SEC Summer Basketball Preview: UGA will lean on "centerpiece" Yante Maten

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

Gone is J.J. Frazier.

The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 18.8 points, 4.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game for Georgia last season, one year after averaging 16.9 points as a junior.

This week on the SEC teleconference, Georgia head coach Mark Fox made the case that Frazier's departure is an opportunity for younger players, but his absence will undoubtedly hurt.



Fortunately for Fox and the Bulldogs, Yante Maten returns. It didn't always look like he would be back for a senior season, but an injury later in the season lingered in its impact on Maten well after the end of Georgia's play. His return, in Fox's words, is "quite significant."

"Obviously he's a terrific player and he had a very good year as a junior until he was injured," Fox said of Maten. "Quite honestly, the injury ... he wasn't really healthy to work out until the middle of May for NBA teams. That probably prohibited him from maybe staying in the draft.

"He's a centerpiece to build around and plan around. He's been a very good player for us and one who I think is hungry to be even better as a senior."

Going into last season Georgia hoops fans were hoping that the Frazier-Maten duo could have powered the program to the NCAA tournament. That didn't happen and now with one-half of that duo gone it will be imperative for Maten to get help from others who will be stepping into more minutes.

Maten's 18.2 points, 6.8 boards and shot blocking ability will be a great centerpiece, as Fox puts it. But more is needed.

"I think that Tyree (Crump) and Jordan (Harris), obviously as sophomores, they go into this year knowing what to do and what to expect," Fox said to reporters. "I think they're probably much more comfortable ... I think their workouts have been really good."

Harris played in 30 games and started eight SEC games for Georgia, but he's been hampered by "a little knee issue" that requires Fox to rest him from time to time. Crump, selected by his UGA teammates as the "Sixth Man of the Year" for last year's squad, sprained an ankle early during summer workouts, but he's back to form.

"They've had a really good offseason in preparation to absorb more minutes and hopefully get more shots," Fox said.

Fox also singled out three-star Class of 2017 guard signee Teshaun Hightower of Baltimore, Md., as someone who could make an impact in the absence of Frazier in next year's backcourt. Frazier's absence, Fox hinted, is serving as an incentive for that trio to work hard over the summer.

While Harris and Crump have been hampered by only minor injury issues that aren't expected to significantly impact their forecast for the season, rising fifth-year senior Juwan Parker, had an Achilles surgery earlier this year.

Parker was the closest thing last year's UGA team had to a third go-to player (9.3 PPG) and he also consistently chipped in on the glass. He scored 10 points in the Dawgs' second meeting with Kentucky last year.

"Juwan's doing really well," Fox said. "I'm not going to say that he's ahead of schedule. I think he returned to the gym to start shooting balls a little earlier than we thought."

But Parker's not yet cleared for five-on-five play. Fox said there are "only one or two things limiting him on the court," in terms of coming back from that Achilles surgery, but he's free to do most anything else on the court.

This isn't the first time Parker has had to return from an injury and that, Fox said, has provided valuable rehab experience in terms of physically and mentally clearing hurdles.

“Barring any setbacks I think he is on track to be better than ever when the season starts next year," Fox said.

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