Almost lost amid all the talk of coach Paul Hewitt’s adventures at Georgia Tech is the latest round of player departures over at Georgia.
In case you missed it, guard Demario Mayfield and forward Drazen Zlovaric requested and on Thursday were granted releases from their UGA scholarships so that they may seek transfers to other schools. How much of a choice they had in the decision is a matter of debate.
And be warned: The exodus may not be over. It is very likely that sophomore forward Trey Thompkins will enter his name in the NBA draft in the coming days (that doesn’t mean he’ll leave, just they he has until May 8 to decide whether to retain his college eligibility or go pro).
My immediate thought is, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
My previous responsibilities here at the AJC required me to cover Bulldogs basketball and the latest departures were for me a familiar refrain. In fact, if my recollection is correct, that makes 11 players that have left the program in the last four years without completing their eligibility, seven of those of under “voluntary” circumstances.
Takais Brown, Billy Humphrey and Mike Mercer, all top-notch players, were dismissed due to discipline issues. But Channing Toney, Reshad Singleton, Younnes Idrissi, Jeremy Jacob, Troy Brewer, Zac Swansey and now these latest two players all left because they were either disgruntled, disillusioned or because they simply hadn’t produced at the level that was expected when they were recruited.
It is on the latter count — talent evaluation — that current coach Mark Fox can distinguish himself.
Fox and his staff have received a lot of praise for the job they did this past season, and deservedly so. The Bulldogs (14-17, 5-11 SEC) won two more conference games and two more games overall than they did in coach Dennis Felton’s last season. They were clearly a well-coached team and competitive in virtually every game they played.
Then again, Georgia finished in the same position it did the previous year — last place in the SEC East.
If the Bulldogs are to prove themselves upwardly mobile in the conference under Fox, it’s going to be through recruiting and, more specifically, talent evaluation.
In seeing Zlovaric leave the program, I was taken back to the recruiting season that brought him to Athens. The Bulldogs chose the rangy 6-foot-8 small forward from Serbia (by way of the Patterson School in North Carolina and two other American high schools) over another player that desperately wanted to play wing at UGA. Instead Tanner Smith, Thompkins’ teammate at The Wesleyan School in Norcross, ended up at Clemson.
Smith was a 32-game starter who averaged 8.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the Tigers this past season and has played in all 64 games of his career. Zlovaric leaves having never started a game with a career average of 1.1 points.
We don’t know much yet about Fox the recruiter and evaluator of talent. So far he has landed 6-foot-8 forward Cady Lalanne of Orlando in the early signing period. He has been piling up the frequent flyer miles chasing down blue-chip forward Dwayne Polee in Los Angeles and cruising junior college talent in the Midwest. Of course, he and his staff are all over Atlanta as well, including Miller Grove’s Donte Williams, who’s due in Athens this weekend.
Suddenly the Bulldogs have room to bring in as many as four players in the late signing period, which begins April 14. The late period, by the way, is not when you want to be doing the bulk of your recruiting.
In any case, Georgia fans can only hope Fox has a better eye for talent.