Saturday, October 24, 2009

A New Era - The Year of the Fox

Basketball season is just around the corner and I had a chance to attend practice and dinner with the team this Friday. I'm not going to go into detail about what I saw, but I will share some of my thoughts based on what I saw and heard from the team and the coaches.

The evening started with a chance to see the team run drills for about an hour. During this time they were running the new offense that Coach Fox is putting in. For those who are not aware, Coach Mark Fox is the new basketball coach at Georgia replacing Coach Dennis Felton.

The new offense is one that Coach Fox ran at Nevada, so nothing to hide there. It is a variation of the Triangle offense that is run by the Lakers and the Bulls in the past. One of the things about this offense, that if run correctly, it is hard to defend.

I don't expect our team to "get it" off the bat, but the players I talked to said that come SEC play that they are confident that their running of the offense will give other teams issues. This was good to hear from the guys actually performing on the court.

After practice, the coaches had a little treat for the donors in attendance. We got a Q&A session followed by a Free Throw contest.

The Q&A was very informational, we learned a lot about the coaches and some insight as to how the team is progressing. In the end the coaches are confident the guys are picking up the reads within the offense and as time goes forward, more will be added to the play options. Remember the team has only been running this offense for a week. They have been able to study film, but on the court practice couldn't start until last week.

One of the questions that came up a few time during the evening was the great views the team got from Sanford Stadium. For those who had not seen the story, Coach Fox was upset with the team for some "issues" around tutors and the like. Well he fixed that by having the entire team touch every steps in Sanford Stadium. You can read the story on the AJC here.

The Free Throw contest was rather fun and showed how many of us were out of practice. We got to shoot around for a bit, which was a blast in and of itself, because it has been years since I got to take shots at the coliseum. When it came time for the contest it was line up shoot and make you move on, miss and your done. Well I was able to make the first, then I missed the second one. But between the first and second rounds it cleared everyone but 2 guys out. One was a person in late 20's the other was a 10 kid. The kid gave the guy a run for the money, but eventually missed. The winner from the guys and girls teams each got a specially signed poster of the team, from what I could tell.

The dinner afterwards was a nice setup in the Georgia Room. This is in the new addition to Stegeman that was added a few years ago. It was hosted by Outback Steakhouse and was a very nice spread. The seating was set so that one player was assigned a table. I'll start with the players and save some Coach Fox comments for the end.

I sat at the table of Connor Nolte, who I have chatted with on twitter. He'll be sitting out this year since he is transferring from Furman. Part of the dinner was player introduction done by each table. So we learned a few things about some of the players. Connor is a pretty good bowler, scoring a high of 266. He also had to fix a contact in the woman's bathroom during a high school game.

We learned some neat things about the players, we have singers and snake lovers and snake haters. We have one that likes chick flicks (Matt Bucklin) and one that travelled 2 hours to soccer practice in his native land. It was a nice way to meet and connect with the players throughout the evening.

After the introductions and dinner, I had a chance to talk to some of the guys. Here is where I got a feeling that we may have a pretty good product to put out there. At least they are confident in what they are doing. Not many expect we would battle for the SEC championship this year and I have seen where we are picked last in the SEC east. Based on what I saw today and in talking to the players, I feel that 3rd or 4th in the East is a possibility.

While meeting the players, all were very nice, polite and I had some nice conversations with many of them. Amazing how open they are and some (Albert Jackson) has what looks like a nice sense of humor. As you know, Albert hurt his wrist and has been playing with a cast. This should be coming off soon and back to full strength as the season approaches. But I asked Albert if he had clocked anyone yet in practice with the cast. He laugh and said "not yet, but I hope to get a lick in before it comes off. He did say it would not be a big hit, just a bump on the back of the head that no one can see. " Not verbatim but you get what he was going after.

Just before the player introductions, Coach Fox spoke with the group. He has said this before and I believe it is his true intent. But he wants the players to be winners on and off the court. Not all coaches feel this way. So I think we have a good one here. Not to spill any inside secrets, but he told a funny story about meeting Lou Holtz in an Airport.

He saw Coach Holtz and stopped him to ask him a question. I really wish I had recorded this, because it was so good, but Coach Fox stopped Coach and asked him how was he able to win at Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina. Holtz's response was find one or two guys that you can coach. Coach them up and cuss the rest. The others will fall into place.

While he was telling this story, I could hear Coach Holtz saying this. It brought a good laugh to the crowd.

A question was asked, What does Coach Fox see from this team. His response was basically, Good Students in the classroom, Good citizens in the community, and Winners on the court. Notice that the actual athletic part of that statement is last. So he is focusing on making the players better persons as well.

I was able to talk one on one with Coach Fox and I asked him about motion in the offense. I explained that for years our offense seemed to last about 10 seconds and then we would get lead feet. I told him from what I saw, we actually continue to move and want to ball well into the play clock. His response was, "so you are actually seeing basketball being played." Great line if I do say so myself. I went on to wish him a great season and that I believe he can turn the corner on this program.

Overall a great evening was had. I was able to grab a few pics, which are below.

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