Mark Fox previews Bulldogs' 2015-16 season
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Mark Fox previews Bulldogs’ 2015-16 season

Mark Fox
Photo: Sean Taylor/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – Head coach Mark Fox previewed the upcoming campaign for his Bulldogs on Tuesday as part of Georgia Basketball’s preseason press conference at Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia is coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons for just the third time in the program’s 110 seasons of competition. Only once have the Bulldogs notched three straight 20-win efforts, doing so in 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98. Last season, Georgia finished 21-12 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs also are one of only two teams to earn a top-4 seed (and a double-bye) in each of the past two SEC Tournaments.

Nine letterwinners return from last year’s team, led by senior guards Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. In addition, the Bulldogs welcomed five newcomers to their roster this fall.

Georgia will host Armstong Atlantic in an exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 6 and then face Chattanooga in the regular-season opener at Stegeman Coliseum on Friday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.

The following are select quotes from Fox’s media session on Tuesday.

Opening Statement…
“We’re excited about the season that is about to be upon us. Right now, we’re just really focused on trying to become proficient at something. We’re trying to get good at certain parts of the game. We had a very good summer. We entered official practice with the right mentality that we had a lot of work in front of us to do. So far in two weeks we feel like we have made a dent in it, but only a dent. We have a long ways to go, but I am excited about the approach the group has had every day and hopefully we can continue to keep growing and to get better.”

On attempting to win 20 games for a third straight season…
“Consistency is certainly one of the goals that everybody wants to have in their life, as long as that consistency is one of success. I think that the program has been a little bit of a roller coaster historically. We have to get away from that one day. If we can find success again and put together the third straight 20-win season then that only helps. It’s going to take time to establish the consistency, and this year is just another opportunity to do that.”

On the physical impact Charles Mann takes during a game…
“Charles is big and he’s physical. We worked really hard to get Charles into the best shape of his career. He probably didn’t enjoy conditioning at all this year because it was harder than it’s ever been. He’s in the best shape he’s been in since he’s been with us. I think because he spends a lot of time in the weight room and because he’s naturally gifted, he’s durable. I think he has prepared himself to deal with that.”

On how the post players have looked so far…
“When you look at the departure of Marcus (Thornton) and Nemi (Djurisic), the first thing we saw was that those guys led us to victory. They were terrific leaders and had great senior years. That’s the first thing that I think we have to replace. Now we look at other returning players and see if they can fill that role. Obviously the points and rebounds are of great concern, but they gave us great leadership last year. We have really tried to get some other guys to take ownership of our team. We have been pleased with that. I think that our returning players have been good voices. We still have to get to the replacement of the production up front. I think that Yante (Maten) and Houston (Kessler), with their experience, obviously things are easier for them than the new guys up front. The message has been to keep getting better every day. If they’ll do that, I think that through the group we can replace that scoring and rebounding. Yante is ready to take that next step in terms of his production. That is going to be important to us.”

On Yante Maten’s body change…
“He weighs about the same, he just redistributed it. He’s done what all of us as we aged have hoped to do. He certainly has shaped up really well. That’s a credit to his effort and our strength coach in the weight room. He put a lot of work in downstairs in our building, and he’s reaping the benefits from that.”

Assessment of the freshman…
“It depends on what time of the day you ask me about them. They’ve made a lot of plays. I’ve been really impressed so far at some point with each of our freshman. I’ve been super impressed with each one of them. There has also been a point where I was unhappy with things that they have done. But they are just freshman. I told them that they don’t know anything and they’re not supposed to know anything. Just be a sponge and learn. They need to make mistakes and learn from them. I do feel like all four of them have a chance to help our team. They all have been very competitive right from the start and are making progress.”

On the athleticism of the newcomers…
“If you look at us, we are bigger up front than we were last year. We are just younger. There is no substitute for experience. Nemi at 6-7 and Marcus and 6-8 were undersized, but their intelligence and their experience really allowed them to be terrific players last year. This year with Derek (Ogbeide) at 6-8 and Mike (Edwards) at 6-9 as freshmen coming in, we’re bigger and athletic up front. I think from an athletic standpoint, those guy fit right in. It’s like a wild colt, you have to get them trained. Right now, they are making mistakes out of aggressiveness. That’s ok. They are going to make some mistakes. We’re trying to create lots of possessions and lots of experiences right now in practice so they can make some of those error sand grow.”

On running three- and four-guard lineups…
“We haven’t practiced with a four-guard lineup yet, but if we could get healthy that might be something that we experiment with. I think that we have always tried to play pretty conventionally with two front line players. Matchups dictate so much of this game, so depending on how the matchups are we are going to adjust to them and maybe go small. I think it will really depend on how much progress we make in the next three weeks.”


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