UGA Basketball: Taking a Look Back, Best UGA Basketball Players of the Decade
In a few months, we'll see Anthony Edwards, Rayshaun Hammonds, and the rest of the 2019-2020 Georgia Basketball team dominate at Stegeman Coliseum. But for now, we'll take a look at those who came before them.
10. Marcus Thornton: 2010-2015, Small Forward
Thornton went down as one of the best players to come through the program, and he is even displayed on the wall mural at The Steg. He was an instant impact from the moment he stepped on campus, playing 32 games in his freshman season. He went on to start 18 games as a sophomore, before getting a medical redshirt in 2012.
Thornton became a full-time starter during his junior and senior seasons. In 2015, he posted seven double-doubles, including one in the 2015 NCAA Tournament first-round against Michigan State.
Post UGA, Thornton played one season overseas in 2016.
9. Kenny Gaines: 2012-2016, Shooting Guard
Gaines played in 126 games with 94 of those being starts during his college basketball career. Gaines was also one of the best shooters in school history, ranking 4th in 3-pointers made and 3-pointers attempted. He also ranks 19th on the all-time scoring leaders list in school history.
Gaines went on to play for the Houston Rockets in the 2016 NBA Summer League. He would move overseas to play for the Antibes Sharks in 2016. He's now a member of BC Juventus of the Lithuanian Basketball League and won the league's Slam Dunk Contest in 2018.
8. Nemanja Djurisic: 2011-2015, Power Forward
"Nemi" Djurisic brought something to Georgia Basketball that no one had really seen much of before. That was the "euro" style of play, much like Kristaps Porzingis or Dirk Nowitzki bring to the NBA. Djurisic was a solid post player with a consistent mid-range and outside shot.
Djurisic shot 41% from 3-point land during SEC play of his sophomore season. After that, he was easily the biggest threat from deep on the team.
During his senior season, he combined for 35 points in two games against #1 Kentucky. He went on to pass 1,000 career points and finished 28th on the school's all-time scoring list. On top of that, he is one of 19 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 boards. Those numbers helped him lead Georgia to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015.
Djurisic now plays in the Belgian professional basketball league with B.C. Oostende.
7. Charles Mann: 2012-2016, Point Guard
Charles Mann's ability to draw fouls and convert at the free throw line is what got him on this list. Mann played in 132 games at Georgia, which is second-most in school history, only behind Marcus Thornton. Mann also started 98 times during his final three years at UGA.
Mann's craftiness allowed him to set all kinds of records. He has the school record for free throws attempted and free throws made. In fact, he ranks 2nd in free throws attempted and 6th in free throws made in SEC history.
He also ranks 13th on the school's all-time scoring list, and 5th in career assists. Mann was named preseason first-team All-SEC in his junior and senior seasons.
Mann was drafted by the Oklahoma City Blues in the NBA G-League Draft in 2016 but was then released a month later. He played his 2016 in the Canadian NBL and played in the Luxembourg Total League in 2017 and 2018.
6. Trey Thompkins: 2008-2011, Power Forward
Thompkins is one of the biggest recruits in school history, coming into Georgia as the #30 overall player of the 2008 class. This guy was good enough to play his senior year of basketball for Oak Hill Academy, much like our very own Christian Brown. During his first year, Thompkins led the team in rebounding and blocks and was second in points. This earned him an SEC All-Freshman selection.
Thompkins was a unanimous vote for the first team All-SEC in his sophomore year, and again his junior year when he led the Dawgs to an NCAA Tournament appearance. Georgia was then eliminated in the first round by Washington.
After a great college career, he went on to be drafted 37th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011. He played in LA for two years but then moved on to play overseas. He's now a member of Real Madrid, who is in the EuroLeague.
5. Travis Leslie: 2008-2011, Point Guard
Leslie came to Georgia the same year Thompkins did, but he was nowhere near the same caliber recruit. Leslie was a 3-star recruit and only ranked 116th overall. But, that didn't stop him from becoming one of the best players in school history.
His final year, Leslie was a preseason All-SEC selection as well as an All-SEC 2nd team selection. He also put up 1,000 career points, which is very impressive because he only played three years. Leslie was so impressive that year that even ESPN's College Gameday recognized his play. The show listed him as College Basketball's best dunker in 2011.
