- Georgia basketball isn't usually known for its recruiting prowess, but Tom Crean has brought energized optimism thanks to his Anthony Edwards-led 2019 class.
In continuing our annual summer theme of getting you acquainted with the next crop of young, skilled players that will arrive to college basketball, we're taking a closer look at the Top 10 incoming recruiting classes (per the 247Sports composite) in the country. These schools range from the usual faces (Duke, Kentucky) to fresh ones (Memphis, Washington, Georgia), but they all have one big thing in common: there's plenty of major talent arriving. Five-stars get the headline, but a truly great recruiting class often has depth as well—players who can be program-changers over three or four years, not just one or two. Without further ado, let's move to the next top-10 class: the Georgia Bulldogs.
Five-Stars: Anthony Edwards (No. 2)
Four-Stars: Christian Brown (No. 68), Jaykwon Walton (No. 81), Sahvir Wheeler (No. 96), Toumani Camara (No. 99)
Three-Stars: Rodney Howard (No. 244), Michael Peake (No. 404)
Other New Additions: Shooting guard Donnell Gresham Jr (from Northeastern)
How the Class Was Built
Fall 2018: Four-star forward Jaykwon Walton kicked things off for Tom Crean’s class. Walton had initially committed to Mississippi State last summer but then reopened his recruitment and opted to play for Georgia in August. A second 6’6,” four-star small forward, Toumani Camara, joined him shortly thereafter, committing to the class on Oct. 1.
Winter 2018-19: Five-star Atlanta-native Anthony Edwards became the highest-ranked prospect to ever play for the Bulldogs and the program's first five-star commit since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2011 with his reclassification and February commitment to Georgia’s 2019 class. Four-star small forward Christian Brown, who played with UNC’s Cole Anthony at Oak Hill in high school, then added his name to the roster in March.
Spring 2019: After a few quiet months in Crean’s recruiting, four-star point guard Sahvir Wheeler signed with the Bulldogs in May after securing a release from his prior commitment to Texas A&M and got the ball rolling on some late momentum. Three-star center Rodney Howard, a 6’10, 230-pound prospect, committed to the class later that month. Georgia then picked up the latest addition in Athens on Aug. 5, when three-star power forward Michael Peake joined the incoming crew.
How It Stacks Up to 2018 and Recent History
A decade ago, Georgia’s incoming recruiting class was ranked No. 104 in the country. Five years ago, it was No. 110. While the seasons between those lows haven’t always been as bleak, no Bulldog recruiting class in the last 10 years has been ranked higher than 2011’s No. 32 crew until this year. After taking over the program in 2018, Crean has landed Georgia’s highest-ranked recruiting class and first top-10 group in ages with the help of his eight incoming freshman in just his second season at the helm.
The Bulldogs' 2017 recruiting class produced their top-two scorers from last season: Nic Claxton, who left for the draft after his sophomore campaign, and Rayshaun Hammonds, who came in as the class’s only four-star prospect. 2018’s newcomers, however, had a much more muted impact in their first season in Athens. Three-star guard Tye Fagan was the only freshman to see double-digit minutes, leading the class in both minutes and points, but even then, that was only 11.5 and 2.5 per game, respectively. Neither of the class’s two four-stars saw much time on the floor off the bat. This year’s recruits bring much more tangible potential and several are set up to follow Edwards’s lead and make an immediate impact. With twice the number of newcomers and arguably about twice the talent, 2019’s class is an unusually strong group for the rebuilding Bulldogs.
Although Edwards is a likely one-and-done, the rest of the recruits in this year’s class should spend a few seasons with the program before departing. Wheeler will likely help run the floor and should provide a stable presence at the point for Georgia to build around. With Edwards on his wing and Gresham immediately available to back him up, Georgia’s backcourt is set for this season. Edwards will also be looked upon to replace some serious production in light of the team losing losing two of its top three scorers from 2018-19. With two incoming freshman guards and Greshman, a transfer, joining Tyree Crump, Jordan Harris and the 2018 guard group, there’s plenty of depth. That said, Edwards’s talent level surpasses that of the returners.
The forward situation is a little different for Georgia, as there are fewer returning players up front. Thankfully, most of the incoming threes, fours and the class’s five (Howard) should all stay and play for the program for two to four seasons. They’ll be thrown into the fire as freshmen but have time to develop over the course of their college careers. There’s plenty of potential for that group down the line. All in all, this class brings a needed dose of talent to the team. Georgia has capable shot blockers, scorers, playmakers and defenders and all, outside of Edwards who will likely enter and be a high pick in the 2020 NBA draft, should develop well over the course of several seasons.
Team Expectations for 2019-20
Things are definitely looking up in for the Bulldogs—call it the Tom Crean effect, attribute it to Edwards, whatever you like—but things are looking promising for this program. If it hadn’t lost Claxton to the draft, Georgia could’ve been in the top-25 conversation preseason. But alas, he’s now with the Brooklyn Nets. But there’s still reason for optimism thanks to this incoming crew. In just one full recruiting cycle at Georgia, Crean has been able to bring a ton of much needed talent to the Bulldogs at every position and his second season should reap a better record than last year’s lackluster 11–21 showing. While a deep run in the NCAA tournament (Georgia hasn’t made an appearance since 2015) is probably out of reach, a bubble berth isn’t out of the question, especially if Edwards meets the lofty expectations that await him in Athens. Georgia should be able to aim for the middle-of-the-SEC standings as the program trends in a positive direction.
Crean has to capitalize on the momentum he built in 2019. Georgia has offered three five-stars, one of which already committed to Kentucky (BJ Boston) and two of whom don’t seem likely to land in Athens. There is, however, hope for a number of promising four-star point guards including Deivon Smith, a Georgia native and top-50 prospect, Hussan Diarra and J.D. Johnson. Four-star shooting guard Niels Lane and three-star Colby Jones are also top prospects for 2020 and would be welcomed additions, assuming Edwards departs for the draft. While there aren’t too many forwards who look like they’re leaning toward joining the Bulldogs next season, that isn’t much of a point of concern given that the incoming class has that zone covered with several players who should stick around for a few seasons.