Dan McDonald is one of the top basketball talent and recruiting analysts in the Southeast. A former basketball recruiting analyst for uga.rivals.com, Dan now operates a scouting service serving coaches in the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Pac-12, Conference USA, Sun Belt, and the Southern Conference.
It has been a long summer of discontent for Georgia basketball fans. But arguments are gradually shifting from recruiting and coaching to record prediction and player production. Aside from the Georgia coaches who recruited the players and work with them daily, Dan McDonald has the greatest insight into the talent on the Georgia squad and how it compares to other programs around the country. DawnoftheDawg.com recently asked Dan a few questions about Georgia Basketball.
Dan, what do you think of the talent on this current Georgia team?
I think it’s the second best roster Coach Fox has had at UGA with the first obviously being the tournament team. KCP is gone, but I think it’s a more balanced roster and I think the sophomore class is going to really break out this year. The key to the season will be how well the post players perform in my opinion.
Is this Georgia roster talented enough to compete with the top teams in the conference?
Talented enough to compete with Kentucky and Florida? Yes. Talented enough to beat them? That’s going to be a tall task for anybody. Aside from those two schools, I think UGA can beat anybody on any given night.
Georgia fans are ready for Mark Fox to deliver a breakthrough season. Can this Georgia team step up and finish in the top third of the SEC?
I think Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee will be the top three in that order. After that, I think the SEC is pretty much up for grabs. My best guess would be UGA will finish somewhere in the 6-8 range in the SEC with an SEC record somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-8 or 9-9.
Is it reasonable to hope for an NCAA Tournament bid?
I think UGA would have to over-achieve to make the tournament this year, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out.
What position is the greatest worry for this Georgia team?
Just like the last two years, it has to be the post players. UGA needs to find somebody that can score inside. Nemi Djurisic looks like he’s ready to have a really good year, and I think Donte Williams will bounce back after a disappointing junior year. With that being said, if Charles Mann goes down with an injury at any point, PG depth will become a major concern.
What position should be the greatest strength?
Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker give UGA a very talented pair of scoring guards. They should ease the loss of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
You ventured a guess at a starting lineup for us earlier last spring – Charles Mann at PG, Kenny Gaines at SG, Brandon Morris at SF, Nemi Djurisic at PF, and Donte Williams at C. Any change in your thinking based on what you have heard?
No, I think that’s still going to be the line-up.
Do you have any thoughts on the second line off the bench?
It depends on the position. I think the back-up line-up would be PG JJ Frazier, SG Juwan Parker, SF Cam Forte, PF Marcus Thornton, and C Tim Dixon.
About Kenny Paul Geno and Cameron Forte, have you learned any more regarding their abilities than you might have known and shared with us last spring?
Forte is a little better putting the ball on the floor and making plays than I realized. He just knows how to play. From what I’m told, he just needs to learn how to keep his motor running at a higher level more consistently.
Things have certainly changed on the recruiting front. First came the disappointing news of Jakeenan Gant’s commitment to Missouri. Then Devin Mitchell dropped from the Georgia board and Isaiah Wilkins announced that he was not going to consider Georgia. The latest source of consternation is the loss of shooter Fisher-Davis to Vandy. Did Georgia just not target Fisher-Davis soon enough or was he worried about playing time as suggested by some of his statements?
I think the combination of UGA’s depth chart on the wing and the perception of Coach Fox being on the hot seat hurt UGA with Fisher-Davis. Shooting guard is Georgia’s deepest position and there is some talent at shooting forward, too. Meanwhile Vanderbilt just had some attrition at those positions this off-season.
Now the top name on the Georgia board is assumed to be William Lee. Georgia fans just recently started talking about Lee, but you mentioned him in the spring. How long has Georgia been recruiting Lee and what do they see in him?
He’s been on UGA’s radar for a long time now. Assistant coach Philip Pearson first started recruiting him about 18 months ago and has stayed on him hard since then. I’m sure they see some of the same traits they saw in Jakeenan Gant and Isaiah Wilkins. He’s an explosive athlete that is a presence in the paint defensively with his shot-blocking and rebounding ability, but can also contribute on the offensive end.
Can you compare him to some local recruits Georgia fans might have seen or current roster players?
He’s similar to C. J. Turman with his athleticism and defensive presence, but he’s not as thick as Turman. He’s about the same size as Isaiah Wilkins with similar intangibles. He can’t shoot or pass quite like Wilkins, but he’s better playing in the paint offensively. There are some similarities to Donte Williams in that he’s great athlete that can block shots and bring the house down with some impressive dunks. He’s a more talented offensive player though.
Can Georgia get Lee out of Alabama?
That’s always the question with top kids from there that the Crimson Tide want. Lee seems like the type of kid that would buck the trend of top Alabama kids going to play for Anthony Grant, but will he? I’m not sold either way to be honest. SMU is also a serious player for Lee.
If Georgia doesn’t get Lee, do they hold the scholarship for spring?
It’s certainly a possibility. It wouldn’t surprise me if they went the junior college route again and find somebody to sign early. One name to keep an eye on if Lee goes elsewhere is Chris Coakley from Savannah HS. He’s comparable to William Lee, but not quite as good. He’s a 6’8” power forward that can play with his back to the basket and knock down mid-range jumpers. He’s not the same level of athlete as Lee.
Is there a chance they hold the last scholarship for 2015?
That’s also a possibility, but I think they’ll use it this year.
Am I missing any 2014 recruits we should be talking about?
Chris Coakley, who I mentioned above, is an option. UAB and Ole Miss are also involved with him and have both offered.
What’s up the next couple of months in basketball recruiting?
The early signing period is coming up in early November and then the high school season starts. That’s really about it.
Are you able to see high school players during this time between the AAU and high school seasons?
Yes, I’ve been to a few open gyms locally to see some kids and also been to some camps on the weekends.
Where do you think the Georgia coaches will be the next couple of months, before the high school season starts?
I think they will just continue to hit some high schools for open gyms, practices, and games to get some face time with the current targets while also looking for new ones. I’d expect they will be in Suwanee this weekend for the JUCO event there seeing what is available.
Follow the latest on basketball recruiting, follow Dan McDonald at twitter.com/DMcDonaldHoops and check in with DawnoftheDawg.com for Georgia sports news.