There have been some significant changes to Georgia basketball’s roster since the Bulldogs played their last game of the 2019-2020 season on March 11, in a 81-69 win over Ole Miss in the opening round of the SEC Tournament..
Head coach Tom Crean has also had to make some coaching staff changes as well. Entering his third season, hopefully Crean will start to finally see some positive turnover after all the hard work he has put into the program. Georgia’s 2020-2021 season will need to be far better than the first two seasons under Crean if he expects to keep his job.
Let’s take a look at what has all changed for Georgia since the coronavirus outbreak ended the college basketball season in mid-March.
This past Saturday, rising senior Rayshaun Hammonds announced that he would be signing with an agent and staying in the mix for the 2020 NBA Draft. He joins his teammate Anthony Edwards, who is predicted to be a top-five pick come June 25. The duo were Georgia’s leading scorers this past year with Edwards averaging 19.1 points per game and Hammonds putting up 12.9. They also led the team in rebounds as well with Hammonds grabbing 7.4 per game and Edwards averaging 5.2.
Beyond those two, Georgia loses five other players. Seniors Tyree Crump, Donnell Gresham Jr. and Jordan Harris all have exhausted their eligibility. Rising sophomore Rodney Howard elected to transfer to rival Georgia Tech, and Amanze Ngumezi, who was suspended in December, is transferring to Jacksonville State.
Luckily, the Bulldogs return a ton of young talent for the 2020-2021 season. Rising sophomore Sahvir Wheeler is the biggest name out of that group. Wheeler worked his way into the starting lineup midway through the year, and didn’t disappoint as he averaged 9.0 points per game last season. Toumani Camara is also another name to watch as he started the final 23 games of the year after Ngumezi’s suspension. Camara only averaged 6.6 points per game, but made it known that he was an aggressive rebounder grabbing an average of 4.3 rebounds per game.
Those are the two most important returnees, but expect Crean to ask a lot more of Mike Peake, Christian Brown and Tye Fagan. Peake saw his playing time increase as the season went on, and could be another guy down low who would potentially help out Camara in the post. He was tied for the team-lead in blocks in five different games last season. As for Brown, who played in 31 of 32 games, led the Bulldogs in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.9 percent. But don’t take that for what it’s worth because he only had 18 attempts while making seven of them. Brown is definitely an option that could replace Tyree Crump’s long-range shooting ability next season.
Rising sophomore Jaykwon Walton should be able to help down low out next season after battling an illness last season. The team also returns walk-ons Jaxon Etter and Stan Turnier.
Crean was able to sign the No. 11 ranked recruiting class in 2019, and four of the nine made the starting lineup at point during last season. That doesn’t include graduate transfer Donnell Gresham Jr. who started 20 of 32 games last season. A lot of Georgia’s success next season will rely on heavily on this incoming class.
While the 2020 class isn’t as highly regarded in terms of talent as last year, it does have a few possible diamonds in the rough. The group currently ranks 29th in the nation and seventh in the SEC according to 247Sports with four signees and one commitment. Four-star point guard K.D. Johnson from Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, VA) is the highest ranked prospect in UGA’s class as the No. 86 player ranked nationally. He is followed by 6-foot-8 Peach State product Josh Taylor, who is from Norcross High School (Norcross, GA), and is another four-star ranked the 115th best player in the nation.
Crean decided to recruit three JUCO players in Mikal Starks and Jonathan Ned, both of whom played at Eastern Florida State College (Cocoa, FL), and Tyron McMillan from Kilgore Junior College (Kilgore, TX). Ned, is listed as a small forward standing at 6-foot-9, and averaged 9.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game this past season. Starks is listed as point guard and that could bring some depth to the position behind Wheeler and Fagan. McMillan is a 6-foot-8 power forward that will more than likely help down competing with Ned for playing time.
Tom Crean is also planning to add a graduate transfer for the second straight year. Gresham was the first-ever in program history, and George Mason guard Justin Kier should be next. Kier chose Georgia over Minnesota and N.C. State after averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game during his last full season of play. He won the Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player award in 2018-19, and was recognized as an All-Atlantic 10 second team player that year as well. Last season he suffered a season ending foot injury after playing in the first nine games.
What could be next…
As of right now, Georgia has one remaining spot on its roster, and rumor has it that they are shooting to land a big man. No player on the roster is taller than 6-foot-10, and it showed last season because Georgia struggled to out-rebound opponents.
Keep an eye on three-star prospect Dylan Cardwell, who is a 6-foot-10 behemoth out of McEachern High School (Power Springs, GA). He has offers from Auburn, Connecticut, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Cardwell took a visit to Georgia back in Sept. Arizona State forward and Peach State native Romello White entered the transfer portal this past weekend, and could draw some attention from UGA sometime soon.