Bulldogs host LSU tonight in Stegeman

There is basketball tonight in Stegeman Coliseum: the Georgia Bulldogs are hosting the LSU Tigers in a game that tips at 7 o’clock.

From Steve Colquitt, UGA Sports Communications…

Georgia head coach Tom Crean and student-athletes Justin Kier and Sahvir Wheeler offered the following comments on Monday, Feb. 22, on the Bulldogs’ preparation for LSU.

Georgia head coach Tom Crean

On how much the team is focusing on the LSU game early in the season versus LSU’s performance as the season has progressed… “I’ve definitely watched it and our coaches have watched it. We’ve all shown bits and pieces but we’re such a different team, and I’m sure they are too. It’s much more about where they are at right now, what we’re coming off of our games last week, Then, really, the adjustments we want to make based on what we know from our first game and how they’ve changed since that time.”  

On the value of Michael Curry and his experience… “My first memory of Michael Curry of seeing him in person, outside of seeing him play, was when I first got to Marquette and went over to a [Milwaukee] Bucks walkthrough. I was going to go to a game that night, they were playing the [Washington] Wizards and I went to the walkthrough and Georgia Karl ended the walkthrough early but there’s Michael Curry with three of the younger players out there for probably 45 minutes to an hour. They were working on shooting, games, playing two on two, things like that. That always stuck with me. I had met him before but then I got to know him when I got here and over a period of time we developed a relationship and he wanted to get back into coaching. The more that I was around him, the more that I totally looked at it like, we need what he brings, on this staff; not only what he brings as a coach but as a person, who he is as a person of high level respect in the sense of how he can mentor and not only help the players but help the coaches. Heck, he’s helped me immensely. The number one value was to bring it to the players, which I think we are accomplishing, but also just to have somebody with that type of experience. Then being able to add Tim Dather, who I know from my years at Indiana and who has had tremendous experience in the NBA for the previous four or five years, has been really, really good for us, and it’s been good for everybody. It’s helped immensely.”

On how much emphasis he has placed on the point deficits and the close games this season… “You have to continue to build confidence throughout the game. Obviously, when we play pretty well, we’ve been able to string some stops together but we’ve also scored in a pretty good clip, and our shooting has been good. I don’t think, as a coach, you can never allow the lack of offense to influence how you’re coaching them during the game. The last thing you want to do during the game is put more pressure on them. You want to make sure they’re better decision makers, you want to make sure they’re understanding what we’re trying to get. You have to coach them throughout the game to get better but you don’t coach them with a level of pressure that makes it even tougher. Sometimes when that basket doesn’t look very big and you start putting new pressure on them, that basket starts to look like a thimble. We don’t need to have that. We have to be able to understand that it is a very, very long game and so many things can happen inside of it and we’ve had a lot of different experiences right now this season that hopefully will serve us. The last thing they need is me berating them or making them feel unconfident when it comes to play. As a coach, you have a really good barometer of how long the game is. Sometimes the players, they live in the moment, or worse than that, they live in the past. You have to get them out of the past of the game, just like how you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time on past games when it comes to bringing them up during the game, but you have to get into the moment with players so you can help them see that there is something within the future of that game and I think that’s what coaching is really all about -- continue to have them find ways, inside of the game, when you’re down, or when you’re up, to continue to play and not to lose, but to continue to understand just how long the game is and just how important each possession is.”

On the unique nature of guard Sahvir Wheeler, particularly when comparing him to point guards Crean has coached in the past… “Sahvir is going to be in that conversation, there’s no doubt about it. Sahvir is fantastic, and he’s getting better and better. He’s improved immensely since he’s been here, he’s improved immensely since the season started and really since league play started. I love what he’s growing into, and I fully believe that he is going to be one of the marquee guards in the country moving forward. I also truly believe that he’s going to play at the next level in the NBA when that time comes, too. Are there a lot of things that have to happen between now and then? Absolutely, but that’s the way it is with all players. They’ve got to continue to get better. But his attitude and desire to improve, the way he’s grown as a leader, the way he’s grown defensively, his ability to play with speed to find people, he’s an improving shooter and scorer all the time—those things lead me to believe that he’s going to continue to get better and better.”

On an update on Andrew Garcia… “The rods that had been placed in his nose during the surgery he had the other day were removed today, so we knew he was cleared to play on Saturday, but we also knew that he was uncomfortable, and unfortunately he took a couple hits there. Hopefully he will feel much better, and the mask will continue to protect him, and hopefully he’ll start to really regroup to the point where he feels comfortable, because we certainly miss not having him anywhere near to 100 percent the other day. There’s no doubt about that.”

On how much growth he has seen in Wheeler’s scoring ability over the course of this season… “He works really hard at his shooting, and I think when he really steps into it, and he’s in a game-speed mode and in rhythm with his shot, it’s a really good shot. I like his pullup, and he can really get to the basket. I think his decision-making continues to improve, which is so important. Again, there’s a lot of congestion in that lane at times, especially when we’re not shooting it as well or when the defense doesn’t feel that they have to guard certain guys in our lineup right now. That’s why the cutting, the movement, [Sahvir] being able to play through that and continue to get the ball back the second and third time, those things are really, really important. I think what he’s doing is he’s getting better and better defensively, which is showing what kind of catalyst he can be for our time. He’s the kind of guy who has grown and has tremendous confidence. I have confidence in him, his teammates do, and he’s getting better and better. He makes a lot of things happen for us.”

