ATHENS - In a lot of ways, the offseason for the Georgia men's basketball team is basically on hold until Kentavious Caldwell-Pope announces his decision on whether he's going pro. But some events out west, at one of the nation's marquee basketball programs, also bear watching.
UCLA fired head coach Ben Howland on Sunday, which could end up affecting Georgia in two ways:
First, Tony Parker. The freshman center from Lithonia is reportedly not ecstatic with his first year in Los Angeles, and a couple people I've spoken to think it won't matter who UCLA hires to replace Howland. Parker played in 33 games this year for the Bruins, but only averaged 6.3 minutes, along with 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.
Georgia was one of Parker's final choices when he decided to sign with the Bruins, at a very entertaining signing ceremony last spring at Miller Grove High School. Back in December, Parker answered "no comment" when asked if he regretted going to UCLA. Miller Grove head coach Sherman White could not be reached for comment.
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A few caveats, beyond the obvious one that Parker may not leave UCLA: If he did elect to transfer, Georgia wouldn't automatically be his choice. (But they'd probably be high on the list, and it doesn't hurt that two of his former Miller Grove teammates, Brandon Morris and Donte' Williams, play for Georgia.) And Parker would have to sit out next season, per NCAA transfer rules, which only allow an undergraduate player to transfer and play immediately if there is some sort of hardship, normally a family hardship, that can be proven.
Meanwhile, UCLA assistant coach Korey McCray is also now in limbo, waiting to see who the Bruins hire and if he's retained. McCray has deep ties to the state of Georgia, having played at Mercer and coached the Atlanta Celtics AAU team. After being hired at UCLA two years ago, he was seen as vital to the signing of Parker and other players from Georgia.
But the thing to remember here is Georgia doesn't have an opening on its staff. Head coach Mark Fox has had the same three full-time assistants his entire four years at Georgia. It's easy to say "just hire McCray," but it's not that simple.
Finally, we won't go an entire post without passing along what we've heard on Caldwell-Pope's decision: Not much, or else it would've been mentioned higher in this story. The SEC player of the year is, as expected, keeping the decision close to the vest, and people close to the program are giving him space, rather than appear to try to talk him into staying.
Two things to remember on the decision-making process:
- The deadline is April 16.
- A player can elect to enter the draft but not sign with an agent, then change his mind and return to school. But with the earlier deadline, instituted last year by the NCAA, fewer players are taking that option.