January 20, 2012

KCP learning to adjust

When you're a freshman in the SEC, life on the court is full of adjustments.

That's something Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is finding out for himself.

As Georgia (10-8, 1-3) prepares to host Ole Miss (12-6, 2-2) Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum (4 p.m., SEC Network), the native of Greenville, Ga. is learning that with success now comes dealing with teams taking extra defensive steps to try and stymie his offensive game.

It hasn't been easy.

"Yeah, I'm getting a lot more attention," Caldwell-Pope said earlier this week. "But that's part of it."

Head coach Mark Fox has certainly noticed the extra attention.

"Oh, sure; I think probably since league started," Fox said Friday. "He's been our leading scorer so he's going to see a real focal point of the defense and he's run into that as a true freshman which is very rare."

So far, the results have been mixed.

Caldwell-Pope still leads the Bulldogs in scoring averaging 14.2 points per game (ninth in the SEC; third among freshmen), but in Georgia's four conference games, the numbers have been varied.

After scoring a season-best 22 points in the league opener against Alabama, Caldwell-Pope was held to 8 by Florida before rebounding for 19 against Vanderbilt.

Against Tennessee, thanks to some extra attention by the Vols, Caldwell-Pope's numbers were down again as he finished with just nine points, including just 4-of-14 from the field (0-for-8 from 3-point range).

"He didn't have a good shooting night, but I played the guy into the ground," Fox said of Caldwell-Pope, who played a team-high 41 minutes. "I've got to try and find him some more rest."

Caldwell-Pope said he isn't worried about that.

"The adjustments have been big, but I knew they would be coming in," Caldwell-Pope said. "I'm learning more what to expect. It's just up to me to work hard in practice, individually, and with the team."

But as is becoming ever apparent, Caldwell-Pope is not a one-trick pony.

Although his points were down, the 6-foot-5 forward collected a team-high four steals and pulled down six boards to help the Bulldogs secure their first conference win, a 57-53 overtime win against the rival Vols.

"He's not a one-dimensional player," Fox said. "He had some terrific rebounds late in the game, key rebounds and he had a couple of good steals. He did a lot of good things and that's what good players do, so he's not a one-dimensional guy. He didn't shoot the 3 well, that's true, but he did a lot of things to impact the game."

Fox said it's a sign of early maturity that Caldwell-Pope is able to contribute in other areas when his offense is not quite up to par.

"He's a pretty mature player, he really is. He's more of a complete player than probably we anticipated him being as a freshman," Fox said. "But he was frustrated, you know, but as I told him, everybody has games like that. You've just got to move on."

NOTES: Although he continues to be the team's main rebounder, sophomore Marcus Thornton - who played for the first time in five games Wednesday - continues to struggle from the field. Friday, Fox addressed the former Westlake star's situation. "He missed all of fall with the mono and he's had issues with his knee; ultimately having knee surgery," Fox said. "When he gets healthy and time to get comfortable I think you'll see his offensive production really go up I think the smartest thing he did the other night was not to shoot the ball up and try to make a lot of offensive plays because he hadn't practiced I thought that was a sign of great maturity." … Counting his two seasons at Tennessee State, Gerald Robinson Jr. enters Saturday's game with 1,665 career points, 644 at Georgia and 1,021 in two seasons (2008-09) at TSU. That combined figure would rank 6th on Georgia's career scoring list, 14 behind Walter Daniels (1976-79) and just 23 behind Dominique Wilkins (1980-82). … On his current pace, senior Dustin Ware will become just the seventh player in UGA history to score 1,000 points and hand out 350 assists in his career. Others include Sundiata Gaines (1,469 pts / 476 assists), Litterial Green (2,111 pts/466 assists), Rashad Wright (1,064 / 493); G.G. Smith (1,131 / 440); Vern Fleming (1,777 / 400); and Ray Harrison (1,230 / 377).