As the UGA student section’s recent “One more year!” chant at Stegeman Coliseum indicates, the question of whether the basketball Bulldogs’ Mr. Everything, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, should return to Athens next season was already being tossed around even before the sensational sophomore was named SEC player of the year Tuesday by the conference’s coaches.
KCP, who also was named first-team All-SEC, is the league’s second-leading scorer with an average of 18 points per game and ranks among the conference leaders in nine of 13 individual statistical categories. He was without a doubt Georgia’s MVP, also leading his team in such categories as rebounds, steals and free-throw shooting. This season he is one of just 10 players in the country to have scored in double figures in every game.
With Georgia preparing to start SEC tournament play in Nashville Thursday, the star player, not surprisingly, wasn’t ready to talk about his future career Tuesday when he spoke with reporters.
“I’m not really trying to worry about that right now,” the low-key Caldwell-Pope said. “We’ve got the SEC tournament to worry about and I’ve just got that on my mind right now.”
He said he’d wait until after this season to think about whether to enter the NBA draft or return for his junior season at Georgia.
UGA coach Mark Fox said he’ll “make sure that Kentavious has accurate information from the right sources” in order to make his decision.
If those sources indicate to KCP that he’s a probable first-round pick, which means guaranteed money, it seems highly unlikely that he’d pass that up for another year playing at the Steg.
But right now a first-round spot for him not a sure thing, with most of the draft projections I’ve seen to date pegging KCP as an early second-round pick — a position he probably could improve with a terrific SEC tournament showing.
If he doesn’t wind up projected as a sure first-round pick, however, the young man faces a tough decision. He can look at how other players from Georgia and elsewhere have fared when they left school early but weren’t first-round picks: Yeah, they have a spot on an NBA roster, but they don’t get much playing time.
Another year playing in the SEC would hone KCP’s game considerably, and he’d definitely go in the first round of next year’s NBA draft, with better money.
KCP also indicated Tuesday, in response to a reporter’s question, that the way the Bulldogs turned around their season and Georgia’s chance at possibly being an NCAA tournament team next year might figure into his decision.
I’m glad he’s taking that into consideration. But while Georgia managed to be a midlevel SEC team this year with a very young lineup, and should be better next year if everyone returns, a couple of factors should temper expectations for the 2014 Dogs:
This was, frankly, a down year for the conference overall, and that may not be the case next year. The competition for those tournament spots is likely to be tougher in 2014.
Also, while Georgia will be adding point guard J.J. Frazier and shooting guard Juwan Parker next season, the team still lacks the big player that has eluded Fox so far — and which the Bulldogs badly need.
Unless the coach comes up with a junior college player to fill that role in the April signing period, that’s still going to be a gaping hole in the Bulldogs’ game. And so far Fox’s recruiting prowess has been disappointing with the exception of his one McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect … KCP
So even if they get their star player back next year, the Bulldogs are no lock as a tournament team.
Like I said, Caldwell-Pope faces a tough decision if he doesn’t project as a first-round pick. What do you think he should do? And what are your thoughts on Georgia’s basketball prospects next year if he leaves early?
My wife and I are headed to Chapel Hill to visit our son, but I’ll be back next week as the football Bulldogs return from spring break (hopefully with no suspensions looming). In the meantime, if you’ve got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle, email me at email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg