A coup for Mark Fox: Mr. Basketball Marcus picks Georgia

Marcus Thornton sets his cap. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Marcus Thornton sets his cap. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Marcus Thornton was the No. 1 player in Georgia, but he’s not in the top 100 nationally. (Rivals has him No. 121.) He is, however, a major acquisition for Mark Fox and a Bulldog program that still has to prove it can recruit as well as it coaches.

Background: Thornton, of Westlake High, signed with Clemson last fall when most among us figured Fox’s Hounds would do well to go 10-20. He became the recruiting equivalent of a free agent when Oliver Purnell inexplicably bolted for DePaul, which is among the worst jobs in the country.

On his second go-round, Thornton considered Georgia Tech, Texas and Alabama before committing to Georgia on Wednesday. (Because he’d already signed one letter-of-intent, he technically cannot sign another. The rule: One signed letter per player, even if the recruit has been released from it.) And this is big news for Fox.

Georgia finished an honorable 14-17 in the season just completed, beating Tech, Illinois, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida en route. But that was accomplished with the players Fox inherited from Dennis Felton, and two of them — Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie — turned out to be quite good. It’s clear from one season that Fox can coach what talent he has. At issue was whether a guy who’d never before worked east of Manhattan, Kan., could attract talent.

Marcus Thornton was kind of an early acid test. Fox had no shot at him last fall because Fox hadn’t yet proved anything to us locals, but when the state’s Mr. Basketball becomes unaccountably available and you’re the state school … well, you pretty much have to get him, don’t you?

The playing field for Thornton, Take 2, wasn’t quite level. As tempting as it is to fault Paul Hewitt for not landing a power forward after losing two early to the NBA draft, the ACC has a funny rule about transfers within the conference. Thornton might well have to had to sit out next season had he enrolled at Tech. He told the ol’ AJC on Wednesday that possibility played no part in his choice, but how could it be ignored?

Besides, Hewitt has Kammeon Holsey, a freshman coming off an injury, to play power forward. And the biggest problem with Hewitt isn’t his recruiting, as we know. It’s what happens — or what doesn’t happen — when those recruits get to campus.

Put simply, Fox needed Thornton to prove that Fox could get a Thornton. And he did. And now you’d have to say Georgia has a chance to spike upward in a massively unsettled SEC East. Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida should be good. The Bulldogs could be, too.

197 comments Add your comment

joe

May 19th, 2010
9:23 pm

Mark Bradley

May 19th, 2010
9:24 pm

btgt69

May 19th, 2010
9:24 pm

first ? THWG

btgt69

May 19th, 2010
9:25 pm

second still THWG

joe

May 19th, 2010
9:26 pm

Can we really expect to be mentioned among Kentucky, Florida and Tenn. just by signing this kid. Call me skeptical, but don’t we need another year of good recruiting to get to those guys level??? Just askin….

Biff Pocoroba

May 19th, 2010
9:28 pm

It looks like Tech is destined to finish last again next year but at least Paul Hewitt will get another year added to his contract and his wife will be happy getting the AMC all to herself at next year’s games.

Dawgs2010

May 19th, 2010
9:28 pm

Bring on the SEC. We are building a team.

Dawghook

May 19th, 2010
9:28 pm

Thornton could be the start of something really good in Athens. Fox reminds me of Bill Self , and I think the future is bright in Athens. No question about how good Georgia basketbal talent is. See Dwight and Kwame.We need them to stay home.

Big L

May 19th, 2010
9:30 pm

Hot damn!!!! Ol Fox is whippin this program into shape.

BDAWG

May 19th, 2010
9:31 pm

Great recruiting by coach Fox. He is a great coach and I do think he will be a great recruiter. Now, all we have to do is recruit a quality center, SF and some great SG. Instead of the kids leaving the state they should take a closer look at the new UGA basketball program. I think with a couple of great recruiting classes coach Fox can bring a NC to the state. He is a very talented coach. I have followed him since he was coaching Nevada and taking them to new heights. We need more support from the top kids in the state of Georgia.

Meanwhile...you know the guy Mark, tell us.

May 19th, 2010
9:31 pm

I’m sure it didn’t escape your notice Mark, that your former colleague all but guaranteed LeBron would end up in Chicago with Doc Rivers in tow to coach him.

Is he onto something…or on something LOL?

