Bulldogs Blog

This freshman is already showing versatility for UGA basketball: ‘He’s going to play a lot’

Take a guess as to who led Georgia’s basketball team in assists in its season-opening exhibition against Valdosta State.

It wasn’t wunderkind freshman Anthony Edwards. Senior guard Tyree Crump didn’t do it, nor did junior forward Rayshaun Hammonds.

Fourteen other Bulldogs took a backseat to freshman forward Toumani Camara. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound native of Belgium finished the exhibition with six assists, leading the team and showcasing a skillset that could make him a valuable weapon for the Bulldogs down the road.

“He brings a lot of versatility, and that’s the biggest thing with him,” head coach Tom Crean said after the exhibition in October. “There’s a ton of versatility with him. He’s going to play a lot, you can count on that.”

Camara came to the United States before his junior year of high school, enrolling at Chaminade-Madonna Prep School in Hollywood, Florida. He excelled in his first season in the States, averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game, but remained relatively anonymous as a recruit.

But Camara exploded on the summer circuit in 2018, elevating himself to one of the top 150 prospects in the country. On the strength of a senior season where he posted averages of 24.3 points and 10.4 rebounds, he rose to the nation’s 103rd-ranked prospect according to the 247Sports composite, even earning the start in Georgia’s opening scrimmage against Valdosta State.

That night, Camara joined Edwards as the two freshmen in the starting five. He wasted no time flashing part of his skillset, driving to the basket and drawing a foul early in the game.

Later in the first half, Camara had the ball in the paint and dished a quick pass to fellow freshman Rodney Howard, drawing another foul. The second 20 minutes showcased his defense, as a Camara block led to a fastbreak and-1 and a double team with Hammonds forced a steal.

At night’s end, Camara finished with six points on 2-of-3 shooting with two rebounds, six assists to just one turnover, one steal and two blocks. That diverse skillset is something Camara said Crean noticed about him in recruiting.

“It was definitely moving without the ball,” Camara said. “I’m a good cutter, rebounding. With my size, I can do a lot of different things. I can shoot, I can attack the basket, play defense.”

Camara isn’t the only versatile big man to grace the Stegeman Coliseum floor in recent years. Nicolas Claxton filled that role for Crean’s Bulldogs last year, often bringing the ball up the floor in a type of “point forward” role.

Now, Claxton is in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets. But his first action against Valdosta State suggests Camara could be a factor in helping to replace Claxton’s production from a distributing standpoint.

Crump said he believes that despite being quiet, Camara could emerge as a team leader as well.

“He don’t have to say much because of the way he plays,” Crump said. “It’ll take care of itself. That’s leadership by playing hard. That’s leadership for this team.”

However, as well as the exhibition may have gone, Camara is far from what Claxton was a year ago. Crean said Camara, as well as the rest of the team, still has to establish identity in terms of rebounding, not committing turnovers and being disruptive on the defensive end.

Along with that come the intangibles.

“He’s got to be more vocal,” Crean said. “We have to do better with our voice, those type of things, and then who’s going to consistently move without the ball, and Toumani does a lot of those things already. He can do a lot better.”

Further illustrating Crean’s point, Camara was much quieter in Georgia’s second exhibition. He ended the night scoreless after attempting just one shot, and he had two turnovers along with no assists.

According to Crean, playing with consistency, especially over the duration of a game, is something Camara and the rest of the freshmen still need to work on.

“They all go through a period of adjustment, some longer than others, where they’re looking for that coast, where they’re looking for that rest, where they’re looking for that settle of the shot, where it gets hard, they don’t want to go to the glass or they don’t want to get back,” Crean said. “Those are the things that get you beat.”

Still, Camara has shown plenty of glimpses of what he could become for this team. That hasn’t been lost on Crean or his teammates.

“He’s a freshman. The transition from high school to college is different,” Crump said. “I think it’ll come on easy, he’ll come on. He’s a great player.”