Saturday, January 17, 2009

Super Saturday...

What a slate of college basketball games today. You can start off early with the best conference in the country and watch Syracuse vs Notre Dame, then tune in for Georgetown and Duke's non-conference battle and unbeaten Wake vs unbeaten Clemson - and watch all before dinner. Tonight, UNC faces a pretty good Miami squad at 9 and Louisville faces the other unbeaten team in Pitt.

Not much good action locally, though, with struggling UGA and GT playing meaningless conference games. Georgia State has never got it going this year and Kennesaw State was blown out at home last night by Stetson. Why is it that the local teams never seem to be able to get it going? It is known around the country that Georgia is a premier state for basketball prospects. According to, there are 12 players in the top 150 in the country who play high school ball in Georgia. While GT has done a good job getting a group of these players, most of them are leaving the state.

#38 Noel Johnson - USC
#43 Lorenzo Brown - NC St
#51 Richard Howell - NC St
#53 Ari Stewart - Wake
#61 Kenny Hall - Tennessee
#74 Andre Malone - Auburn
#96 Shawn Kemp - Alabama
#125 Terrance Shannon - FSU

While Paul Hewitt has snagged some of the top players in the state over the years (Lawal, Clinch, Aminu, Crittenton), he has also successfully recruited top out of state players Thaddeous Young and Chris Bosh. Top-tier NBA calibur talent has produced enough wins in Hewitt's career to keep his job somewhat safe. Dennis Felton, however, has seen his time run out.

The Felton tenure did produce some good things, like an emphasis on discipline and "cleaning up" of Jim Harrick's mess as well as the SEC Tourney championship on Tech's court. However, he has had plenty of time to turn UGA into what UGA people believe is the right direction. The lack of recruiting top in-state players can not be overlooked. Trey Thompkins was a great pick-up, but he needs more help. Bringing in second tier players like Demario Mayfield and Daniel Miller next year is not acceptable. Did Felton put all of his eggs in the Derrick Favors basket? Maybe, but by not getting him, his gamble will probably cost him his job.

I know some players, like Noel Johnson, are only interested in going to programs with up-tempo styles and a history of sending players to the NBA after a year or two. However, losing Andre Malone to Auburn and Terrance Shannon to Florida State is not acceptable. That is the calibur player UGA has to attract.

The top player in the class of 2010 is Trae Golden of McEachern, a former Ohio State commitment. UGA is in the hunt to land Golden, but Damon Evans will not be able to risk Felton striking out again on a top player. The Felton tenure will be remembered for the SEC title and the lack of landing enough premier players to compete in the rigors of an SEC schedule.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Zac Swansey, Travis Leslie, Albert Jackson, Jeremy Price, and the rest of the team. I can't wait for Demario Mayfield and Daniel Miller to show up on campus and show their stuff. I support the kids who are committed to the program and the university and want only the best for them, however; their leader for next season needs to change.

Who better to call for a replacement than former coach Tubby Smith? Would Tubby have any interest in coming back to the south and coach in the SEC again? He would have to be candidate #1. The new coach needs to be a veteran coach with a strong resume (Final 4 appearance) and not an up-and-comer. If Tubby is happy in Minnesota, I would call Lon Kruger at UNLV. He knows the state and the SEC and may be interested in coming back to this area of the country.

One thing is certain, the UGA hoops program needs a change at the top. This program should be in no fewer than 7 NCAA tournaments every 10 years with the in-state talent that is available. Maybe with a solid new coach, I can enjoy my college basketball Saturday's a little more because one of the top match-ups of the day will include a ranked Dawgs squad.

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