Dawg Fan

May 19th, 2010
9:32 pm

Fox is building something in Athens. We might not win the East this year, but we can definitely find a way into the NCAA tourney and maybe make some noise. This could be an exciting year for UGA basketball.

SDK

May 19th, 2010
9:32 pm

Mark, how do you see Georgia doing next season? I think they have a great shot to make the NCAA tournament at the least…

Not Don Waddell

May 19th, 2010
9:34 pm

Duke proved this year that a team need not be great to win in NCAA basketball anymore. The ideal college team is an 8-9 deep team with 3-4 marginal NBA guys who play hard and have a high basketball IQ.

Certainly, looking at Thornton’s vids, he has the talent to eventually play pro-ball, but I don’t think anyone expects him to be a one-and-done. Good get by Fox. He is building things the right way. He will coach up whoever he gets, and he just needs a few pieces to work with.

ATLFANSTUCKINTEXAS

May 19th, 2010
9:35 pm

Coach Fox is building his foundation and UGA must NOT let another school come in and pluck him away like Tubby Smith. Unless of course it’s one of the dream jobs… Has anyone ever asked Coach Fox what his dream job is??????? Hmmmmmm

Catfish

May 19th, 2010
9:36 pm

Huge pick up for UGA basketball. Mark Fox is the real deal. Everybody says he’s too good and will bolt for a better job like Tubby when the time is right. Why is that a foregone conclusion? UGA should be able to build a competitive, long term baskbetball power? I think they can and Damon Evans will make it happen.

UGABasketball

May 19th, 2010
9:37 pm

We own GT and that stupid Hewitt…we just added more to your pain PH. Congrad. to Coach Fox, great job.

harold

May 19th, 2010
9:38 pm

HE IS PLAYING FOR A TEAM THAT IS NOT COMMITTED TO BASKETBALL. TENNESSEE GOT TWO PLAYERS FROM GEORGIA THAT ARE RATED MUCH HIGHER. FOX LOOKS LIKE A COMPUTER SCIENTIST. HE’LL BE GONE WITHIN THREE YEARS…..

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Shannon Moore. Shannon Moore said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: Getting Georgia's Mr. Basketball Marcus Thornton is a major coup for UGA coach Mark Fox. http://bit.ly/9irA4Y [...]

BubbaDawg

May 19th, 2010
9:39 pm

I don’t no nuthin or care nuthin fer BASKITBALL BuT It sire is fuN to git on here an predick ANOTHER nashnul chMPUNSHIP LIKE WE ALWAYS DO IN fOOTBALL

Mudcatjoe

May 19th, 2010
9:40 pm

Obviously, he didn’t want to compete against ACC talent 18 games a season! He can blend in in the weak SEC, but hurts his chances to get into the NBA.

Old Fashioned

May 19th, 2010
9:41 pm

I wished earlier that this “one-and-doner” would go anywhere but GT. I am very happy with his choice of a school. We need a different kind of player—and a different coach—at GT.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 19th, 2010
9:43 pm

The big thing is its seems to be nothing but positive news coming from the program. Thompkins electing to stay, Leslie electing to stay and now Thornton committing. This is in direct relation to the job Fox has done in one calender year. The program just needs to keep moving forward. Great job by CMF!

Barkin'Dog

May 19th, 2010
9:44 pm

This coach is a beaut! I love ‘em – and I guess HE CAN RECRUIT THE SOUTH.” Go Dawgs!

GT3O

May 19th, 2010
9:53 pm

If it was not for the ACC rule for transfers he’d be a Jacket. Mark Fox can thank his lucky stars for that rule and that rule alone. Marcus was very, very pleased with GT and even asked GT if there was a way around the rule, alas there was not.

Furthermore, while these players are great to have, I don’t think GT needs them next year. No more one and done types, so Hewitt has no excuse. Period.

.

May 19th, 2010
9:53 pm

KUDOS JOE YO dA MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pi$$onaDAWG

May 19th, 2010
9:53 pm

Don’t care didn’t care if he went to Clemson. If the kid cared about and EDUCATION he would never have started with Clemson or ended at UGA. UGA is getting the 1 and Doners now too.

1980 Dawg

May 19th, 2010
9:54 pm

Great job Coach Mark Fox! Thank you for coming to The University of Georgia!

Volman

May 19th, 2010
9:55 pm

I’m sorry, but Georgia was very lucky that he had to sit out or else this kid would be a Jacket.

Go on ahead though, be excited to bring in a top 150 player….. Not even ranked high enough nationally to be relevant.

