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A different look

Landers tries to keep Georgia on top with seven new faces

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Posted: Saturday November 10, 2001 9:04 AM

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Camille Murphy snapped her fingers in rapid succession, describing how easily Georgia did things last year.

If she had been describing this year's team, her beat probably would've been out of rhythm.

That's what happens when a team loses eight players, including four-year starters Kelly and Coco Miller.

"We're trying to get the team happening in one day, and it's not going to happen in one day," said Murphy, one of two seniors with the Lady Bulldogs. "It's still a learning process."

Of course, it's not all bad. Georgia was ranked 16th in the preseason Associated Press poll, and a highly ranked recruiting class should help coach Andy Landers guide the team to its eighth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

"There's no doubt about it, this is a question year for us," Landers said. "We don't have as many immediate answers as we have had the past couple of years."

The Millers and Deanna "Tweety" Nolan, the guards in Landers' three-guard system last season, all were taken in the first round in the WNBA draft, the first time one school had three players taken that early.

So without much experience in the backcourt, Landers will shift the focus inside this season. Senior Tawana McDonald (6-foot-4), sophomore Christi Thomas (6-5) and freshman Kara Braxton (6-6) form what should be one of the tallest front lines in the country.

And there's three 6-2 players on the bench.

"I think it's a front line that most college coaches, on paper, would be excited to have," Landers said. "They're not the answer to the challenge, they are the challenge itself.

"How do you take a group with that type of potential ... and bring them from where they are to where they can be?"

Georgia showed its youth in its second preseason scrimmage, turning the ball over 30 times in a 88-64 loss to Dynamo Moscow of Russia last week. Braxton scored 11 points, the only Georgia player in double figures.

"I don't really know what happened," she said. "We tried and tried, but we didn't get anything out of it."

Landers is sure to see more games like that before his team gels, but he's been through it before.

"We've had at least five young teams since I've been here, and there's some growing pains that you go through," he said. "It's a challenge, and had I not been through it before, it would be frustrating. It's hard, but it's enjoyable."

McDonald's a two-time all-Southeastern Conference player who started every game last year. She averaged 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds, and blocked 103 shots. She is just 41 blocks away from Katrina McClain's school record.

Murphy missed the second half of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, and her return gives Georgia a steadying force in the backcourt.

"In McDonald, you're talking about a proven veteran who has been through three years against some of the best competition in the nation," Landers said. "The thing that I like about Camille is the completeness of her as a basketball player, and that she has the right mentality."

This year's team won't be entirely different from a year ago, even without the Millers. Kara Braxton is joined on the roster by her twin sister, Kim, who's four inches shorter.

They're the fourth set of twins Landers has coached at Georgia.

"It's something that just happens," Landers said. "It's not something I've ever looked for."


 
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