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Post Hoops talk: Felton on recruiting, 2007 schedule, and arena chat

Thursday July 19, 2007

Yes, it’s the middle of summer, but there is some basketball news and talk.

Kelly Quinlan of UGASports.com has a long feature up ($) that gets Dennis Felton’s thoughts on several current events. We’ll get to that in a moment.

One of the big takeaways of Quinlan’s piece was that Mike Mercer appears to be on track to play this season. My reaction isn’t so much cynicism as it is amazement. We all saw the injury. I don’t doubt Felton’s assessment of Mercer’s progress, but I’m going to remain skeptical anyway. With an injury that severe, I’m just going to be glad if he can contribute anything in the SEC part of the schedule. If before the end of 2007 he is able to be nearly the player he was becoming at the time of his injury, chalk one up for the miracle of modern medicine.

Back to Felton and recruiting. Felton has developed a bit of perspective aboout recruiting due to his relative longevity (already the longest-serving Georgia hoops coach since Hugh Durham), so it’s interesting to read him reflect on the landscape. Felton is concerned about the trend for earlier and earlier commitments for several reasons. Though physical development during high school is more of a concern for football than basketball, it’s still a factor in basketball recruiting. But Felton has a bigger concern. "The thing I am more worried about is decommitments because that is becoming more common," he said. "More and more kids are becoming comfortable with decommitting."

Though basketball recruiting can hardly be described as a clean business, commitments have traditionally meant the end of the process. That understanding might be changing. Decommittments are more of a concern in basketball because of the limited number of scholarships. If a football prospect decommits, that’s one of 25 spots that a football coach must scramble to fill. It’s a problem, but it can be absorbed through depth in an 85 scholarship situation. In basketball, that one decommitment might represent 1/3 to 1/4 of an entire recruiting class and affect, say, your point guard position for several years. "I hope we do not go to where football has been where commitments do not mean anything. It is more dangerous for basketball because there is a smaller pool of recruitable players at this level of talent," Felton continued.

Read the whole thing if you’re able. It’s a good read, and you can sense Felton becoming more comfortable in his position. "I am really excited and thankful for the support Damon Evans, our president Michael Adams, and our fans at Georgia have given me, our staff, and our players as we have rebuilt the program," he concluded.

Georgia Sports Blog has a look at the possible field in this season’s Rainbow Classic. Though none of the field really blows your socks off, it should present a decent slate of mid-level RPI opponents. In other words, winning the tournament won’t make many waves, and losing a game probably won’t be disastrous. Georgia will seek its real RPI impact games elsewhere – in Madison, Wisc. for example.

There’s an interesting discussion going on at the UGASports.com hoops board about the future of Stegeman Coliseum. With the practice facility project all but wrapped up, it’s time to begin thinking about what comes next. With SEC peers like Auburn looking at facilities improvements, the issue will start to heat up. While the breadth of ideas runs from simple remodeling to the pipe dream of bulldozing the site and starting over, the optimal plan will probably come from a convergence of money, timing, and grace.

Money – what’s available? Can additional private funds be raised? Naturally the scope of the plan will be limited by resources. With athletic association debt near $100 million recently, is more debt financing out of the question? Timing – is the program at a point where it’s easy for enough fans to get on board with the chosen plan, and will the support be resilient enough to survive the possibility of something like a year or two in Gwinnett? Additionally, will the timing be right relative to other athletic department projects and priorities? Grace – the most recent (and most expensive) major expansion to Sanford Stadium cost $33 million over two years. With $30 million already spent on a practice facility, an additional investment in a major coliseum project any time soon would be an act of incredible vision and investment in a group of sports that have historically fought for scraps not only from administrators but also from Georgia fans. A positive in this area is that it seems as if Damon Evans could be the right leader for this kind of vision and commitment down the road.

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