As the Georgia basketball team prepares to tip off practice Oct. 15, head coach Mark Fox is pleased with what he sees.
He's not just talking about what he sees on the court.
As the $10 million dollar renovation to Stegeman Coliseum continues, Fox is excited for what the improvements will mean to the fans, who continue to gobble up season tickets, anxious for what many are predicting to be a banner year on the hardwood.
Of course, Fox isn't about to make any grand predictions about that. But with the interest level in men's hoops as high as it's been in recent memory, the Bulldogs' second-year coach is excited for the steps his program seems to be taking.
He's even happier that fans appear ready to come along for the ride.
"We're pleased what we've got interest back in our program. We've got terrific fans and we're seeing season ticket numbers that we haven't seen for a long time," Fox said Thursday. "We're excited about the atmosphere we think we'll be able to create and the fans are a part of that. Creating a great home-court advantage is through your fans and we're looking forward to having those people back."
Junior guard Dustin Ware says he's noticed a definite sense of excite for the Bulldogs, who open their season against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 12.
"All around campus, everybody is anxious like we are to get the season going and get it underway," Ware said. "We're excited, but we still haven't proven anything yet, but I can guarantee you we'll work hard to be the best team we can be."
On paper, the Bulldogs have a chance to be a pretty solid squad.
Of course, juniors Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins give the Bulldogs one of the best one-two punches in the SEC, along with veterans Ware, Chris Barnes, Jeremy Price and Vincent Williams.
Of the newcomers, Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson is expected to make an immediate impact at guard, while freshmen Sherrard Brantley and Marcus Thornton have a chance to make quick contributions.
"We have an element of experience that we didn't have last year," Fox said. "Trey has certainly had an outstanding fall and Travis had an outstanding summer and I believe when you talk to them they'll tell you it's not about them, it's about winning. We're excited about their approach."
As for Brantley, coaches hope the Dublin native will give the team a consistent outside shooting presence following the graduation of Ricky McPhee, while Fox believes the 6-foot-7 Thornton has an opportunity to contribute in a number of ways.
"Marcus has a lot of ability. He's a great kid and much more versatile than people realize," Fox said. "He could have a terrific career, but how quickly he makes the transition to this level will determine how much he plays as a freshman."
Fox added the changes the University is making at Stegeman Coliseum will help fans enjoy the product on the court.
"On the outside, when people drive up to Stegeman Coliseum it's going to look different. We've put 10 million dollars into this building and none of it is for the coaches and players, it's for the fans," he said. "I think fans will notice they'll have a lot more space to move around, more bathrooms, better concessions and hopefully it will be a better game experience."
On the court, he's counting on those same fans to make Stegeman a proverbial house of horrors for visiting teams.
"You have to use your momentum to your advantage and our players have to continue to work and improve," Fox said. "If we can establish a home court we have to use it to our advantage but these kids have to make the plays, and they understand that."
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