Fox: Dogs developed on overseas trip

The Georgia men’s basketball team returned to Athens this fall a little more cultured than any other season in the Mark Fox era.

The team went on a 10-day tour of Italy at the beginning of August and faced off against three international clubs as they took in the sights and got some exposure to the European lifestyle.

“Looking back on it, I thought that educationally it was very good,” Fox said. “I thought basketball-wise it was very good and certainly gave us a chance to develop some stronger team chemistry, so I was really pleased.”

The Bulldogs traveled to various cities such as Milan, Rome and Venice, and even so far from home got recognized for the logo on their shirts.

“What’s great is that Bulldog Nation is worldwide. I don’t think there was a city we visited where you didn’t run into a Bulldog somewhere,” Fox said. “I think that was terrific. Our guys, I think they loved that.”

Georgia went 2-1 during their tour, falling to a professional club from Lithuania by four points. In the loss, Fox said the team wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, but he didn’t discredit its opponent.

“We didn’t play with a great deal of energy, and we looked like an exhausted group. We still scored 90 points, but we gave up 94,” he said. “I thought we played teams that really forced us to defend and work and it was a great experience for us.”

Outside of wins and losses, Georgia’s head coach said the most important part of the trip was the in-game experience for some of the younger players on the team.

“Our freshman, they realized how hard and how fast you have to play. With such quick possessions, that if you take just a couple seconds break there’s going to be a costly consequence for that,” he said. “So they were able to see some of those things, and certainly just get game experience which is so valuable.”

It was the younger athletes who showed the most growth during the trip, most notably, center Tim Dixon.

“I think it was a situation where Tim probably stood out the most of the guys who had played significant minutes,” he said. “I was pleased with (some of the) freshman perimeter players. They all had some very good plays. Obviously had some plays that they can learn from, but Tim took a big step forward.”

With only 10 practices to prepare for the trip, the Bulldogs weren’t as sound defensively as they could have, which Fox wasn’t afraid to admit.

“Our defense was awful. We gave up 94 points one game, and I’ll be honest … in 10 practices you just don’t have enough time to implement all the things that you want to,” he said. “In a situation with 10 practices as broken up as ours were, it was probably impossible to address it like we would in a regular season. But defensively, we got a ways to go.”

Forward Marcus Thornton, who is still rehabbing his injured knee, was able to practice with the team as he continues to make strides towards his return.

“Marcus was able to practice in certain situations where there was no contact and he did quite a bit of things in preparation for the trip,” Fox said. “He has not been cleared for contact, but he’s moving very well in his rehab.”

The other headline this offseason for the Bulldogs was forward Donte Williams’ arrest on May 25 for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Since the incident, Williams has passed multiple drug tests, and the case has since been dismissed. Fox said he had nothing further to add on his status as far as possible suspensions are concerned.

Off court issues aside, Fox said he is pleased with the physicality of this team but remains skeptical moving forward.

“We’re just bigger, we’re more mature physically, we’re more athletic, (and) we have better depth,” he said. “My list of concerns is a mile long. I didn’t think we defended very well; are we going to be able to improve in that area? Are we going to be able to pick up the system that we’re trying to implement? I think there’s a lot of things, as any coach would be probably concerned about.”

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