UGA Men’s Basketball Team Begins Preseason Practices

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UGA Men’s Basketball Team Begins Preseason Practices

Derek Ogbeide with the 'slamma-jamma'
Derek Ogbeide with the ‘slamma-jamma’

The UGA men’s basketball team will begin “official” practices for the 2017-18 basketball season on today (Saturday morning). The Bulldogs return four of five starting positions and nine of their top-10 scorers from last year’s team that finished 19-15 and reached postseason play for the fourth consecutive year.

Headlining the returnees is Yante Maten, who was named preseason SEC Player of the Year and third-team All-America by the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
Redshirt senior Juwan Parker and junior Derek Ogbeide started 31 and 33 games, respectively. Parker was the team’s third-leading scorer (9.3 ppg) and rebounder (5.3 rpg). Ogbeide led the Bulldogs on the boards (7.6 rpg) and is the second-leading returning rebounder in the SEC.
Georgia’s fourth “starter” was a mix of junior guard William Jackson II (16 starts), sophomore guard Jordan Harris (12 starts) and junior forward E’Torrion Wilridge (8 starts).
Joining the returnees are five newcomers: freshmen Nicolas Claxton, Rayshaun Hammonds, Teshaun Hightower and Isaac Kante and redshirt junior Christian Harrison, a walk-on transfer from Troy.
Georgia is in the midst of one of its most productive stretches on the hardwood in program history. The Bulldogs’ have won 51 SEC games over the past five seasons, the winningest half-decade span in school history. Georgia also has notched four 20-win seasons during head coach Mark Fox’s eight campaigns in Athens, tying hall of fame coach Hugh Durham for the most 20-win results in UGA annals.
The Bulldogs will open the season in five weeks when they host Bryant on Friday, Nov. 10 in the newly-renovated Stegeman Coliseum. This summer, the arena underwent an $8-million transformation that included new seats, a massive center-hung scoreboard and additional LED signage and lighting and an upgraded sound system. All told, Stegeman has received more than $20 million in upgrades over the past several years.
Georgia hosted a media availability earlier this week, with Fox, Maten and Parker discussing the offseason and upcoming campaign. Below are excerpts of interviews from that session.

Head Coach Mark Fox


Mark Fox
Mark Fox

On the 2017 season outlook…
“Our focus will be on trying to become good at certain things. We need to build a defense that can get stops, and we have to become efficient offensively. And really we’re just going to focus on each day trying to become proficient. That’ll be our focus for the early start and preseason practice. We’ve had a great offseason, and we’re all excited to get started.”
On new leadership…
“J.J. (Frazier) was maybe the best leader we’ve had, ever. He was a natural leader, and one of the things that give us an advantage is the other guys got to witness true leadership. Hopefully, some of that rubbed off. I think this summer when we needed some leadership, it’s been there. But until the bullets really start flying, we won’t know. I think these guys understand that that’s a void that we have to fill.”
On the freshmen…
“The freshman certainly look good getting off the bus. That’s probably not going to win us a lot of games. They’ve been very eager to learn. There’s a lot that they do have to learn, and obviously, as we get started, we’ll see how quickly they can adjust and how steep their learning curve is. But we’re excited about all four of those kids.”
On the renovations at Stegeman Coliseum
“I think there will be a new energy level because we have the tools to create that. It’s beautiful inside, it’s very well done, so obviously, we’re extremely excited about Stegeman not only for our fans but also for our players.”

Senior forward Yante Maten


Yante Maten shoots a freethrow during the South Carolina game.
Yante Maten shoots a freethrow during the South Carolina game.

On having an experienced group to help the freshman…
“We try to help them as older guys and lead them by telling them what they need to do like Marcus (Thornton) did for me my freshman year. We still have our core group of guys who most are experienced like you said so it makes things easier when you have guys that know what to do and what not to do.”
On a tough non-conference schedule…
“I love going against the best. Any game is a good game, but the harder the games, the more I feel like it gets us ready for the season. It all is just preparation for us to get ready for the SEC season.”
On Stegeman Coliseum’s renovation…
“We were down there the other day, and we were all just amazed by how it looks. The new center-hung scoreboard and all the LED lights and different things really make a difference. It looks like a whole new gym, but the same feel. At first, you are starstruck that it is really your gym. It is a great feeling.”
On his goals and team goals…
“I’m just trying to lead the team to play sound basketball to a point where we are being a team and playing the right basketball, where no one is looking out for the own shots and we are trying to move the ball to find the best shot. Also leading off the court, making sure we are handling things academically so we don’t have any problems when we get on the court.”
On his role changing since the loss of J.J. Frazier…
“J.J. (Frazier) was a big part of our team last year, there is no doubt about that. But every year you lose a few people so that is part of being an athlete. Every time you are faced with some type of circumstance you have to overcome it. Everyone is trying to step up and fill in that gap that J.J. left, whether that is points or being a leader. Everyone realizes it is time to step up. ”

Redshirt senior guard Juwan Parker


Juwan Parker
Juwan Parker

On the new renovations at the Stegeman Coliseum…
“Man, it’s awesome. It’s just awesome. It looks nice, the paint’s nice, the seating’s nice. Everything is just – they did a great job, especially with the scoreboards, they added more scoreboards, and the screens around it, it just makes it look great. It makes it pop, so it’s awesome.”
On being a veteran…
“One thing is confidence. You’ve been through it before, you know what to expect, you know how to get yourself going, you know how to feel good, so I’m just ready, I’m excited.”
On his Achilles injury…
“I’m not quite 100 percent but close. I’m getting closer everyday, every week, and I feel really good actually six months removed. I can do everything, cleared to do everything, and I feel good doing everything. Just taking it a little slow to get the little things back, but it feels great.”
On coming back from injury a second time…
“After being through it the first time, I was almost depressed the first time, but this time I kind of knew what was going on, I was kind of expecting it, so I was in a completely different mindset.
On the freshmen…
“They’re awesome. They’re competitive. They’re all super long. I’m excited to see them play.”

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