Is Georgia basketball ready for the spotlight?


The Georgia 2014 – 2015 basketball team has the pieces. Can they be put in place?

Ready or not, it’s time for Georgia basketball to take the main stage.

Coach Mark Fox believes the Dawgs are ready. With seven of the top nine contributors back from last year’s squad, the pieces are present.

Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph quoted Coach Mark Fox. “There’s a lot of familiarity with what we’re doing, guys with a lot of confidence in what they’re doing.”

There is work to do, however.

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Priority one is finding a Dawg to take over for the now departed Brandon Morris at the small forward position and the graduated Donte Williams at the strong forward position.

Kenny Paul Geno

(Soph, 6’6″ 200, Booneville MS)

Juwan Parker

(Soph, 6’4″ 200, Tulsa, OK) and

Cameron Forte

(Jr, 6’7″ 220, Tempe, AZ) will challenge to start at small forward. Juwan Parker played early and often last season and earned a clear edge in the battle for the starting spot.

However, it is likely a combination of players will see significant playing time at small forward. J. J. Frazier (Soph, 5’10” 170, Glennville GA) proved himself as a point guard last year and he allows Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann to play the small forward position.

The starting strong forward position will likely fall to senior Nemanja Djurisic  (Sr. 6’8″ 230, Podogorica, Montenegro). Djurisic is a good shooter, handling the rigors of SEC post play in the past.

The Dawgs are set at the other three  starting positions. Returning starters,  point guard Charles Mann (Jr, 6′ 5″ 215, Alpharetta),  shooting guard Kenny Gaines (Jr, 6’3″  200, Atlanta) and center Marcus Thornton, (RS Sr, 6′ 8″ 235, Atlanta)  played pivotal roles in Georgia’s 2013 – 2014 season. Mann scored 14 points a game last year and earned a third team All-SEC spot while Gaines shot over 45% from three-point territory and earned Honorable Mention All-SEC. Marcus Thornton rebounded from multiple knee injuries and a redshirt season to lead the Dawgs in rebounding. This trio will pick up where they left off in 2014 and be the team’s nucleus.

The number of games the Bulldogs eventually drop in the win column depends heavily on the first post player off the bench – Houston Kessler (RS soph 6’8″ 225, Newnan, GA) , Osahen Iduwe or  (frosh, 6’10” 235, Benin City, Nigeria) Yante Maten (frosh, 6’8″ 240, Pontiac MI ).

The Bulldog nation finally received an indication that Maten may be the player the rumor mill has suggested he is. Anthony Dasher of quoted Coach Fox. “Yante has seemed to have a seamless transition. He’s a very mature kid, he’s got a smile on his face every day.” And Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph reported from Coach Fox,”“I think he’ll play significant minutes.”

Maten will need to play significant minutes. The entire Bulldog Nation is pulling for Kessler but there has not yet been an indication Kessler can step up and play 15 or 20 minutes a night of winning basketball in the SEC. The only other option is freshman “The Big O” Iduwe. He brings to Athens a reputation for athleticism, but it is unlikely he is ready for prime time in the SEC.

The fate of this year’s Georgia basketball season may very well be in the hands of Maten. If the season is a success, basketball fans can thank a couple of familiar names for helping Coach Fox and assistant coach Jonas Hayes catch Maten’s eye in Detroit.

Coach Fox spoke with Seth Emerson. “In Detroit, it helped that the starting quarterback of the Detroit Lions went to Georgia,” Fox said. “It helped that the lottery pick that year for the Detroit Pistons was from the University of Georgia. So I don’t think we went in there as total strangers.”

The fate of this year’s Georgia basketball season may very well be in the hands of Maten.

The Dawgs open the season in Atlanta against archrival Georgia Tech on Friday November 14 at 7:00.