After all the negativity surrounding the suspensions of Mike Mercer and Albert Jackson, plus the recent news of Takais Brown's dismissal, Georgia Bulldog coach Dennis Felton can't wait to get on the court.
If anything, he said, so he can get his first look at this year's touted freshman class.
"You don't really know exactly how guys are doing because they haven't taken any tests yet," said Felton, whose Bulldogs host Clayton State in an exhibition game at 7:30 Friday in Stegeman Coliseum. "It leaves you a little insecure exactly where you're at and how you're doing until you have somebody else to go against."
So far, Felton likes what he's seen.
Forwards Chris Barnes (6-7, 250), Jeremy Jacob (6-7, 210), Jeremy Price (6-8, 270), guard Troy Brewer (6-5, 170) and guard Zac Swansey (6-1, 175) have all been impressive in practice, and the Bulldog coach is anxious to see them compete in a real-game situation.
On paper, it stacks up to be Felton's best group of freshmen since becoming the Georgia coach five seasons ago.
"We recruited these guys to play, there's no doubt about that," Felton said. "Chris Barnes, we always knew he was one of the more raw guys, but on the other hand he's 250 pounds of power and athleticism at the SEC level and that should count for something."
Barnes, rated the 36th-best forward in the country by Rivals.com, averaged 17.3 points and 10 rebounds his junior year at Riverdale High. He missed most of his senior season after undergoing knee surgery, but Barnes is apparently none the worse for wear.
According to Felton, Barnes has been the team's best rebounder during preseason with Jacobs not too far behind.
"J.J. (Jacob) is physically mature, has a knack for scoring and has a knack for scoring," Felton said. "He just gets a little lost sometimes, which is typical for a freshman."
Still, with Brown no longer on the team, Jacob, along with Barnes, will get plenty of opportunity to show that they can contribute early.
They won't be the only ones.
Price (6-8, 270) is another big-body player Felton is anxious to see, while Swansey has already shown a good grasp of the offense and will spell starting point guard Sundiata Gaines throughout the season.
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