Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Feature Interview: Georgia basketball recruiting analyst Dan McDonald


Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox talks to guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) and guard Kenny Gaines (12) Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As winter turns to spring, college basketball fans turn to their attention to recruiting.

And for University of Georgia recruiting news there is no better source of information than Rivals.com recruiting analyst  Dan McDonald. McDonald sees between 50 and 60 high school games a year, over 100 AAU games in a year and is the top high school basketball analyst and recruiting reporter covering the state of Georgia.

While McDonald’s focus on uga.rivals.com is Georgia Bulldog basketball recruiting, he reports on basketball prospects statewide on the GAVarsity.com website.  McDonald shared some insights and information on Georgia basketball with DawnoftheDawgs.

Next year, Georgia will play without NBA bound Kenny Caldwell-Pope. McDonald feels Caldwell Pope’s absence will definitely cost Georgia some games. “With Caldwell-Pope, I thought Georgia would have had a good chance at making the NCAA tournament. Without him, some players are going to need to really step up and produce next year.” I asked McDonald to take a guess about next year’s starters. “My best guess would be Charles Mann at point guard, Kenny Gaines at shooting guard, Brandon Morris at small forward, Nemi Djurisic at power forward, and Donte Williams at center.”

Brandon Morris (31) Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The assembling of this year’s incoming freshman class (recruiting class of 2013) had its share of intrigue beginning with the signing of little known JJ Frazier of Glennville, GA. McDonald assessed JJ’s potential impact. “I think he’s a dynamic player because of his ability to heat up from 3-point range and he’s a really good play-maker in transition. He is going to be the backup point guard and probably will get around 10 minutes a game behind Mann. Its going to be tough for JJ to get significant playing time because Mann will be hard to take off the court.”

Could JJ be the fastest player on the squad? McDonald thinks so. “He’s pretty fast. He’s also got good change of pace, which is equally important.”

McDonald believes that leaves Juwan Parker of Tulsa at the shooting guard behind Kenny Gaines for this coming year.

The intrigue continued with the signing of Kenny Paul Geno. Geno signed with Georgia after his senior year at Booneville (Mississippi) High School. To the Georgia Nation, Geno’s signing seemed to come out of nowhere. McDonald provided some back story on his recruitment. “I believe the Georgia staff first saw Geno last summer during the July evaluation periods and just kept him on their radar in case they needed to come back for him late. As the season went along and Caldwell-Pope started to look like an SEC Player of the Year and the possibility of him leaving grew more and more likely, I think the coaching staff started to look at some possible replacements for him during the late signing period. They were out to see Geno a few times during the season and stayed on him relatively hard throughout. They brought him up for an official visit in early April to keep his interest high. And then when Caldwell-Pope’s decision to leave became official on a Monday morning, the Georgia staff offered him a scholarship on that Tuesday night and he committed the next morning.”

Did the Georgia staff ask Geno to wait and see what Caldwell-Pope would do before making a decision? “I don’t think so. I don’t think they were actively recruiting him until mid-way through the season. I think they started looking for wings back in late December/early January and saw he was still unsigned and under the radar.”

DawnoftheDawg.com has pegged Kenny Paul Geno as the #8 (all grades) player in Mississippi, but Dan is not sure. “I don’t know enough about recruits in Mississippi to give an accurate answer. He’s a good player though and I can’t imagine there being too many better prospects in that state than him, although there are some pretty good players that come out of Mississippi.”

After signing Geno, the Georgia staff pulled another surprise by signing junior college transfer Cameron Forte from Tempe.

Charles Mann (4) Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

McDonald said Forte’s recruiting was straightforward. “It sounds like UGA started to get serious about him after Junior College nationals back in early March. He had a couple games in front of Georgia coaches where he scored over 20 points and I think that’s where he sold them. The chance to come in and compete for immediate playing time was a factor in his decision to sign with Georgia.”

This November, the early signing period for the recruiting class of 2014 begins. McDonald talked about what the Georgia coaches do throughout the year to find the best players. “I see them at almost every AAU tournament I attend during the open periods for college coaches. During the HS season, they only get 7 trips to see a recruit from September through April, including open gym, in-home visits, etc., so they have to space out when they see kids. For their top targets, that usually means 1-2 trips to see them before the season in open gyms, 2-3 during the season, and then 2-3 after the season. I’ll usually see them at most big HS tournaments I go to where they have top targets playing.”

McDonald expects Georgia to sign two players in the upcoming early signing period and no recruiting target is bigger than Jakeenan Gant from Effingham County. “He would help Georgia in a big way if he picks the Dawgs. He would instantly be the best post-up player on the roster.”

While Devin Mitchell from Collins Hill appears to be the top guard target for Georgia, much of the conversation around the Bulldog Nation is about a prospect with a name every Dawg knows – Isaiah Wilkins, son of former Georgia and NBA great Dominique Wilkins. Dan likes the younger Wilkins’ game but, like most basketball prospects, there is more to his recruitment than ability. “He’s a very talented player. It’s just a numbers game at this point. If they had just one more scholarship to give in this class, I think he’d have an offer by now.”

While the names Gant, Mitchell and Wilkins are dominating the conversation, there are other options and possibilities for Georgia scholarship offers. It is early and basketball recruiting is never static, always exciting and not for the faint of heart. Dan McDonald provides the top Georgia basketball recruiting news available at GAVarsity.com, UGASports.com, and Twitter: @DMcDonaldHoops .

Tags: Basketball Dawg Georgia Basketball; Recruiting Georgia Bulldawgs Mark Fox