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Michael CarvellMichael Carvell

UGA’s Mark Fox cites ‘progress’ in recruiting Atlanta

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Mark Fox admits that UGA’s basketball recruiting in Atlanta “hasn’t been perfect” but he also feels it has gone better than some people think.

This past season, UGA’s entire starting lineup was from the Atlanta area. The Bulldogs won 20 games and ended up second in the final SEC standings.

Mark Fox went from the hot seat to a two-year contract extension (AJC)

Mark Fox went from the “hot seat” to a two-year contract extension after 20 wins (AJC)

Some UGA fans feel like the Bulldogs should be recruiting much better in Atlanta after missing out on high-profile recruits such as Tony Parker (signed with UCLA), Evan Nolte (Virginia), Nick Jacobs (Alabama), and Isaiah Wilkins (Virginia), among others.

“If Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope) stays in school, we don’t have five starters from Atlanta but we still have five starters from the state of Georgia,” Fox told the AJC. “Does Kentavious get us one more win if he stays in school?

“I think you have to have some balance with how you look at that. You know, we haven’t been perfect but we’ve made some progress there (in Atlanta).”

Fox also doesn’t necessarily agree with Internet chatter that he’s a better coach than recruiter:

“I don’t pay a great deal of attention to (message boards). We’ll be critical of how we coach and how we recruit. I have higher expectations of myself than anybody else does. So we don’t really pay attention to the rest of it.”

On Wednesday, UGA is expected to sign two recent commitments: Yante Maten, a 6-foot-7 forward from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Fred Iduwe, a 6-11 center from near Milwaukee. That’s double the size of the original plan.

“We entered the year with just one scholarship, so we had to recruit size this season,” Fox said. “And that was plan all along. Despite what anyone thought, we could not take a guard. We just couldn’t.

“Not only did we lose (Donte Williams) this year, we’ve got Marcus Thornton, Nemanja Djurisic and some other guys who are going to be seniors next year. We had to really target some size. The plan all along was to recruit size.”

One thing that’s very noticeable in UGA’s last two recruiting classes is that five out of six are from out of state. Considering the challenges of recruiting Atlanta, is this the beginning of a new trend for the Bulldogs?

“Well, again, we started five kids from Atlanta this past year,” Fox said. “I think it comes down to just need and what’s available. We would like to start at home first.

“But this year, if a kid was a point guard in Georgia this year, we weren’t going to be able to recruit him because we had a sophomore point guard and a freshman behind him. It really comes down to need, and where kids that fill that need live.”

Here’s the rest of the Q&A with UGA coach Mark Fox:

How would you rate your recruiting success in the state of Georgia since being at UGA? “I think it’s a constant battle. I think we’ve made progress. We started five kids from the state this year on a team that won 20 games. And we lost a kid to the NBA lottery who was an in-state kid. You know, I think we’ve made some progress there but it’s something that you always have to work on.”

How much of a recruiting battleground is Atlanta? “It’s obviously the biggest city in the South. It’s going to get recruited by everywhere, just because of the geographical standpoint and the demographics of how many people live there. It’s going to be something that is always the case. People are always going to recruit Atlanta because there’s so many people and there’s not a city that size in Alabama or South Carolina and so forth. Obviously, it’s going to be a place people try to come and recruit.”

From a recruiting standpoint, how big of a deal was it for you to get a two-year contract extension? “I think it’s a huge part of recruiting. I think that recruits want some security to know that the guy they sign with is going to be there. I think it was really big for us. It’s funny. I had a lot of recruits text me before I even had a chance to reach out to them. That was good. Every recruit’s parents, they want to send their child to a secure situation. Once you can establish that, it does make it easier (to recruit).”

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