Maten’s return boosts UGA’s NCAA hopes
ATHENS — Yante Maten’s decision to return for his senior season gives Georgia more reason to hope it can make the NCAA Tournament.
If not for a knee injury which forced Maten to miss the last four regular-season games and Georgia’s NIT loss to Belmont, the forward’s NBA decision might have been different.
“When he entered the draft he wasn’t cleared to work out,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, who said Maten delayed workouts for NBA scouts “to get himself in some kind of shape.”
It wasn’t an ideal way for Maten to prove he was ready for the NBA. Now the Bulldogs have a healthy Maten (6-8, 243) ready for his senior season.
“He really went to work this summer and tried to make himself better,” Fox said, adding Maten is “at his peak” physically.
Maten may need to improve his jump shot as a complement to his inside scoring for the NBA. Maten said he worked on “pretty much the whole spectrum of basketball.”
“It wasn’t just one thing that I worked on,” he said. “There were multiple things: my shot, making sure I was finishing plays, making sure my interior post game was solid and just trying to do little things, defending and other things.”
Maten’s return is especially important as he helps to fill the leadership void left by highscoring guard J.J. Frazier, the only lost starter from last season 19-15 team. Maten averaged 18.2 points and 6.8 rebounds last season. He is the Southeastern Conference’s active career leader in points (1,250), rebounds (606) and blocked shots (149).
Georgia has reached the NCAA tournament in only two of Fox’s eight seasons.
It is coming off two straight NIT appearances since its last NCAA appearance in 2015.
Some other things to know about Georgia’s outlook:
Georgia has a strong cast of returning starters. Maten is joined by forward Derek Ogbeide, swingman Juwan Parker and guards Jordan Harris and William “Turtle” Jackson. Harris and Jackson shared a starting spot last year. Other returning perimeter players with starting experience include E’Torrion Wilridge, Tyree Crump and Pape Diatta. Mike Edwards is a top inside backup.
Fox is seeking answers in the backcourt. “We’ve got a lot of competition for playing time, that’s for sure,” he said. “We need someone to separate from the rest . ... I don’t think that’s happened yet.”
Parker, a fifth-year senior, is working on his second master’s degree. He has a bachelor’s degree in management and this summer completed his master’s degree in sports management. Now he’s working on a second master’s degree in financial planning. He’s preparing for a career as a college athletic director but first hopes to have a chance to play professionally.
While still in high school, Parker got an early start earning college credits at the University of Tulsa where his father, Johnny Parker, is a law school professor.
An Achilles tendon injury led to a redshirt 2015-16 season, which gave Juwan Parker extra time to collect degrees. “It’s been awesome. It’s been a blessing,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on having two masters when I left college, but it’s worked out wonderfully.”
Parker (6-4, 205) averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. He said he is close to a full recovery from a second Achilles tendon injury — one on each foot.
Familiar name, familiar number
Freshman Nicolas Claxton will wear the same 33 jersey as his father, Charles Claxton, a center for the Bulldogs from 1991-95. “I’ve been a Bulldog all my life,” said Nicolas Claxton (6-11, 215). “I’ve been coming to football and basketball games as long as I can remember.”
An $8 million renovation to Stegeman Coliseum has included a new center-hung scoreboard, new seating and upgraded sound and lighting systems. The projects follow a $13 million renovation of the arena’s concourses, concessions and restrooms in 2010.