February 24, 2012

Better times ahead?

No, Georgia's basketball season isn't quite over. There are still three regular-season games to play and at least one in the upcoming SEC Tournament in New Orleans.

But while all that's true, Fox took some time during Friday's meeting with beat writers where he talked about his team's young front-line and what a year's experience should mean next year.

"It should be a strength for the team. Nemi (Djurisic), Donte (Williams), Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope), those guys will be so much more physical next year and experienced," Fox said. "And we have a lot of plays that physical maturity impacts. We also have a lot of plays where just the level of experience is absent that you need and these guys are getting a heavy dose of what it takes and that experience will be very valuable. It's part of the process."

The process continues Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) at Stegeman Coliseum where the Bulldogs (12-15, 3-10) host 11th-ranked Florida (22-6, 10-3).

For players like Williams, another year in the strength and conditioning program should certainly prove beneficial.

Currently at 215 pounds, Fox hopes Williams can bulk up to about 230 by the time November rolls around.

But as Fox explained, Williams shouldn't be the only one to see some benefits.

"Donte will be a junior, he'll be stronger; he'll be ready for it. Marcus(Thornton) will be healthy in a year. Kentavious will be stronger, John Cannon will be more comfortable, all these guys," Fox said. "It just takes time and when guys are thrust into roles a little bit early, that's the challenge of it and that's why early entrance (to the NBA) can hurt teams so much. It is what it is and we have to move on."

Fox speaks from experience there.

Not only did losing players like Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price hurt the Bulldogs from an offensive perspective, it hurt them from the standpoint of size, forcing smaller players like Williams to adjust to facing off against athletes between 30 and 40 pounds heavier than he.

Losing Travis Leslie, meanwhile, has forced Caldwell-Pope to a three-guard, instead of his natural spot at the two.

"Kentavious is a two-guard whose playing small forward as a freshman, playing 30-plus minutes, he's not physical enough in that spot yet. With Travis' departure, much like Donte, he's been thrust into a role that's probably a little much for him to handle physically right now," Fox said. "There's really no way around that, but I think that's a good assessment, Travis, Trey and JP (Price) were just so much physical around the basket. These guys will get there too."

NOTES: Saturday's game will be shown on the SEC Network. … Florida won the two teams' first game meeting on Jan. 10 in Gainesville by a 70-48 tally. The Gators built a 14-point halftime lead and Georgia was unable to get any closer than 13 points in a late second-half rally. Djurisic led the Bulldogs in the game with 14 points. … The Bulldogs are coming off a 61-53 loss at LSU, a contest that continued a year-long trend for Georgia which managed more overall field goals than the Tigers (22-19) but was outscored 18-5 at the free-throw line. The margin would likely have been greater had LSU made more than 18 of its 30 attempts. Georgia averages more field goals and three-pointers per game in SEC play than its opponents, but average 7.6 free throws less per game. The Bulldogs have outscored just one SEC opponent at the line this SEC season: Tennessee in an overtime victory. Saturday's game is the third this week for Georgia. The Bulldogs will conclude the regular season with a Thursday night game at top-ranked Kentucky and the home finale March 3 against South Carolina.