Key Departures: Sahvir Wheeler (–>Kentucky); Toumani Camara (–>Dayton); Tye Fagan (–>Ole Miss); KD Johnson (–>Auburn); Justin Kier (–>Georgia); Andrew Garcia (–>Kent St); Christian Brown (Tenn St);
New In Town: Jabri Abdur-Rahim (–>Virginia); Aaron Cook (–>Gonzaga); Jailyn Ingram (–>FAU); Noah Baumann (–>USC); Braelen Bridges (–>UIC); Dalen Ridgnal (JUCO); Kario Oquendo (JUCO); Christian Wright (#209); Camron McDowell (#230); Tyrone Baker (#261)
State of the Program:
Tom Crean has had a very successful career as a head coach, with 9 trips to the big dance, one run to the Final 4, and 3 Conference championships his resume speaks for itself. However, his time with Georgia has not yet brought the results we are accustomed to seeing from him. Granted, Georgia is not exactly a top tier program and mostly ignores their basketball program overall, you would still expect to see an esteemed coach at least bring stability to the program. What we’re seeing in year 4 is the complete opposite of that, with only 4 scholarship players from last year returning to the program and a whopping 10 newcomers entering the fold, it is relatively chaotic these days in Athens. They do get a couple guys back who played a little bit, including starter P.J. Horne (SR) and bench players Jaxon Etter (JR) and Tyron McMillan (JR). Other than that Crean will be relying entirely on transfers and Freshmen, something that becoming more common for struggling programs as players take advantage of their ability to bolt. This figures to be the biggest challenge of Crean’s career as a HC.
Leading the incoming group is one of the better transfers to enter the portal 6’8” wing Jabri Abdur-Rahim (SO) out of Virginia. Jabri is the son of longtime NBA player Shareef Abdur-Rahim player and was a top-50 recruit in last year’s class who found himself buried and restrained in Virginia’s program. In Georgia he gets a chance to play immediately, and comes in as a lanky athlete who can creatively score at all three levels, and shows promise as a scorer at all 3 levels. Crean has to be excited about him as he has a chance to grow into a star role for the Bulldogs. G Aaron Cook (SR) comes to the program after a year at Gonzaga in a limited role, but was a rising star at S. Illinois in the years prior to transferring. He comes in with the best shot at the starting PG role and his experience should help anchor this rag tag group. Also coming to Athens is former FAU F, 6’7” Jailyn Ingram (SR). Ingram has developed himself into a perfect stretch 4, as he rebounds well and shot 45% from 3 last season. Ingram is a capable scorer both inside and out, and will come in and immediately compete with returner PJ Horne, and regardless of who wins the job they will both be equally important in that role for the Bulldogs. Another F comes to the program in Braelen Bridges (JR) out of Ill-Chi. Bridges is 6’11” and will fight for the starting 5 spot as a long athletic big who excels in the paint. His potential is as a paint protector and at the rim finisher, as he’s shown little shooting ability. His size is desperately needed however, as Georgia has very few bigs on the roster. There are also 2 JUCO transfers entering the program, one of which is another F Dalen Ridgnal (JR), who is a bit undersized but is a bruiser inside and relies on his physicality to muck things up inside. He will battle with Ingram and Bridges inside for minutes in the frontcourt. The other is G Kario Oquendo (SO) who has a ton of promise as a scorer and is an elite athlete. He garnered a lot of attention after his performance a year ago and while JUCO transfers are often hit or miss in terms of impact he has a lot of potential to develop into a high major contributor. The leader of the FR group is PG Christian Wright (#209), who comes in as a scoring minded lead guard who excels at attacking the basket and finishing through contact. His jumper has some promise but is a little drawn out and he will need to quicken it up given his stature. He’s not an explosive athlete but shows promise to develop as a lead guard down the road. Next is 6’5” SG Camron McDowell (#230), a southpaw that looks to score at all 3 levels and if he grows his game and improves his strength and quickness can develop into a nice player. He doesn’t wow athletically but he can improve that, and his biggest strength is his jumper which is important to building success. The final member of this massive class is 6’9” PF Tyrone Baker (#261), who is a project but has the frame and athleticism that leaves you with hope for his potential. It’s all in his hands on how hard he’s willing to work, but he could develop into defensive disruptor and above the rim finisher if he want it.
Crean obviously has a challenge on his hands, as he attempts to transform and rebuild a severely depleted roster. The good news is he has several young pieces to build around if he can get them to stick around beyond this season. The most notable is Abdur-Rahim, who has the pedigree and hype to be a leading scorer and impact player for multiple years for Crean. There is no Anthony Edwards to be a rising tide though, and with all this fluidity and not a lot of elite established talent the outlook is bleak. Despite Crean’s ability to coach I just don’t see a path where Georgia wins more than a game or two in the SEC, and a season in the cellar looks imminent.