Like Thompkins, Leslie also declared for the NBA Draft in 2011. Ten picks after Thompkins was chosen, Leslie was also picked by the Los Angeles Clippers. Leslie was quickly moved to the G-League, and he played there until 2013. The Utah Jazz signed him to a 10-day contract after his G-League All-Star Game MVP campaign, but no other action took place. Since then, he's played with a number of professional teams overseas.
4. Nicolas Claxton: 2017-2019, Small/Power Forward
Claxton came to Georgia as a raw prospect with potential due to his size. But, I remember the first time I ever saw "Slim Reaper" was during a practice before the 2017-2018 season. It was obvious he had a lot of work to do, but his length and size was something I had never seen in Athens.
What makes Claxton's career so special is that he went from a role player, coming off to the bench, to a national talent within a year. As a freshman, his length was very evident. He finished second on the team in blocks, with 42, despite only playing 14 minutes per game.
In his sophomore campaign, he led Georgia in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. As if that weren't enough, he was second on the team in assists. He led the SEC in blocks and defensive rebounds, and nationally speaking, he was 10th in blocks per game and 59th in rebounds per game. He also had eight double-doubles on the year.
So where did all these blocked shots and rebounds get him? Well, just last week we saw him drafted 31st by the Brooklyn Nets. With the Nets being very thin at power forward, Claxton will probably get tons of reps and develop quickly. There's even a chance he'll get to learn from Kevin Durant if he decides to sign with Brooklyn. Claxton should play a huge role in the Nets' future. I'll even go out on a limb and predict Claxton to be a starter by or before the All-Star break.
3. J.J. Frazier: 2013-2017, Point Guard
Frazier might be the best point guard that Georgia has seen this century. He dominated pretty much every single game. It makes you wonder how he did it when you walk up to him and have to look down to talk to him. At only 5'9, Frazier started 79 games during his college career. Many even compare his game to Georgia's freshman point guard, Sahvir Wheeler.
He's one of three players in Bulldog history to be in the top ten in points, assists, and steals. Frazier is also the only player in the school's history to post (50) 3-pointers and 100 assists, three times. On top of that, he's got the record for career free throw percentage. He ended his career as a first-team All-SEC selection.
Had size, not been a factor, Frazier might be one of the top point guards in the NBA right now. After one season in France, Frazier played for the Memphis Grizzlies' G-League team, the Memphis Hustle, in 2018. Frazier is now back playing overseas, still tormenting defenses.
2. Yante Maten: 2014-2018, Power Forward
Coming in as another project-type recruit, Maten played in 32 games and started in 2 of those. He ended up starting 97 times in four years at UGA. Much like Nemanja Djurisic, Yante was a threat by the basket AND in the mid-range. His offensive presence led him to finish as the #2 all-time scorer in Bulldog history.
Maten played a big part in Georgia's 2015 NCAA Tournament appearance, as he was a 3rd team All-SEC selection. He went on to be Georgia's first three-time All-SEC recipient since Litterial Green from 1990-1992. He capped off his great career by being named the 2018 AP SEC Player of the Year. The only other two guys from Georgia to win the award are Dominique Wilkins and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
After going undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft, Maten was signed as a UDFA (undrafted free agent) by the Miami Heat. He dominated in the G-League this past season and was even named the NBA G-League Player of the Month this past December. In April, Maten was signed to a standard NBA contract. If he's able to keep his play up, he'll have a solid career in the NBA.
1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: 2011-2013, Shooting Guard
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or "KCP" is the only other 5-star to enroll at UGA other than Anthony Edwards. Caldwell-Pope decided to stay in-state and lit up the SEC during his two years in Athens.
KCP was selected to the Coaches' Freshman All-SEC Team. That same team included NBA stars Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis. That year, he started in 30 games and averaged 13.2 PPG. He also recorded a season-high of 25 points against Ole Miss.
During his sophomore campaign, KCP averaged 18.5 PPG and 7.1 RPG. He also shot 37% from deep. The numbers he produced in the 2012-2013 season got him named the SEC Player of the Year, becoming the first since Dominique Wilkins.
In 2013, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope declared for the NBA Draft, where he was selected 8th overall by the Detroit Pistons. After a three year stint there, he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017 on a one-year, $18 million dollar deal. He signed with the Lakers again in 2018 for $12 million, playing alongside LeBron James. Caldwell-Pope will be a free agent again in 2019.