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Video/Transcript: Mike White, Noah Thomasson and Frank Anselem-Ibe Alabama Pregame Interviews
On the opportunity to face a top 25- ranked Alabama squad…
“Exciting opportunity. The Steg ought to be rocking. We’re fired to tip it up. Going to have a great practice today. Alabama is obviously really good, and they’ve been very good for quite some time. Good defensively, elite offensively, it’s a great opportunity.”
On getting across the line and winning games…
“Just learn from each game, win or lose. We obviously let an opportunity where we had a chance to capitalize late in Gainesville get away a little bit. That said, with 10 minutes left in the game, no one would’ve thought our guys would’ve put themselves in a position to do that. Florida is really good. They are a tournament team. We’ve got a bunch of opportunities ahead of us. We’ve got to continue to work towards improvement offensively and defensively. Stay together, stay connected and trust that the results will take care of themselves.”
On his takeaways from the team’s defense against Florida…
“We really struggled defensively in two of the last three at Florida and at Kentucky. Some of it is transition. Some of it is defensive rebounding. Some of it is just interior physicality. We’ve regressed a little bit here recently as we’ve taken some steps forward offensively. We’ve made a big jump in the past month offensively. We’ve got to get back to improvements defensively without other regression offensively.”
On what stands out about Alabama on transition…
“They are fast, and they are athletic. Most teams in our conference are, but their willingness to share it, to space it, spread it out, keep the ball moving. Their skill level, of course. They are a really skilled team. They can play a couple different ways, and they’ve got certain lineups where their skill isn’t even in our league. (Mark) Sears is having as good of a year probably with (Tennessee’s Dalton) Knecht, both offensively and defensively. He does a lot for those guys, passing and scoring, his percentages, his assist-turnover ratio, his screening, and he’s one of the best defensive guards in our league too.”
On RJ Melendez’s progression this season…
“He’s really settled in offensively. He’s as confident as he’s played. We were playing small ball, and he had good matchups at times when he was in space. The first couple fell for him over those two that didn’t fall for him. I think those led to a gain in confidence level from three. He’s attacked the basket, drawn fouls, been active and been a really competitive defender for us all year. Obviously his 3-point numbers haven’t been where we expected them to be, including himself, because he’s shot it well in practice.”
On what he wants to see against Alabama…
“Transition urgency, block outs, hits, defensive rebounds, just finishing possessions. Then we’ve got to guard three at a really high level against a team that’s as efficient as anybody in the country.”
On what stands out about Alabama’s team…
“They’re really talented. Like every SEC team, they’re going to play hard. They shoot a lot of 3s. They have a good guard in Mark Sears. Grant Nelson’s really good for them, Aaron Estrada – they have a lot of really good weapons, so we’ve got to be ready for them tomorrow.”
On the challenges of playing a team that’s productive in transition…
“We have to take good shots. Good shots lead to good transition defense. If we don’t take care of the ball, that’s when they’re going to get out and their talent starts to show and their ability to make 3s. So we have to take good care of the ball and take good shots.”
On how the team processes its ability to make up ground in the last couple games…
“Obviously we like the way that we’ve fought in every game that we’ve been in, but the idea is we have to play a complete game to win those games. We’re going to have to start winning some big-time games for us to get to where we want to get to, and that’s the NCAA Tournament. We just try to take it one day at a time and try to get better every single day, and that’s what we’ve been doing. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and get the win against a good Alabama team.”
On if he realized that RJ Melendez was capable of his 38-point performance at Florida…
“My first day in the summer, I saw him knocking down a lot of shots, making big-time plays. He’s gotten better every single day. He’s growing as a basketball player. He’s understanding how to score, finding innovative ways to be more successful, and we saw it against Florida. We need him to keep making those types of plays. That’s when we’re at our best, when he’s doing what he does, playing in transition and knocking down shots. He’s a really good player. I’m excited for him that he had his career high. I wish we would have gotten the win for him, but it happens.”
On the challenges Alabama presents…
“I mean, they shoot a lot, and they make a lot. But you know, so far this year, we’ve been pretty good defensively, except for a couple of games ago where we just got to figure out some stuff. But I think we’ve been pretty good defensively. We have a pretty good game plan that figures to kind of slow them down because you’re not going to stop them from making 3s. It’s what they do. We’re just hoping that going into the game tomorrow, we can kind of slow them down a little bit and see what happens.”
On the keys to slowing Alabama down…
“You just said it yourself, it’s transition defense. You know, when a shot goes up, you better get back because they’re going to push it. They get some looks and shoot the ball. They’re going to push it down your throat, so you just got to get back on defense and take the three away.”
On the difference of the Stegeman atmosphere from last season to this season…
“I think it’s pretty good. You know especially the students actually moving closer to the court. The students are more engaged, the fans are more engaged and the players on the court will feel that energy. When you feel that kind of support coming from your own fans, it’s kind of like an added extra motivation to go out every game and prove to people that will support. I think it’s a pretty good thing, right?”
