MBB: Tom Crean talks new roster, COVID-19 protocols and previews season

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MBB: Tom Crean talks new roster, COVID-19 protocols and previews season

Tom Crean - Georgia vs. SMU 2019 - Second Half - December 20, 2019
Tom Crean – Georgia vs. SMU 2019 – Second Half – December 20, 2019

ATHENS – The Georgia men’s basketball team released their full finalized 2020 schedule, which includes seven non-conference games (all at home), and 18 SEC matchups, with nine on the road and nine at home.

Third-year head coach Tom Crean met with the media on Thursday to preview the season that starts on Nov. 25 against Columbus State.

“We have eight new players,” said Crean. “Their energy has been fantastic, the camaraderie has been very good, and I love coaching them.”

The loss of the program’s two leading scorers

The Bulldogs lost their two leading scorers from last year’s team that finished 16-16. Freshman Anthony Edwards and junior Rayshaun Hammonds left the program after the 2019 season to enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

who lost the two leading scorers off last season’s 16-16 team, Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds to early entry into the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft. Edwards stands a chance of being the No. 1 overall selection as he the nation in scoring for freshman, while Hammonds is projected to be a late second-round pick.

Fast forward six months and Crean basically has had to replace more than half of his 2019-20 squad. Last season, the Bulldogs featured nine freshmen led by Edwards and point guard Sahvir Wheeler.

Sahvir Wheeler - Georgia vs. Florida 2020 - March 04, 2020
Sahvir Wheeler – Georgia vs. Florida 2020 – March 04, 2020

Crean’s stock-piled class of maturity

Since then, Georgia has added three senior transfers and two junior college transfers to the team. The team will be led by Wheeler, who averaged nine points, three assists and five rebounds per game last year. The main concern is who will be Georgia’s leading scorer this season.

Former Virginia Tech player, P.J. Horne, can help in that department. The Tifton, Ga. native started 35 games for the Hokies in his three years in Blacksburg and averaged 7.6 per game last season. That number doesn’t seem like a lot, but the 6-foot-6, 230-pound post player may have an advantage having played against tougher competition in the ACC that the rest of the new guys coming in.

Crean said he believes Horne has a future in the NBA if he can work through some kinks in his game.

Crean also added graduate transfers Andrew Garcia (Stony Brook) and Justin Kier (George Mason). The two junior college transfers were Jonathan Ned and Mikal Starks, both of whom are from Eastern Florida State College. The Bulldogs also added Tyrone McMillian from Kilgore (Tx) Community College alongside freshman K.D. Johnson and Josh Taylor.

Dealing with COVID-19

Last season, Georgia’s season abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 outbreak the same they beat Ole Miss in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

Like many other collegiate sports, college basketball was affected in the offseason as Crean disclosed that Georgia dealt positive cases within the program in July. Since then, the team has had no issues with an outbreak due to the steps the coaches, players and staff have taken to prevent another outbreak.

Crean said that the team with go from being tested one time a week to three times when the season starts.

“Everything has been about handling the protocol, making adjustments, handling the flexibility,” Crean said.

Georgia will look to capitalize in Crean’s third year in a season where almost anything can happen.

The season itself

For the first time in 96 years, Georgia will not play Georgia Tech due to reasons that were out of Crean’s control. The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets will be hope to meet again in 2021.

As mentioned before, Georgia will play seven non-conference opponents, but they will all be from different Division I conferences. Then on Dec. 30, Georgia will face Mississippi State in the first conference game of the season.

“The rough draft of this schedule probably changed 15 or 16 times in the last month,” Crean said.

This could be a make or break year for Georgia in terms of Crean’s future in Athens. He’s still rebuilding a program that has only appeared in the NCAA tournament five times in the last 20 years. Although, many Georgia fans expected more out of the 2020-21 season when Crean signed the No. 1 recruit in the country and one of the best classes in Georgia history.

Now, only a handful of that class remains with the program and that has led to a high turnover coming into this season.

“At some point, you’d like to have more stability,” Crean said. “But the way college basketball and the way college sports are changing, with the one-time transfer rules, the rules are changing right in front of us.”

Here is the video from Crean’s press conference:

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.