On what he has seen LSU do differently as the season has progressed… “They’re improving, they’re scoring at a very high rate. They’re far more than the four leading scorers. Everybody they put in understands their role. It may be underneath the alley under the basket, spaced to the 3-point line, a cutting situation, but you can’t forget about the other guys outside of [Darius] Days, [Javonte] Smart, Cameron [Thomas] and [Trendon] Watford because they’ll offensive rebound the ball. I think those guys are gaining confidence, the way Javonte Smart is shooting the ball is really effective. When they win, Darius Days plays extremely well. He can make threes, he’s a very good pick-and-pop, catch-and-shoot shooter, he can get to the basket, and rebound. Trendon continues to be able to do things with the ball as well as score; he can find people, make passes. They’re doing a great job at the foul line, a lot of that is led by Thomas and Watford. When you’re playing that team, you’ve got to do a really, really good job with your transition, understand the strengths of those main guys, do everything you can to keep them off the foul line and make them work defensively because they can load up with their length. The fact that Days, Watford, and Smart have been together for some time now, they can really load up and make it hard for you in the paint. You’ve got to make sure you continue to do a great job of spacing the floor.”

On Georgia’s 11-3 record at home and whether there has been added emphasis on protecting the home court... “You always want to protect the home court, especially in a year like this where you don’t have an extra adrenaline rush like we’ve had the last couple of years from a sellout crowd. We don’t have that, so you’ve got to do even more as a team to make sure you’re efficient and your bench energy is really good. Hopefully you build the confidence to go on the road and know that it’s different than what it’s been in years past. It’s hard to judge this year based on anything else, because there’s never been anything like it, so you’ve got to do the very best that you can.”

On Georgia’s plan to limit turnovers and whether he thinks his team will be able to keep that number below 19 (the number against LSU last time playing)… “I hope we do. I don’t think our plan was to ever give them 19 steals. That’s too many turnovers, we had numerous chances to win that game and it even came down to the final possession. Even with all of the mistakes made and turnovers, we were still right there and we’ve got to do a better job this game of protecting the basketball.” #5 Justin Kier | Graduate On team outlook before LSU coming off a tough loss... “The coaching staff has a great game plan. We’re trying to fix some little kinks, but I think overall in the Florida game defensively we were pretty good. We defended the ball really well. The coaching staff is handling it really well, and we’re coming to practice every day ready to attack and get better. I think we’re really ready for LSU.”

On Coach Michael Curry... “I did not know about his background. That’s the beauty of being at Georgia, having Coach Crean who has a lot of people who help us on and off the court. Adding him to the staff has been nothing but a blessing. Coach Curry is always there for you. He doesn’t let you slack off or anything like that, but he’s there to support, and he’s there for you. I can tell I’m in there for the long run. I can ask him a question at any time in my life, and he’ll be there. He’s a great friend, a great coach, and he wants nothing but the best for us. He’s brought that to the table, and with his experience, he’s brought a lot of knowledge, and I’ve gained a lot of information with basketball and life and the NBA just talking to him and picking his brain about that kind of stuff. He’s been nothing but great to me.”

On Sahvir Wheeler... “That’s another added blessing. I’ve never played with a point guard who can control the ball and control the game so well. He’s just getting started. He’s going to be way better than he is right now, and he’s great right now. He’s young. He’s a leader already. He’s a great friend to me as well. I think that’s the best thing about Sahvir that you might not know is that he’s a great person off the court. He comes from a great family. He’s just looking for your best interest in everything. Basketball-wise, the sky’s the limit for him, and I’ve been blessed to share the court with him as well. I met him as soon as I committed. He’s been a friend ever since Georgia was even in my sight of view, so he’s a great player and a better person off the court.”

#2 Sahvir Wheeler | Sophomore On wearing the headband in the last couple of games... “I originally wore it because I didn’t have a haircut, and I didn’t want to go on national television without a haircut, so that’s why I originally put it on. For the second since we won, I just felt like I should wear it again. I used to wear headbands a lot in high school too.”

On success in the Florida game... “I was patient. That’s something I’ve been working on throughout the game. I know that I’m the fastest guy on the team, so it’s not always about going 1,000 miles per hour but kind of playing at a 50-75 range so I can use those quick bursts. I’m taking my time in the transition and reading the game a lot better and watching film to try and find new ways to attack the defense.”

On slow starts to previous games... “I think it’s kind of toward the middle of the first half when we hit some droughts. We’ve had some really good starts, but we kind of get a little stagnant. That’s something we’ve been working on in practice. We’ve had some really good second halves. We’ve taken the high points of those halves and really emphasized those in practice. We’re getting better, but to make it noticeable and actually equate that into winning games, we have to put together a full 40 minutes of basketball where we’re playing hard, we’re executing, we’re defending, and offensively we’re getting good shots and making them. I think against Florida, we got some good looks, but we just kind of missed them. We’re getting better, we’re working hard, and the team confidence is still high. The coaching staff is still putting together great game plans for us to win games too.”

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens.

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