Mike White and the Georgia Bulldogs make their return to the hardwood tonight with a game against Oregon in Las Vegas. Last season, the Dawgs posted a 16-15 record in White’s first year as the head ball coach and will look to improve on that record.
There has been some roster turnover since last season, but the Bulldogs are in a good spot. The biggest departures from last year’s squad are guards Terry Roberts and Kario Oquendo, and center Braelen Bridges. Roberts was the main ball handler for UGA last season, as he averaged 13.7 points and 4 assists per game. Coming into the 22-23 season, Kario Oquendo was supposed to be the star for Georgia after having a stellar 21-22 season. He averaged 15.2 ppg in that season, and there was a lot of excitement around Oquendo heading into the next season. He averaged 18.3 points in SEC play in 2021, but last season, that dropped to 11.9 points per game. Oquendo struggled shooting the ball down the stretch of the season, which eventually led to him getting put on the bench during the SEC Tournament. Bridges was a great player for the Bulldogs. He averaged 8.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and recorded 16 double-digit performances last season. Roberts and Bridges declared for the NBA, while Oquendo transferred to Oregon. Their departures left some holes in the program that Mike White was going to have to fill through recruiting and the transfer portal. The Bulldogs went out and signed 4 players in their 21st overall-ranked 2023 class. Those prospects included 4-star guards Silas Demary Jr. and Blue Cain, 4-star forward Dylan James, and 3-star forward Maci Jordan. UGA also brought in 5 players from the transfer portal. Shooting guard Noah Thomasson was brought in from Niagara. He was unanimously voted first-team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and also led the league in scoring, averaging 19.5 ppg. 6’7” forward RJ Melendez transferred to UGA from Illinois. Out of high school, Melendez was a top 100 nationally-ranked recruit. Over his two seasons at Illinois, Melendez averaged 5.1 ppg and just under 3 rebounds a game. Forward Jalen Deloach made his way to UGA after transferring from VCU. In two seasons for the Rams, he averaged 7 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. The Bulldogs were also able to grab 7-footer Russel Tchewa out of the portal. In 3 seasons at USF, Tchewa tallied 6.5 ppg and 4.8 rebounds a game. The last player Mike White got from the portal was RJ Sunahara. In three seasons at Nova Southeastern, he averaged 17.2 points per game. He sits #2 on the Sharks’ all-time points leaders.
The Dawgs are bringing back a few familiar faces from last year’s team, including Justin Hill and Jabri Abdur-Rahim. Justin Hill started a few games last season when starting point guard Terry Roberts was out due to a concussion. When he started, he averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 assists. Jabri Abdur-Rahim was Georgia’s most efficient three-point shooter last season. He shot 38.7% from behind the arc. Abdur-Rahim averaged 7.1 ppg.
The Bulldogs ranked 12th in the SEC as a team in field goal percentage, as they shot 41% from the field. Also, the team shot 31.7% from behind the arc, which was 10th in the SEC. A big key for the Hoop Dawgs this season is to shoot better from all over the floor, especially when shooting threes. Georgia was 10th in scoring last season in the SEC, as they averaged 68.5 points per game, which needs to be improved upon. One place UGA thrived last season was at the free throw line. They were 3rd overall in the SEC, shooting 72.7% from the charity stripe. Last season, a big play for the Dawgs was a high screen and roll with Terry Roberts and Braelen Bridges. That play can still be run with the players that Georgia has in the locker room this year. A key for Georgia this season is improving their three-point percentage from last season. A good benchmark for them will be to shoot around 33% from three. The top half of the SEC all shot above 33% from the three-point line last season. The Bulldogs also struggled against teams that were good rebounding teams. Giving up offensive rebounds is one way to kill your team. Another key for Georgia this season will be to focus on the fundamentals. Box your man out and get the rebound. UGA added size in the off-season, and those guys need to use it to their advantage.
Mike White has shown a lot of promise in turning the Georgia Basketball program around. UGA is starting to have a hat on the table for a lot of elite basketball recruits. A good season for White and UGA this year could allow for Georgia to become more of a force in college basketball. I think the Bulldogs will have a good season as I believe that they will be one of the 64 teams to make the NCAA Tournament. Strap in, because it's going to be a fun year for Georgia Basketball.
The Bulldogs tip off against Kario Oquendo and Oregon tomorrow at 4:30 pm EST on truTV.
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Edited by Will Morrison