College Basketball Nation: Marcus Thornton

1. Men's college coaches are starting to figure out a new practice schedule for the first time and seeking out advice. Georgia coach Mark Fox said he spent time with long-time women's coach Andy Landers about how he handled the ability to start practice early in late September. The new rule allows men's teams to have 30 days of practice in the six weeks prior to the first game. The previous rule allowed teams to practice four weeks before the first game. Fox said the Bulldogs will start on Sept. 27 (like many other teams). He said Landers told him having the longer time frame to practice allows for more flexibility if a player gets hurt, and to offer overall rest. The start of practice in late September will mean a shorter time period for individual workout sessions once the fall semester starts and will mean a longer season, essentially extending nearly the entire school year (with the last six weeks of the second semester for most schools being the only free time). The Bulldogs are trying to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a top 10 NBA draft pick, and have candidates in Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines, and Brandon Morris, whom Fox said had a "great offseason.'' Add in Marcus Thornton coming back from an injury and Nemanja Djurisic, and this team has a chance to move up in a wide-open middle of the SEC. Fox added it's the first time in the past two years "we've got some experience and a lot more balance.''

2. Utah was once an elite program under the late Rick Majerus. The Utes were feared. The Huntsman Center was a destination, not a stop over en route to tougher road spots. There was a Sweet 16 run under Ray Giacoletti in 2005, and a No. 1 draft pick in Andrew Bogut. But the times have been lean recently, notably in the two years since the Utes joined the Pac-12. The Utes have won a combined eight league games in two seasons, and haven't had a winning season in the past four (the former two in the Mountain West). Larry Krystkowiak has a rebuilding process going on that is in constant construction mode. But to pick up a key in-state player like Brekkott Chapman, who is listed as a top 50 player by ESPN, is critical in regaining the trust and confidence within the state. The mood, according to a source, around Utah basketball Tuesday was one of euphoria after landing a top player in the state, and to some extent you could add relief to prove that they are making progress. Utah used to produce a number of high-profile players. BYU wasn't the only competition for them. Utah had to fend off other national poachers. That's what occurred in the recruitment of Chapman, according to our Reggie Rankin. Utah fans have had to be patient through three coaching changes since Majerus left. Krystkowiak has a towering presence. He won at Montana. It will be interesting to see if he can collect enough talent at Utah what he can accomplish.

3. We had another informative conversation during our ESPNU podcast Monday with Creighton's Doug McDermott. He had a number of insightful points on playing with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (winner) during the Team USA men's basketball mini-camp, playing under Davidson's Bob McKillop (working with stretch forwards), South Carolina's Frank Martin (got mad once about poor defense), and Michigan's John Beilein (was a bit uncomfortable as an assistant for the first time in his coaching life), a new rivalry with Marquette (a New Year's Eve Big East opener) and how good old rival Wichita State will be really good once again with guard Fred VanFleet someone to watch. You can listen here (about 20-plus minutes in).

3-point shot: Hope, sadness at Georgia

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
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1. Georgia coach Mark Fox needed the team's trip to Italy to get a handle on his freshmen and returnees to see if there was improvement and hope for the upcoming season. School hasn't started yet, but he returned to the United States on Sunday with loads of optimism. Sophomore Tim Dixon, who averaged nine points and nine rebounds on the trip after averaging 0.3 points and 0.9 rebounds last season, showed tremendous progress, while returning starters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Donte Williams and Nemanja Djurisic all played well in limited minutes, according to Fox. Fox said he leaned more on freshman guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines to give the pair a quality look. Marcus Thornton, arguably the team's best player, didn't play because he hadn't been cleared since having surgery in the spring. Fox said the trip came at the perfect time for the Bulldogs, who finished 15-17 overall, 5-11 in the SEC last season, so that he could get a read on the young players instead of studying the returnees.

2. My condolences go out to the family of Patricia Davison, wife of Georgia basketball operations director Kent Davison. Pat Davison, 60, died unexpectedly Aug. 5 while the team was in Italy. Kent rushed back to Athens, Ga. Fox said it was simply awful for everyone involved. Tragic.

3. Central Florida starts the fall semester Aug. 20, and as of Sunday the school had no word on if star senior forward Keith Clanton plans to transfer. He can play elsewhere right away because of the Knights' one-year postseason ban, but each day that goes by without a word from Clanton means it's more likely he'll return to play in front of family in his native Orlando. In an unrelated transfer situation, South Carolina coach Frank Martin said the school hasn't received word if Southern Mississippi's LaShay Page (11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds per game) will receive a waiver to play his senior season with the Gamecocks. Page left after a coaching change in Hattiesburg and can seek a waiver if he has graduated and enrolls in a graduate program that is not available at Southern Miss. Though the SEC does have a policy of no one-year players, a waiver of this sort is usually granted.

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