Team Page | 2002-2003 Schedule
Undersized but no longer underdogs, these rabid Dawgs will have their day the Wright way
By Kelli Anderson
Don't remember seeing Georgia's Rashad Wright on any highlight reels last season? That may be because the junior point guard's value is best measured by what happens when he's not on the floor. Case in point: With the Bulldogs up 30-11 in Georgia's second-round NCAA game against Southern Illinois last March, Wright took a breather. The Dawgs promptly gave up seven points of their lead, as well as the game's momentum, and eventually lost 77-75. "Rashad is the glue of this team; he is what holds it all together," says Georgia swingman and 2001-02 SEC scoring leader Jarvis Hayes. "He knows all of us so well, he doesn't even have to look to see if I'm at the wing on a fast break. He just bounces the ball behind him knowing that I'll be ready for it."
Already Georgia's orchestrator and best defender, Wright has added the trey to his repertoire. John Biever
An opposing coach's view
"Jarvis Hayes is the best pro prospect in the SEC. He's big for his position, he's very athletic, and he can create his own shot. ... Hayes is a better shooter than his percentage [45.1] would indicate. You want to make him put it on the floor, but the best way to defend him is to keep him from getting the ball. Of course, that's easier said than done. ... They don't make many guards as big and strong as Ezra Williams. You want to drive him away from the basket as far as you can, but it's important to box him out, because his size makes him an effective rebounder. ... Their inside guys are small, but they're athletic and tough. ... You want to get the ball inside and make them guard you, especially if you have someone who can score over the top of them. ... They've had a lot of turmoil, but I think coach Jim Harrick absorbs most of it."
Wright's assist-to-turnover ratio was a sparkling 2.3 to 1 last season, best in the conference. This season Wright, who's also the team's best defender, has added a long-range shot that may get him more attention from defenses and from highlight shows. "For now no one knows him, and that's fine with us," says coach Jim Harrick.
Opponents are all too familiar with Hayes and senior guard Ezra Williams -- whose combined 35.1 points per game made them the highest-scoring Bulldogs tandem in a dozen years -- and also with rugged 6'7" power forward Chris Daniels. The only starter from last year who won't be returning immediately is forward Steve Thomas, who is academically ineligible until mid-December. Filling in for him will be either Hayes's twin brother, Jonas, or 6'7" N.C. State transfer Damien Wilkins, who can play any position except center. Because only one of Harrick's recruits, 6'4" freshman guard Wayne Arnold, gained academic eligibility, Wilkins will be one of the few new faces on the squad.
Jarvis Hayes says experience will get the Bulldogs to a third straight NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. "We're not the underdogs anymore," he says, "but if we go into the season playing with the same underdog passion and intensity we played with last year, who knows how far we can go."
Issue date: November 25, 2002