ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Mike White said he usually avoids bringing up the NCAA Tournament with his players when discussing goals during the preseason.
White has made an exception for this year's talks with his Georgia players. The Bulldogs haven't been invited to the NCAA party since 2015. Following a big jump to .500 last season, his first with Georgia, White decided to make sure his players set their sights on ending the program's NCAA drought.
White said a lot stands between the Bulldogs and the NCAA Tournament following a 16-16 overall record and 6-12 finish in Southeastern Conference games last season.
“At the same time, we want to go to the NCAA Tournament,” White said. “Georgia wants to go to the NCAA Tournament. These guys want to go to the NCAA Tournament.”
White said he's “talked about that goal with this team, to be totally transparent with you” more than with any team in a long time.
“Like, ‘Hey, what’s the goal for this program?’” White said. “It’s to break through and get back to a tournament.”
Seniors Justin Hill, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe and Frank Anselem are the only returners on a roster that includes five transfers and four freshmen.
BONDING IN ITALY
The mostly new roster took a summer trip to Italy in July, providing extra time for practice and bonding.
“I think it was really important,” Hill said. "We only have four guys who stayed, so it’s basically a brand new team. Just learning people’s tendencies, I think it was good to get it going early.”
White said the trip provided the Bulldogs an early start on preparation for the season.
“The extra hours the NCAA gave us we took advantage of, we did a lot of installing this summer,” White said.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
White said South Florida transfer center Russel Tchewa (7-0, 265) “is going to impact our program greatly and immediately.”
“He takes up space, right?” White said.
Georgia made a big improvement from 2021-22, when it finished 6-26 overall and 1-17 in the SEC, setting a record for most losses and worst conference finish in its final season with coach Tom Crean. The 10-win improvement was the program's biggest since improving from 5-14 in 1946-47 to 18-10 the following season.
On Monday, White described freshman Silas Demary, Jr., a 6-foot-5 guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, as “a freshman going on 30.”
“He's just got some maturity. He's got some leadership skills. He's very poised as a freshman.”
Demary said the different skills of the freshman class adds to the depth of the team. "I feel like we're definitely going to be able to make a change here,” he said.
EARLY SCHEDULE CHALLENGE
Georgia opens its regular-season schedule at Oregon on Nov. 6. The Bulldogs will play a tough home opener against Wake Forest on Nov. 10 and also have games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams Miami on Nov. 17 in the Bahamas and at Florida State on Nov. 29 in the SEC-ACC Challenge.
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