Han Vance on Georgia basketball: Sophomore NBA prospect Nicolas Claxton, aka the “Slim Reaper,” doesn’t have the girth and weight of his father “Clack” – who I have football tailgated with fairly recently and used to play summer hoops with in Athens regularly in the 1990s. He’s a cool dude, the elder Claxton. He and UGA footballer Bernard Williams, who was NFL-bound, used to have these epic midair collisions, back in the days when the old, little athletic center for student play was right through the backdoor exit of the Tate Student Center “pit” where I was a student manager of the Set-Up Crew.
Strong play from the seven-footer – he got Daddy’s height, though – and an all-around game featuring blocks, ball handling to the level that he even occasionally handles quasi-point guard duties, touch anticipation passing and inside-out scoring, after a dip there in a game two of the season loss. When Little Clack (13 – 8 – 3 stat line) is on, it’s on for Georgia men’s basketball.
“He defended all five positions on the court” the (internet) color commentator was saying, as fans not present had to listen and watch along on their computer monitors again. Georgia has not been televised in Atlanta at all so far, where Southern basketball school powers Kentucky and North Carolina generally command the broadcasts of every game regularly. Addition of an SEC Network at least allows us to see every Georgia game. And they are playing fairly well already, oh so early in the coach Tom Crean era.
It was a tumultuous spot for the Dogs, as the smaller conference Kats brought an intensity to Athens near Pauly D level, not seen by little Savannah State in the opener. The leads went back-and-forth double-digit times. Then the home team finally clicked. Or should I say Clacked. The sky is the limit for this kid, as he puts on size and gains further confidence. Playing alongside skilled sophomore classmate Rayshaun Hammonds, they could come to totally dominate.
Friday at my morning gig in The City, I was bemoaning the fact that the scheduling could have been a coalescing doubleheader out east in Athens. Kirby Smart’s strong football team hosts UMASS (who earn $1.5 million for the visit) at 4 p.m. on a late-season Saturday, and there is a small league non-conference opponent basketball game in Stegeman Coliseum on the Friday night prior. Athletic director Greg McGarity valuing match-ups between state flagship institutions. Minutemen of Massachusetts versus Bulldogs of Georgia, an interesting-sounding meeting to a layman. It’s not, though. Hoop Hounds host UMASS, a certifiable basketball school, on December 30th (at 6:00 p.m.). Why could moves not have been made to have a football-basketball doubleheader? That’s the type of foresight I want to see.
Head-scratcher that somehow the Sam Houston State game was considered the beginning round of the upcoming Cayman Classic, as the bottom edge of a chilly Nor’Easter had the Athens faithful peeling heavy clothing layers as they entered the arena, from far from tropical conditions. The Sam Houston State Bearkats have trouble spelling cat it seems, are named after the legendary Texan who is the state-to-state historical comparison to Oglethorpe, or more. The formerly fourth-biggest city in the USA was named after him (now fifth as the Metroplex of greater Dallas-Ft. Worth has finally surpassed H-Town in metro area population). Long-running joke, which some actual Texans have sworn to me was real (it isn’t) is that the school is Sam Houston Institute of Technology, an unfortunate acronym, profane cheers in abbreviation that would be.
Fairly Texas’ sense of humor, often involving animal excrement, it reminds me of my dearly departed dad, folks. Miss him more over the holidays. Full circle, he always asked me why we couldn’t be any better at basketball at my fair college. I had no answers other than that we were a football school.
Dawgs (2-1) seek their first win away from Athens (Monday at 1:30 p.m.) as they open the Cayman Classic proper with Illinois State on Grand Cayman. They will play there again, times and opponents to be determined, Tuesday and Wednesday. Not too late to book your flights; be home for turkey.