Hoops: Fox plays the youngsters, rides it out

semerson@macon.comJanuary 3, 2013 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Nemanja Djurisic

ATHENS - After a very rough start - actually, an abysmal, putrid, awful start - the Georgia men's basketball team has won three in a row, and carries a 5-7 record entering its final game before SEC play begins.

Head coach Mark Fox talked about where his team as it readies to play George Washington on Friday night:

- The play of the team:

"We finally have played more consistently. We probably have played - against Mercer, 38 and a half pretty good minutes. Against (Southern Cal), we played a bigger chunk of quality minutes. I don't think we did that the other night (against Florida A&M), but we played so well early. We've made some progress, but just because of our immaturity, our youth, we're just not the consistent group I'd like us to be."

- Playing younger players lately:

"We have some very talented freshmen, and they've earned their way on the floor. There is, with not just freshmen, but sophomores also, a lot of errors that are made when they play. And we got to live with a lot of those, as young as guys are that are on the floor. ... We're trying to get our freshmen to be like sophomores, early in their career. We're trying to get Kentavious to play like a junior, early in his sophomore year. We're just trying to get these guys to grow up really fast. That's probably not gonna happen all the way. But we've gotta try to push them to mature."

- The oft-injured Marcus Thornton had knee surgery on Dec. 26, and will be out indefinitely:

"It's hard for him. He's just been in pain the entire time he's been here. He's had surgery on both knees. He shows a lot of his frustration on his face, but that's hard on a guy. To have pain in both knees and have to play through it. I just hate to see him struggle with the pain and frustration. Hopefully we can just get him healthy."

- The chances that Thornton, a junior, could pursue a medical redshirt:

"He has not burned his redshirt year, nor has he crossed a threshold of it. He might qualify for that. There's a lot of things that have to line up for that."

- Freshman forward Brandon Morris - and the increased play of the freshmen in general:

"He's a true freshman, and he's in the starting lineup. He's a talented young guy who's got a very bright future. But as he grows, he's gonna make some mistakes. And again, we're gonna have to live with some of that. Because really, when you look back on it, Travis (Leslie) and Trey (Thompkins) went pro, and instead of signing two guys in late May or June that weren't good enough, we gave the scholarships to (walk-ons Matt) Bucklin and (Connor) Nolte, so we could sign Brandon Morris, Kenny Gaines and we could have two more scholarships in that class. We bit the bullet so we could have more quality young players. Now that we have them we're playing them, but they're gonna have some moments where you say, 'Oh my goodness.' But one day, they will be older and certainly more experienced, and that will be to their advantage."

- Sophomore F-C John Cannon:

"Per minutes, his scoring and rebounding are pretty good. He's a guy still adjusting to the speed of play, and I think he's been able to help us. We've got to use him in the right situations. He's just 10, 11 games into his sophomore year, and he didn't play much last year. The hard thing for John is coming from such a small school, the transition's been a challenge. But he'll get there."

- Going to play smaller?

"Without Marcus, it gets to be a little more of a challenge to play small, because you start - we played a lineup the other day, where we had three freshmen out there, Kentavious and Tim Dixon. That's three freshmen and two sophomores. When we go small like that we get awful young. We will at times play small, but probably not as often as maybe before Marcus got hurt."

- The prospect of Jay Rome still joining the team:

"We met and had a long talk before he went to Orlando. I was real honest with him. Last year he joined our team, he was with our team every week for a couple days. He hasn't been with our team at all, and we're in January. It would be a challenge for him to really break into the rotation. But I was real honest with Jay, if he wants to play we would welcome him back. He's at the threshold of really becoming a very significant part of our football team, offensively. And he's gotta gauge how much time and effort he wants to commit to that, and I'll support whatever decision he makes."

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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