Georgia will get an early start on preparations for the 2016-17 campaign during the nine-day, three-game trip from August 1-9. Georgia will fly into Madrid before traveling to Valencia and then wrapping up in Barcelona. The Bulldogs will face All-Star teams in Madrid on Tuesday, Valencia on Friday and Barcelona on Monday.
The tour should benefit a veteran Georgia team looking to break in three newcomers. The Bulldogs return eight of their top-10 scorers from last year’s team which finished 20-14 overall and 10-8 in SEC play. Of those eight veterans, three (J.J. Frazier, Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide) were starters and three more (Mike Edwards, Kenny Paul Geno and Houston Kessler) garnered starting experience a year ago.
In addition, redshirt junior Juwan Parker is expected to return after missing 2015-16 while recovering from an Achilles injury. Parker started the first 14 games of the Bulldogs’ 2015 NCAA Tournament campaign before being sidelined.
“We return probably more than we have in a while, but we really went into the off-season trying to get a little better,” head coach Mark Fox said. “We wanted to be a little better in every way – a little more physical, a little better on offense, a little better on defense. We’ve gone in with the approach ‘let’s go back to work.’ The bottom line is we have to see if we can improve. So we really have had a very simple approach about this off-season, no hype, just go back to work.”
The overseas tour afforded Georgia the chance to get to work a little earlier than usual, with 10 practices between July 17-30 before departing for Europe.
“If we’re in a gym, I’m the happiest,” Fox said. “Whether it be practice or a game, that’s what I love to do the most. I think we can get a lot more work done in practice. As a coach, you can have a great impact this time of year.”
The extra work could prove to be an especially valuable commodity as Georgia looks to replace departed seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. Gaines and Mann were mainstays of the Bulldogs’ backcourt for much of the past four years, combining for 200 starts and 3,784 minutes played and helping Georgia to three straight 20-win performances.
Ironically, Gaines and Mann were freshmen four years ago when Georgia made its most recent trip to Europe, visiting Italy in the summer of 2012. The three newcomers on this year’s roster – freshman guards Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris and junior forward Pape Diatta – may benefit most from the experiences in Spain.
“I think it allows the players a chance to, instead of being true rookies when the year starts, to have a little seasoning under their belts,” Fox said. “I really thought Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines became better players and pretty significant players for us in the conference season because they had the foreign tour and then the preseason. By the time they got to conference play, it was like they were sophomores. So our hope is that all of these practices and the games w add toe get to play will help the new guys make the adjustment that much quicker.”