Georgia Basketball: Rayshaun Hammonds Could Be the Key to NCAA Tournament
Prior to the start of the season, most knew Georgia Basketball would see a vast improvement, led by Anthony Edwards. It's not hard to understand that thought process, considering Edwards was the #1 overall prospect in the Top247 rankings and is considered a lock to be a Top-3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The question for Georgia was: Will they have enough frontcourt presence to compete in the talent-filled SEC?
Georgia returned two senior guards in Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris (will be eligible on December 20th against SMU). Add in the freshman duo of Sahvir Wheeler and Anthony Edwards along with graduate senior, Donnell Gresham Jr., and you're looking at a very complete backcourt.
However, the team lost two of the three leading rebounders from 2018 in Nicolas Claxton and Derek Ogbeide, which proves why a lot of analysts doubted Georgia's frontcourt in the off-season.
What a lot of analysts didn't account for was the emergence of junior, Rayshaun Hammonds.
Hammonds came to Georgia with high expectations. In the class of 2017, 247Sports Composite rated him as the nation's #51 overall prospect, the #14 power forward, and the #5 player in the state of Georgia.
In his first two seasons at UGA he's been good but never reached the potential that fans know he had.
2017-18 (Freshman): 6.7 PPG, 1.4 APG, 4.9 RPG
2018-19 (Sophomore): 12.1 PPG, 1.6 APG, 6.1 RPG
Here at the start of the 2019-20 season, Hammonds has gotten off to a historic start. In these first four games, he's posted 69 points, 44 rebounds, and 7 steals.
Hammonds has turned his craft into an art, finding his touch around the glass, including second-chance points on offensive rebounds. And he's even added the mid-range and three-point shots to his game this season
His production on the court has put him as the SEC's leading rebounder (11 RPG) and 10th on the scoring list (17.3 RPG).
Hammonds' play has drawn the attention of the national media and those around the program as well:
Tom Crean: "Ray is letting the game come to him... He's not forcing anything. He's letting it come. He's playing with speed. He's playing with aggressiveness."
Anthony Edwards: "My teammate here, my brother (Rayshaun) had a great game... We got the best forward in the country."
In a year where most believed Georgia would have to rely on Edwards for their success, the Bulldogs have found other ways to make it happen, showing the completeness in the team.
Rayshaun Hammonds is starting to become the counterpart that Anthony Edwards needed as the team will face a tough stretch of games against teams that will likely be in the tournament come March and April.
After watching the team compete against some of the nation's best in Maui this week there will be a better understanding of how vital Hammonds is to Georgia's NCAA Tournament hopes.