Han Vance on Georgia basketball: “Rayshaun Hammonds!” ….. “Rayshaun Hammonds!” … If Georgia were a basketball school, that would already be a common chant as he is the best basketball player at the University of Georgia now. A (6-8, 235) sophomore, who started last year, he pairs with classmate Nicolas “Slim Reaper” Claxton to form a dynamic soph nucleus for the 2018-2019 Hoop Hounds. Hammonds may need no nickname and soon go household amongst the Dawg-Nation.
First-year coach Tom Crean has no pure point guard efficiently leading the squad through major stretches of gameplay, instead Georgia turning to big men with good handles to make plays. Both Rayshaun Hammonds and Little Clack (my funny nickname for the near-seven footer) – I know his dad who played ball for the Bulldogs – are good passers for big men, but Hammonds may be the best passer on the whole team.
I’m digging his aggressiveness with the ball in his hands, being willing to distribute and to force the action attacking the rim. He’s a good finisher who doesn’t miss on many opportunities. Love this kid’s game, y’all and think he needs the ball more.
Last season as a true frosh, he was the second option late in the season, to an utterly-dominant SEC Player of the Year, Yante Maten (207 field goals). That Georgia, a perennial bubble team fighting for its coach, but not a total loser as a program at that most recent stretch of time, would come to trust Hammonds in situations far beyond his class status, is testament to his versatile skill set. And a competent mindset. He is maturing before our eyes, as decent-sized crowds have shown up at Stegeman Coliseum, all basketball games watchable on the worldwide web (usually SEC Network).
Speaking of last season, Hammonds average line was just: 6.7 4.9 1.4 0.5, but, again, he came on late. By the time I was in Athens watching Georgia beat LSU, hanging onto fading hope for a Big Dance bid, I thought the future had arrived. Had it happened earlier and/or been paired with better guard play outside shooting, Hammonds may still be coached by the man who recruited him to Athens. This is a new era, instead.
Through three games, Tom Crean is loving Rayshaun’s progress. Young Hammonds’s stat line could easily increase, too. He has 12.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1 steal and .07 blocks per contest. I see each number continuing to rise, a key stat Hammonds leading the team in minutes played, at just 24.
Coach Crean has platooned a good bit to find the best options and develop multiple levels of chemistry. Georgia gets out and runs and plays pure full-court basketball this season, which should benefit the guy getting the most minutes as he warms to it. Hammonds deserves the rock.
A great sign, Georgia has gotten balanced scoring from relatively many sources early this season: Crump leads with 13.3, Hammonds 12.3, Ogbeide 12, Claxton 11.7. (with a monster 3 full blocks). No established stars yet on this roster, guys have had a down game, which drove down their seasonal averages, but each has had at least two strong offensive outputs for the squad. Teshaun Hightower, notching 8.3 points in just 15.7 minutes of action, looks most likely to surge into the ranks of the top scorers, while I also like the potential of frosh Tye Fagan from Thomaston, Ga., and senior Texan E’torrion Wilridge.
Point guard play remains my big concern, with Crean trusting bigs to handle the rock more than may be sustainable against better basketball teams on the schedule. Both Hammonds and Claxton can handle but it would be highly irregular for a major college basketball team facing such notable opponents as Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Texas, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky.
Look for Rayshaun Hammonds to be a leading force for the young team, as the season heats up with a so-called preseason tournament (really meaning pre-league play in college basketball). Georgia has a 2-1 record, losing only a close game to Temple in Philly, entering the Cayman Islands Classic. The Bulldogs open on Grand Cayman Monday at 1:30 p.m., with Illinois State and will play additional to-be-determined opponents, at times likewise, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Good tickets available.