Tuesday October 13th, 2015 8:00AM

Fox's Bulldogs boast improved depth, experience

By The Associated Press
ATHENS -- Coach Mark Fox has a long list of reasons his Georgia team should be better this season.

``We have more pieces this year,'' Fox said. ``We're a deeper basketball team. We're more athletic than we were, we're a more physical group and certainly a more experienced group than last year.''

Georgia, which made its first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years in 2011, fell back to 15-17 last season.

Four starters return: guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and forwards Marcus Thornton, Donte Williams and Nemanja Djurisic.

Caldwell-Pope, who averaged 13.2 points per game as a freshman last season, will be the focus of opposing defenses. The 6-foot-5 sophomore said he'll have more help from the deeper roster.

``I think the team is ready to make a move up,'' Caldwell-Pope said. ``We have more athleticism than last year. We have a great group of guys who are willing to work hard and compete. Everyone wants to win.''

Fox took the team on a 10-day trip to Italy in August that included three exhibition games. It was Georgia's first team trip overseas since 2004.

Caldwell-Pope, a natural shooting guard who can play small forward, played point guard on the trip as Fox sought to expand the sophomore's skills.

``He had a very good freshman year in many ways, but there is so much more room for improvement with him and I think he understands that,'' Fox said. ``He's going to have to shoot a higher percentage. He's going to have to become a more efficient scorer.

``I think he'll certainly be an improved player this year, a more physical player. We played him some at the p on our foreign trip so I think he's a better ball-handler and more poised in the backcourt, so hopefully you'll see those improvements from him.''

Freshmen Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris could play significant roles.

Mann is competing with senior Vincent Williams for the starting job at point guard. Gaines, a Parade magazine All-America pick from Whitefield Academy, is a shooting guard. Morris is a 6-foot-7 forward.

``We have more pieces this year,'' said an optimistic Fox.

``I think we have great competition for playing time on this team, and that's something we've never had since I came here.''

Fox said any of the three freshmen could compete for a starting job ``if they'll play to their ability and do what they're told.''

``I've had a lot of freshmen in my career who have started for me,'' Fox said. ``They would have to earn that, and they've got some guys ahead of them that don't want to be beat out. It will be fun to watch.''

The two most prominent players Fox must replace are starting point guard Gerald Robinson and backup guard Dustin Ware. Robinson led the team with his 14.2 points per game. Ware was a 3-point shooter who averaged 8.1 points.

This year's backcourt should be bigger.

``We're going to miss the experience of Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware in the backcourt, but that's really the only key pieces we lost off last year's team,'' Fox said. ``We just have more guys who I think are ready for SEC play. I think we're a little bit longer, we'll be a little bit bigger in the backcourt. We're more physical up front with an offseason in the weight room and just natural maturity.''

Other returning players on the front line include 6-foot-11 senior center John Florveus and two sophomores, John Cannon and Tim Dixon. Junior Sharrard Brantley is another option in the backcourt.

Fox, starting his fourth season, said this is his first Georgia team where all the players are his recruits.

``We have some new faces and unlike last year we return a lot of production,'' he said at the start of practice. ``This is a group I'm looking forward to coaching. It's a group I think still has a very young flavor to it, but we do return quite a bit of production from last year. And so I anticipate we will be a team that continues to improve throughout the year but we will be a team that has certainly a much greater understanding of what's required to win when the season begins.''

Georgia plays an exhibition against Young Harris on Friday before opening its season on Nov. 9 against Jacksonville.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Tech's 2nd half surge beats Fordham 73-48
Daniel Miller and Robert Carter Jr. each scored 14 points and Georgia Tech scored 17 straight points in the second half en route to a 73-48 victory over Fordham on Saturday night.
10:17PM ( 2 years ago )
Djurisic's career night leads Dogs past Florida A&M
Nemanja Djurisic scored a career-high 21 points and Georgia won its third straight Saturday 82-73 over Florida A&M.
7:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Ga. Southern beats Ga. State, 68-64 in overtime
Eric Ferguson scored 24 points and Georgia Southern overcame a late double-digit deficit to beat Georgia State 68-64 in overtime on Saturday.
7:25PM ( 2 years ago )
College Sports
(VIDEO) Player of the Week: Watson's climb leading Dawson back to top
Coey Watson is developing into one of the top quarterbacks in the area -- and the rest of Region 7-AAA is finding out firsthand.
4:49PM ( 8 hours from now )
Roddy White says cheers from Falcons fans 'meant a lot'
Roddy White felt the need to question his role in the Falcons' offense last week...
9:57AM ( 1 hour from now )
Johnson blaming himself, players for Georgia Tech's slide
It's gotten so bad for Georgia Tech that coach Paul Johnson can no longer count on his beloved spread option offense to run basic plays.
9:41AM ( 1 hour from now )
Person close to situation: Spurrier retiring from South Carolina, effective immediately
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has told his players that he is retiring, effective immediately.The 70-year-old coach informed players of his decision Monday night, said a pe...
12:05AM ( 7 hours ago )
Region 8-AAAA softball: Lady Wolves take title in thriller over North Hall
Buford won the Region 8-AAAA girls softball title in thrilling fashion Monday.
By AccessWDUN staff
11:50PM ( 8 hours ago )