With so many newcomers on the 2011-2012 squad, senior Dustin Ware knew his role was going to be just a little bit different than it's been in previous campaign.
He just wasn't expecting this.
"It's funny, in practice I find myself doing a lot more coaching than anything," Ware said. "But it is definitely a different experience, a different role, but I'm enjoying it."
It's definitely been a different type of challenge.
As the Bulldogs get ready to open their season Friday night against visiting Wofford (8 p.m.), 10 of the 14 players currently on Georgia's roster have just one varsity letter or less, including the most recent signing class of four true freshmen and junior college transfer John Florveus.
Ware, meanwhile, is the only three year-letterman, with fellow senior Gerald Robinson Jr. the only remaining Bulldog veteran with extensive playing time.
"We're the ones who have to show them the ropes, different ways to do things," Robinson Jr. said. "But it hasn't taken them long to take on the mentality that we have here and what Coach always tries to get across. They are a lot of hard-working guys and they've caught on pretty quickly."
Fox admits he's going to be leaning on the pair quite a bit, not only in regards to their play on the court, but their respective roles of leaders off it.
"They know what I think, what I want, and they shouldn't have to think about that. But, they're also faced for the first time with nothing but new faces around them. That's going to be unique for them," Fox said. "But they're working at it. It's an effort for them. It's hard to play and coach at the same time; I'm sure they feel like that sometimes."
But neither Ware nor Robinson Jr. is complaining.
As he looked around the room during this week's interview session, Ware pointed to young teammates like freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, sophomore Marcus Thornton, sophomore Donte Williams, freshman John Cannon and freshman Nemanja Djurisic as some of the examples as to why he thinks the Bulldogs' basketball future is a bright one.
"We've got a young group, still have a lot to learn and we're trying to pull them along the best we can. I think they're working hard, but the biggest thing is just making sure we compete on every single play," Ware said. "That's hard to do for any team, especially a young team, but we've got keep battling. If we just do that I think we will be just fine."
Georgia's frontcourt is where most of the inexperience lies as the seldom-used Nolte is the only upperclassman at Fox's disposal.
The rest - with the exception of Florveus - are made up entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
Fox said he'll likely go through a number of different combinations during the first couple of months before his Bulldogs kick off SEC play against Alabama on Jan. 7.
"It's going to depend on the day. (Tuesday) was one of the few bad days this team has had. It was our 25th workout, and I don't think our guards practiced very well so our frontline players didn't have good days, either," Fox said. "But each of those frontline guys has different strengths. Some days it's Donte, some days in Marcus, some days it's John Florveus, another day it's Tim Dixon and on down the line so I really think a lot of it is going to be matchup-driven because they're all different and they provide different strengths for our team."
NOTES: Fox said the plan is during the early part of the season to bring Caldwell-Pope along as quickly as possible. "We're bringing him along as fast as he can successfully come. We don't want to bring him in too fast where he has too much of a load on his shoulders," Fox said. "We want him to have success, but there's also a fine line. We also want to challenge him and keep pushing to get better. He's practiced very well, he's been very coachable and that has been probably his biggest asset. For as good a player as he is, his ability to listen and apply what he's learned has been a real asset for him." Caldwell-Pope scored six points in last Friday's 75-50 exhibition win over Morehouse College.
Fox said the SEC made a wise decision to bring Missouri into the league. "I think Missouri is a good addition. I grew up in Kansas obviously and went to KU, but Missouri has always had a great tradition. Norm Stewart was one of the top coaches in America and their program was rolling. I think it's a good addition for our league," he said. "We're going to play every team at least one time in basketball, how we're going to schedule it I have no idea. I've put some thought to that. I've had some ideas the last couple of days but it's certainly not going to be my decision."
Following games against Wofford, Bowling Green and South Dakota State, Georgia's next seven contests will each be against high-profile opponents Cal and either Missouri or Notre Dame before five more contests against Xavier, Colorado, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Southern Cal . "I wish we could have sprinkled those out a little bit," Fox said. "But we've got to play them and we need to learn from every experience, and we're going to have to grow up quickly. But there's some advantages to being young, there really are. We've just got to find it."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]