Georgia basketball hosted an exhibition against Valdosta State on Thursday evening. After losing J.J. Frazier last season, it was uncertain how the team would perform in 2017. The Bulldogs won 112-74 with Yante Maten leading the way. However, it wasn’t just Maten that stood out, it was the four freshmen who complimented the senior to win.
The Bulldogs had five players score in double-digits and two collect a double-double. Every player that got onto the floor scored at least two points. Maten led the way with 24 points, shooting 10-12 from the floor and grabbing 10 rebounds. Freshman, Rayshaun Hammonds shot a perfect 7-7 from the floor and nabbed 17 points and 11 rebounds. Derek Ogbeide scored 17 points, Turtle Jackson added 10 to the scoreboard and Tyree Crump collected 14.
Despite the impressive performance by some of the veterans, it was the four freshmen, Hammonds, Teshaun Hightower, Isaac Kante, and Nicolas Claxton that shined.
I think all of [the freshmen] have a unique ability to help our team,” said Georgia head coach Mark Fox. “They all are a little bit different in some way than the guys we have, so they have a lot to learn about playing at this level. But the group as a whole certainly I think have the potential to be very very good.”
The freshmen combined for 33 points, 19 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Hammonds started the game and put up his first double-double in Stegman.
I thought Rayshaun certainly used the experience of the game at Michigan State to get better,” Fox states. “I thought he really played with a better focus tonight and I think he played with more intended efforts and more focused efforts. He certainly got a knack to make plays and he’s efficient. “
Even though the freshmen performed well, it was Yante Maten that led the team. The senior leader came back after deciding he wasn’t quite ready for the NBA. Maten helped lead the team to most of their wins last season with Frazier. So his return seemed to boost the team’s morale. Fox praised the senior for a lot of things, but most of all his leadership skills.
Jonas Hayes said this all the time, he’s amazed how coachable Yante remains,” Fox mentions. “He’s still trying to become a more complete player, to become a better leader and become all the things that are out there in front of him. I think he’s driven to have a great year. He had great examples as a freshman, and he talks a lot with our team about it. He says listen I had great people to learn from and I want you young guys to learn from us. So I think he credits the guys he learned from as leaders and I think he takes that role very seriously.”
Fox praised his team for their performance tonight but mentioned they have a lot to improve. He complimented guys like Crump for his efforts and promise that he showed tonight. Fox commented that he wanted to improve on his perimeter shooting, and Crump could help with that.
Well, he’s a great shooter and has a knack to score,” Fox says. “He’s playing two positions and that’s a lot as a sophomore to try and manage both those. But he’s doing okay. I think his shooting is a real asset to our team and the further we get into the year the more comfortable he’ll get playing a couple different places and the more comfortable he gets the more consistent he will shoot the ball.”
However, despite the questions about individuals, Fox told the media that the team as a whole has a lot of versatility. They can go all-big or mix it up. Fox said Georgia has a lot of long and mobile players and that will benefit them down the road.
I think this team has great versatility,” Fox states. “One thing about it we could play like we started tonight and still cover. Groups that are playing three guards. E’Torrion (Wildridge) is long and mobile and Rayshaun (Hammonds) is long and mobile and Yante (Maten) is very long and mobile. So we can switch a lot of stuff if we have to. I think there will be times where we do that quite a bit. We’ve kind of had to do that out of necessity because we’re trying to get reps at the point for everybody to learn what they’re doing there.”
After Thursday’s exhibition win over Valdosta State, it seems Georgia’s growing as a team. They have four freshmen that aim to please, and hopefully, when SEC play comes around later on down the road, the Bulldogs will have plenty of weapons to score. Georgia showed promise during the game, but Fox said, “I think the options are there, but we are a long way away from utilizing some of that.”
Georgia’s regular season starts November 10, at home versus Bryant at 7:00 p.m.
Check out Coach Mark Fox’s full interview below.
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