Beware of Dogs

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Florida has received much preseason basketball hype, with all five starters back from a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season.

Some have gone as far as to label the Gators as a preseason top 10 team.

That assessment might be premature. But in an increasingly competitive SEC East, a potential dark-horse team to watch  is Georgia.

The Bulldogs return versatile All-SEC first-team forward Trey Thompkins and freakishly-athletic guard Travis Leslie. In addition, second-year Georgia coach Mark Fox pulled off a huge recruiting coup when he signed Georgia Mr. Basketball Marcus Thornton this past spring. Thornton, a 6-foot-7 wing player from Westlake High in Atlanta, re-opened his recruitment when Clemson coach Oliver Purnell left for DePaul.

“Marcus gives us a nice boost,” Fox said. “He’s a young man who re-opened his recruitment and we were fortunate to be able to get in on him. He’s a terrific player, a terrific student, just a winning player. I think he gives us versatility because he can play multiple positions.”

If Thornton pans out as advertised, it will give the Bulldogs three scoring options on the floor that rival any in the rest of the league. Georgia had defensive issues under Fox, but some of those could be ironed out in his second season.

“I feel like there is a little more familiarity in what we’re trying to do,” Fox said.

Other SEC notes:

— Incoming Florida freshman Patric Young is playing well for the U.S. 18-under team at the FIBA championships in San Antonio. Young had eight points and 11 rebounds in his first game, 11 points in his second game and four points and eight rebounds in limited touches in his third game, a blowout U.S. win over Mexico.

— Kentucky coach John Calipari stood by his statement that last Thursday’s NBA draft was the greatest day in Kentucky basketball history. Five Wildcats, led by top overall pick John Wall, went in the first round, a Division I record. “I wasn’t speaking to the past,” Calipari said. “I was speaking to the future. That night will speak volumes for us for the next five years. We are a players first program and players will win us national championships.” Despite having the five first-rounders on the roster, Kentucky was knocked out by West Virginia in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. “As a staff, we have to figure out how to win those last three games with a young team,” Calipari said.

— LSU coach Trent Johnson confirmed that last season’s starting point guard, Bo Spencer, is no longer on the team. Not that it worries Johnson: “We won two league games with him last season,” Johnson said. Johnson also said that rising sophomore Aaron Dotson suffered another health setback, spraining his petallar tendon in his knee this spring. Dotson, a coveted recruit out of Seattle, wasn’t the impact freshman season some envisioned after undergoing knee surgery the February of his senior year of high school. Dotson finished his freshman year averaging 3.2 points and one assist per game. “I think some of what Aaron had to go through his freshman season will help make him a better player,” Johnson said.

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