Bulldogs to host exhibition against Fort Valley State
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Bulldogs to host exhibition against Fort Valley State

William Jackson
Photo: John Kelley/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs will conduct an “unofficial” opening to their 2016-17 basketball schedule on Thursday when they take on Fort Valley State at Stegeman Coliseum at 7 p.m. ET. There will be no admission charged to attend the contest.

“I think they’re excited to play against somebody else,” head coach Mark Fox said. “This time of year, every team gets tired of beating up on each other. They start barking at each other a little bit, so I think they’re probably excited to see some different opponents than themselves.”

The Bulldogs return three starters and eight of their top-10 scorers from a year ago when they finished 20-14 overall and reached the second round of the NIT. Leading the way are senior guard J.J. Frazier and junior forward Yante Maten, a pair of preseason All-SEC selections. Frazier and Maten were Georgia’s top-two scorers last season when they averaged 16.9 and 16.5 points per game, respectively. They also are the first- and third-leading scorers returning to the SEC this season.

“I’m very excited,” Frazier said. “Mainly because we are tired of playing each other. So playing somebody else would be fun and a great experience for us. It will be good to play against somebody else, to execute our system and our schemes on somebody else.”

A quartet of “newcomers” also will debut at Stegeman Coliseum on Thursday. Three of those are traditional first-year players – freshmen Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris as well as junior college transfer Pape Diatta. Fox also considers redshirt junior Juwan Parker a “newcomer” this season. Parker started the first 14 games of the 2014-15 season before missing 15 of the final 19 contests and all of last season due to an Achilles injury.

Georgia, which was ranked No. 21 nationally by Lindy’s Sports in its preseason basketball yearbook, will open regular-season competition a week from Friday at Clemson. The Bulldogs’ home opener will be the following Monday, Nov. 14, against UNC Asheville.

Season tickets for Georgia Basketball are currently on sale. The Bulldogs already have topped their season ticket sales record since the introduction of the Basketball Enhancement Fund (BEF). The package includes all 17 regular-season home games and is $255 for fans and $127.50 for faculty/staff. Contributors to the BEF and faculty/staff season tickets holders also will be able to order tickets to the 2017 SEC Tournament, which will be March 8-12 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

Single-game tickets, multi-game “flex” packages and various group/specialty offers, such as “all you can eat seats,” also are one sale.

Fans can tickets online here or by calling the UGA ticket office at 877-542-1231 on Monday-Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Head Coach Mark Fox

On leadership…

“The leader of our team is J.J. (Frazier). He’s a natural leader, he wants to be the leader, and in the gut of the game, he usually was the loudest, so I don’t think that will change this year, either.”

On the team’s improvement on defense…

“We have gotten a little better there. I’m not pleased with it yet. I think our experienced guys are obviously much further ahead than our younger guys, really at both ends, but I do think our younger guys have improved significantly defensively. Does that mean they’re where we want them to be? No. But they’ve made some progress, yes.”

On the team’s 3-point shooting…

“Turtle (Jackson) I think is shooting the best percentage from three in practice, (Tyree) Crump is a very, very good shooter, Juwan (Parker) is obviously back and shooting the ball well, Jordan Harris is a good shooter, Yante (Maten) is shooting some threes now, so we have a lot of guys that have the green light to shoot that shot if it comes open.”

Senior Guard J.J. Frazier 

On positives taking into the season…

“Our chemistry. We play well together and make each other better. We still have to improve on the defensive end but we are coming along.”

On using a good offense as a defense…

“No, we have to be stable defensively. We can’t rely on offense to win games. We have to be a great defensive team to have that as an advantage. So we have to become defensive minded.”

On importance of starting off on a positive note…

“We just need to take care of business and do what we are supposed to do. If we do that then everything will take care of itself. We just have to come out on a right note and with the right attitude and do what we gotta do.”

On depth…

“We are a deep team. He (Coach Fox) can throw any type of lineup out there and we are going to be good. For me, it is just to make plays for myself and my teammates.”

On advice to the younger players…

“I tell them that they are going to make mistakes and you can’t play mistake free, but if you play hard then it will cover up those mistakes. That is all I ask from them – that our guys play hard. If you play hard for us then at the end of the day, I’ll take that.”

Sophomore Guard William “Turtle” Jackson

How last year’s exhibition helped him as a player…

“It helped out a whole lot, confidence-wise. Before the game, you put a lot of pressure on yourself and get nervous, but it’s really just basketball. Every day, Coach Fox pushes us to play at a higher intensity, so it just taught me that he’s teaching me how to work and also play, so you just have to go out there and show everybody what you can do.”

On the excitement for Thursday’s exhibition…

“I’m very excited. Whenever you have the opportunity to compete, that’s a really good thing. Especially as an athlete, that’s why you work hard everyday, is to go out there and show everybody how good you are.”

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