- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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There's always one major recruiting rule for coaches at marquee state programs: Recruit your own.
Sure, it's more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. Not everywhere is Indiana, where fans pine for the glory days when homegrown talent stayed home and a major aspect of coaching pressure is convincing those players to do so again. Nor is everywhere John Calipari's Kentucky, which currently seems to have its pick of the nation's elite high school players. Whether for lack of in-state talent, location, prestige or whatever, most schools exist somewhere in the middle ground.
Still, flexible though the maxim may be, it's still a maxim: If you want to do well at, say, Georgia, you have to at the very least convince Georgia talent to stay in-state.
Apparently, Georgia coach Mark Fox got the memo.
Fox has received numerous plaudits for his work with a talent-bereft Georgia squad in 2009-10, a deceptively competitive 14-17 team. But the biggest boon to Bulldogs hoops fans -- and you all do exist, right? -- is Fox's ability to shore up top-notch in-state talent this early in his tenure. The latest of these efforts yielded Fox's biggest prize yet: Kentavious Caldwell, the No. 11 recruit in the class of 2011.
A native of Greenville, Ga., Caldwell is the No. 4-ranked shooting guard in his class, the kind of player who could play just about anywhere in the country if he wanted. But Caldwell always seemed to be leaning toward staying near his home for hoops -- he also considered Clemson, Florida State, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State. According to his high school coach, Caldwell also factored the chance to go to school with two of his best friends, both future UGA football recruits. Home ties are hard to break, which is why in-state schools have always had a leg up in recruiting. But actually getting those elite recruits, especially in the modern era, is easier said than done.
Caldwell is the Bulldogs' first big-time in-state recruit, but he's not the only new Bulldog to feel the lure of the in-state opportunity. Three of the four players in Fox's 2010 class hail from Georgia. That includes Marcus Thornton, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Atlanta ranked No. 26 at his position, and junior college transfer Sherrard Brantley, who averaged 43 percent 3-point shooting as a freshman at Northwest Florida College in 2009-10.
Put it all together, mix in Fox's impressive coaching acumen and you have a recipe for sudden and unusual Peach State success. Believe it or not, the Georgia Bulldogs could very well be an SEC force in the coming years. And it'll be Georgia boys in the jerseys to boot. What fan wouldn't love that?