GT Fan

May 19th, 2010
9:57 pm

Marcus, I would have loved to watched you play at Tech but you made a good decision going to play for Coach Fox. I love GT but I wouldn’t let my kid play for Coach Hewitt. I look forward to the day Hewitt is gone and the program again will be respected. Can’t blame any kid for not coming to GT to play BB. Football and everything else is GREAT!

Beast from the East

May 19th, 2010
9:59 pm

Congrats, Dawgs! Good pick-up. Looks like Fox is really turning the program around. As a huge Gator fan, I was impressed with the effort and results he produced with less than stellar talent last year. I think he’ll prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC East in the coming years.

Frank

May 19th, 2010
10:00 pm

gtu comes in second in basketball to uga again, what else is new?

THWGT!!!!!!

BG

May 19th, 2010
10:01 pm

GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Craig

May 19th, 2010
10:01 pm

Volman, you can’t prove what you are stating and why would he have chosen a team whose coaching is in question going into this year? Fox is proving to be a solid coach and on the upscale.

GT65

May 19th, 2010
10:04 pm

Thanks Rads for keeping Paul Hewitt. We just lost another good player..how many other kids will go somewhere else before you get off your a@@ and FIRE Coach Hewitt. The fans demand better!

LizDawg

May 19th, 2010
10:05 pm

GT is complacent with being the second-tier program in the state.

30-24
73-66

Beast from the East

May 19th, 2010
10:06 pm

Doesn’t really matter why the kid chose UGA. All that matters is he DID. Talent attracts more talent. Once again, congrats, Dawgs!

Pi$$onaDAWG

May 19th, 2010
10:07 pm

What did Fox do in 09? Were the Dawgs better than .500? HAHHAHAH FOX the new Mike Bobo of Basketball.

GT65

May 19th, 2010
10:09 pm

Agree Beast, UGA got a very good Coach in Fox. Maybe one day we will.

Beast from the East

May 19th, 2010
10:09 pm

I’d say he did almost as much as Hewitt with FAR LESS talent in his first year. Shows a lot of promise. Hewitt needs to be shown the door.

Hey Pi$$onYourself

May 19th, 2010
10:09 pm

Maybe you should have cared more about “and education.”

not in the top 100 for a reason

May 19th, 2010
10:13 pm

ryan harrow jelan kendrick shannon scott dai-jon parker and julian royal are all better players than thornton…he’s ranked 121 while the other 5 are top 30 and top 15 players for a reason….so much hype for this signing when hes at best #6 in the state…doesnt matter that the milton kids are juniors, they are all better players….settle down dawg fans, this aint turning your program around

Bill

May 19th, 2010
10:13 pm

Do you believe Hewitt cares about Education? All his one and none BS.

Shane

May 19th, 2010
10:13 pm

This just in. Jason Heyward is pretty good.

Bill

May 19th, 2010
10:16 pm

You can Pi$$onadawg but CPH pi$$ on GT at a tune of 7 million a flush.

HugoStiglitz

May 19th, 2010
10:17 pm

Did almost as much as Hewitt? 23-13 vs 14-17. 2nd round of the NCAA tournament vs 2nd worst team in the SEC. Thats not exactly equal. I think Hewitt could have done alot better then he did last season but the constant Hewitt bashing is getting a little old.

Bill

May 19th, 2010
10:17 pm

J-Hey is damn good. Triple to win!

dawgfan

May 19th, 2010
10:20 pm

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((30-24)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))0
((((((((((((((((((((((((((((73-66)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((top ten football recruiting class, number one by years end)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((top 25 basketball class, still better then techs)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

put simply, IF I WAS A NERD I WOULD BE SCARED: UGA IS ABOUT TO LAND THE TOP FOOTBALL CLASS IN THE COUNTRY AND THIS SINGLE COMMITMENT MARKS UGA TURNING POINT IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL. we RUN THIS STATE. we beat yall with no talent last year in basketabll when yall had 2 nbaers. This should be fun this year when we have 3 nbaers!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahah ID BE SCARED IF I WAS A NERD

Mark Bradley

May 19th, 2010
10:22 pm

SDK, I would think Georgia has a very good shot to be in the Big Dance next season.

Mark Bradley

May 19th, 2010
10:23 pm

And maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see Thornton as a one-and-done guy at all. Remember, Thompkins and Leslie will be the big scorers on that team in 2010-2011.