A sophomore starter for Georgia made an announcement regarding his future after the Bulldogs’ season ended in the SEC tournament Thursday.
“I’m coming back,” forward Nemanja Djurisic said. “I have nowhere to go.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope does have options and was not ready to make such a declaration.
The reigning SEC player of the year was reeling after his 32-point effort still left the Bulldogs short against LSU in the tournament’s second round Thursday at Bridgestone Arena. He said he’ll need some time before he decides whether to return to Georgia for his junior season or enter the NBA draft.
‘I’ve still got to figure it out,” Caldwell-Pope said in the locker room following the 68-63 loss. “Right now I’m just worried about finishing school.”
It will be a tough decision for Caldwell-Pope, a 6-foot-5 guard. Currently he projects as a late first-round or early second-round selection, and that’s coming from highly speculative mock drafts. Only first-round draftees receive guaranteed NBA contracts.
But Caldwell-Pope certainly didn’t hurt his stock late in the season. He was one of 10 players in the country to score double figures in every game all season, and praise from the league’s coaches was effusive in the wake of his distinction as the SEC’s top player. He averaged 19.2 points per game in conference play, 18.5 overall, and ranks among SEC leaders in nine of 13 statistical categories, including rebounding, steals and minutes played.
But Caldwell-Pope’s coaches and teammates said the thing he needs more than anything else at this point is time and information. He needs to get away from the court and size up his situation objectively.
“We will get him accurate information from the right people,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “The NBA is very good about giving that information. So we’ll do what’s best for Kentavious.”
Said Djurisic: “I think he needs some peace now. He needs to make his decision in peace.”
No postseason for Bulldogs: Technically the Bulldogs still could receive a postseason bid to the NIT, but after losing their fifth game in the past eight and carrying an RPI in the mid-150s, Fox doesn’t expect one to be forthcoming.
He also added that Georgia is not interested in playing in the College Basketball Invitational or any of the other third-tier postseason tournaments. “We played our last game,” Fox said.
The Bulldogs failed to make the NCAA tournament field for the second consecutive year, third under Fox and 10th time this century. Georgia has played in the “Big Dance” 13 times and has made 24 postseason appearances, including the NIT.
No collapse for LSU: Had LSU lost after leading Georgia by 23 points in the first half, it would not have been its greatest collapse in history. The Tigers led Kentucky by 31 points in 1994 only to have the Wildcats come back and win 74-72 After starting 0-4, LSU has won 10 of its past 15 games.
Asked if Georgia made offensive adjustments to mount the comeback, LSU coach Johnny Jones laughed: “Yeah, they changed something. Caldwell-Pope got going and made some big shots.”
Caldwell-Pope scored 17 points in the first 11:30 of the second half.
Etc.: With its 69-53 win over Mississippi State on Thursday, Tennessee (20-11) won for the ninth time in their past 10 games. The lone loss for the Volunteers was against Georgia, 78-68 on March 2. … LSU lost to Florida 74-52 in Baton Rouge on Jan. 11. The teams will meet Friday in the quarterfinals. … Alabama and Tennessee, which will meet in another quarterfinals game, split two games this season. The Crimson Tide won 68-65 in Tuscaloosa, and the Vols won 54-53 in Knoxville. … Attendance for the SEC tournament’s first session — which included two games on Wednesday for the first time — was announced as 7,879. … Freshman Charles Mann’s tied his personal best with 12 free throws Thursday. He led the Bulldogs in free-throw attempts at 170 and shot 73 percent in SEC play.