On the team’s approach at this point of the season moving forward…
“It’s just being focused. Being focused and executing. I think the last game, especially the Florida game, we kind of were uncharacteristic a little bit. I think we had six turnovers in the first three minutes or something like that, and the rest of the game we had just three. Stuff like that in the SEC, you can’t make mistakes like that. It’s going to come back and bite you. Hopefully we learn from that.”
Loran Smith Senior Associate Athletic Director, Claude Felton Retires
Claude Felton, a cornerstone of the University of Georgia Athletic Association since 1979, has announced his retirement, effective Jan. 31, 2024. One of the most beloved and respected members of the Georgia Athletic Association and across the collegiate athletics landscape, Felton has served in the roles of Senior Associate Athletic Director, Associate and Assistant Athletic Director, Sports Communication Director and, most recently, the Loran Smith Senior Associate Athletic Director.
“Lots of time has gone by and some unbelievable experiences and memories have come my way,” Felton said. “I’ve worked with some terrific presidents, athletic directors, some of the greatest coaches and athletes in the history of collegiate sports, and legendary media on all levels from national writers and network television to radio stations and weekly newspapers around the state. I’ve been blessed with the greatest group of full-time staff members, graduate assistants, and undergrad students I could have imagined who have done remarkable work and are responsible for always somehow making me look good.”
“Claude Felton is one of the most influential figures in the history of Georgia Athletics,” J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks said. “His honesty, humility, attention to detail and congenial spirit have elevated all of our athletic programs throughout his 45-year association with the Bulldogs. I know his mentors Dan Magill and Vince Dooley would say ‘job well done,’ as they look back on Claude’s outstanding career. He has meant so much to me and so many others, and we wish him all the best during this next phase of his life.”
“I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Claude Felton for his unwavering commitment spanning four decades to the University of Georgia and our Athletic Association,” UGA president Jere W. Morehead said. “Claude, through his dedication and passion, has not only conveyed the triumphs of our student-athletes and coaches but has also intricately woven the narrative of the rich sports history of the University of Georgia.”
The Savannah, Ga., native was named Georgia’s Sports Information Director in July, 1979, after serving as the Director of Public Relations at Georgia Southern University. Over the last 45 years, Felton has mentored countless individuals and has become a leader in college athletics. He is a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Felton served as media coordinator for 18 NCAA national championship events. He has also served on the press liaison staff for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and was the press venue chief for the soccer venue at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. He was chairman of the Ethics Committee of the College Sports Communicators from 1985-91 and received the Arch Ward Award in 2004. He has won a myriad of awards including the Football Writers Association of America’s prestigious Bert McGrane Award.
During Felton’s tenure as Sports Information Director, Bulldog athletic teams won 136 Southeastern Conference titles and 47 national championships.
Felton has been a part of three football National Championships, seven Southeastern Conference Championships in football and 415 wins over the last 44 seasons on the football field. He has also been a trusted advisor for Coach and Athletic Director Vince Dooley, coaches Ray Goff, Jim Donnan, Mark Richt and Kirby Smart, as well as athletic directors Greg McGarity, Damon Evans and Josh Brooks in addition to many long-tenured coaches across all sports.
He handled the publicity efforts for numerous All-Americans and individual honors, most notably the Heisman Trophy campaign for Hershel Walker, who won college football’s most prestigious award in 1982.
Felton earned his ABJ and M.A. Degrees from the University of Georgia. He is married to the former Cathy Turner of Athens, Ga., and they have three children: Robyn, a 2000 graduate of Samford University; Christopher, married to the former Katie MacKelcan and a 2004 graduate of UGA; and Patrick, a 2009 graduate of UGA.
Dawgs in the NFL – Conference Championships
For the 23rd year in a row, former Bulldogs will be playing for a Super Bowl. The Ravens fell despite a 16-tackle effort from linebacker Roquan Smith while the Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman Jr. and Malik Herring took home the AFC crown. Three former Bulldogs with the 49ers will be heading to Las Vegas to challenge the defending champions as they look to earn a ring of their own on Feb. 11.
Chiefs 17, Ravens 10
Malik Herring, DE – Saw action on 14 defensive snaps for Kansas City in the win, recording no statistics.
Mecole Hardman Jr., WR – Appeared on one offensive snap for the Chiefs, recording no statistics.
Roquan Smith, ILB – Started at linebacker for Baltimore as he racked up 16 total tackles on the day. Smith ends the season with nine-straight games recording seven or more tackles, and posting seven or more tackles in four consecutive playoff games.
Ben Cleveland, OG – Appeared on one offensive play and two special teams plays for the Ravens in the loss.
49ers 34, Lions 31
Charlie Woerner, TE – Appeared on 11 offensive snaps for the 49ers, recording no statistics while recording one tackle on special teams.
Robert Beal Jr., OLB – Saw action on two defensive snaps for San Francisco, recording no statistics in the win.
Chris Conley, WR – Appeared on eight offensive snaps for the 49ers, recording no statistics.
Reserve Lists (IR, PUP, NFI)
Ravens: Nick Moore, LS
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