University of Georgia Men's Basketball Coach Mark Fox last season began the hard work of laying the foundation for what he hopes will be a successful basketball program in Athens. While the overall record (14-17) from last season is not overly impressive, observers can't deny how far the program came in Fox's first year on the bench. Fox dodged a bullet during the off season when his two best returning players, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both decided to return to school for their junior seasons rather than entering the NBA Draft. Had they chosen not to return, Fox's team would have been faced with replacing it's top two scorers and rebounders from last season. Combine Thompkins and Leslie with Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson Jr and there is a buzz around the Georgia Basketball program that hasn't been in place since Jim Harrick was the coach.
With those expectations comes pressure. During Fox's first year there weren't any expectations as the roster was depleted and Fox was a virtual unknown in these parts having come to Georgia by way of Nevada. However, teams quickly found a Georgia team that was going to compete night in and night out. Along the way Georgia knocked off NCAA Tournament teams Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Tennessee. They also beat an Illinois team that was squarely on the bubble and put a scare into Kentucky at Rupp Arena. This season Georgia won't be sneaking up on anyone and one of the biggest stroy lines of the season will be to see how Fox and his players handle the added pressure.
Fox's stated goal for the 2010-11 Basketball team is to put it's self in line for a return to the NCAA tournament. That would be a fast turn around for a team that has gone 8-24 in the SEC over the last two seasons and that went 0-11 on the road last season. Fox has done an excellent job in one season of restocking the team with talent. There is a lot riding on the shoulders of Robinson Jr, but with the return of Thompkins and Leslie along with veterans Dustin Ware, Chris Barnes, and Jeremy Price, Georgia should be in good shape. Things won't be easy in a loaded SEC East, but this time Georgia should have enough depth and talent to keep their heads above water and perhaps a return to the Big Dance.