

  • Auburn: 5
  • Xavier: 4
  • Ohio State: 3
  • Clemson: 3
  • Mississippi State: 2
  • Georgetown: 2
  • Georgia: 2

To be fair, the Bulldogs are still holding commitments from a pair of top 10 overall prospects for the 2023 class. That’s saying something despite the lack of confidence in Crean’s future over the last four or five months.

We also can’t help but notice that Jonas Hayes, one of the top candidates for the UGA job, has been an assistant at Xavier since the spring of 2018.

Hayes has found a way to recruit the state of Georgia very well as an assistant at Xavier in that same span.

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Do recruiting rankings really matter in college basketball?

Here’s a better question: Does it matter in basketball as much as football?

Check out the average rating across that same span of the SEC teams in the latest college basketball top 25. The numbers below are presented from the 2019 signing class going forward to the Class of 2022

  • No. 4 Auburn: No. 20; No. 10; No. 72*; No. 38
  • No. 5 Kentucky: No. 2; No. 1; No. 2; No. 27
  • T-9: Tennessee: No. 28; No. 5; No. 5; No. 78*
  • No. 15 Arkansas: No. 157*; No. 9; No. 84*; No. 2
  • Georgia: No. 11; No. 17; No. 60; N/A

The asterisk for those leans years at Auburn and Arkansas do not really reflect a dip at all. They point to the new lane for talent acquisition in big-time college basketball.

Auburn finished No. 72 overall in that lean year because it signed one high school player in that class. That player just happened to be a 5-star recruit from the state of Georgia. Bruce Pearl then supplemented that class with four impact transfers, including a Georgia transfer and a Georgia basketball legacy transfer in Walker Kessler from North Carolina.

The Tigers are ranked No. 38 overall in 2022 but that’s because they only have two signees to this point. Tennessee’s anomaly across this sample size is also due to the fact it has just one signee in the 2022 class.

The two dip years for Arkansas here are explained by the same rationale. The Razorbacks brought in four high-profile Power 5 transfers in 2021 and just one top 100 overall high school recruit. They brought in another six transfers in 2019 to explain that No. 157 overall recruiting ranking.

Georgia signed seven high school players in 2019 to pair with the No. 2 overall recruit in NBA rising star Anthony Edwards. That included four other players ranked among the nation’s top 103 recruits.

Crean brought in five high school prospects and three transfers in 2020, but just one top 100 overall prep recruit. There were five new enrollees and five transfers in the 2021 class, but that class lacked a single top 200 overall prospect.

The big takeaway here is a simple one. If a program isn’t getting the best players, it is not going to have much of a chance. Especially when your conference rivals are getting those types of players.

Georgia basketball has just felt what it has been like for Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee during football season since Kirby Smart arrived in Athens.

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SENTELL'S INTEL

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