In early April, two months after Georgia coach
One by one, the players answered. Some liked being close to home. Others said they wanted their families to see them play. And on a roster dotted with players who had few, if any, other offers from high-profile schools, some were likely allured by the grand stage of the SEC East. But Fox arrived in Athens driven by a different motivation.
"I want to win!" he shouted, nearly compelling senior
For the past few seasons in Athens, wins have been scarce. Georgia went 26-59 in the SEC regular season during Felton's 5 1/2-year run. They struggled similarly under interim head coach
"There was a dark cloud hanging over the program at that time," says
Felton instilled integrity but won precious few games. Enter Fox, a bespectacled, loafer-wearing Midwesterner. His University of Nevada teams had gone 123-43 in five seasons and reached three NCAA tournaments, and now he was charged with awakening what he saw as a sleeping giant, the flagship university in a state with one of the country's most fertile recruiting beds.
Since 2004, the state has had eight high school players ranked among the top 10 by
"The key to keeping kids in-state is that the program has to become relevant for them," says Fox. "They have to think, 'If I go to UGA, my dreams can come true. The tournament, championships, the NBA, everything.'"
Fox points out that he had success recruiting all over the country while at Nevada, where he had to venture far from Reno to bring in top talent, even going into SEC territory for South Carolina native
But Fox's first recruiting challenge at Georgia was convincing the top talent on the roster to remain in Athens. Forward
"He had just set up his office and I saw his ring from the WAC championship," says Thompkins, who grew up 50 miles away from Athens in Lithonia. "I thought, I want to get one of those and have it on my mantle."
It will be a long way for Georgia to win any rings, but Fox's initial message has gotten through. Thompkins may have come to Georgia to be close to home, but now he has a reason to stay: he wants to win.