Athens — Two individuals who will play significant roles for Georgia when it faces Georgia Tech Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum have a very measured, almost indifferent attitude toward the rivalry known as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”
Coach Tom Crean, in his second year at the helm of the Bulldogs’ program, and Anthony Edwards, a true freshman, are both relatively new to this scene. They know it’s extremely important to the respective schools and their fan bases, but they seem to be approaching it from more of seasonal progress point of view.
Crean wants to see his extremely young team grow and mature fundamentally on the court. Likewise, Edwards, one of the nation’s top few signees in the Class of 2019, views it as an opportunity to advance his already sophisticated game.
Neither individual seems to be feeling anything in the way of pressure over the eventual outcome.
“We want to win every game we play,” said Crean, whose first Georgia team beat Tech 70-59 last December in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs (3-0) are looking to extend a four-game winning streak over the Yellow Jackets. The last time Georgia won five in a row in the 195-game series was 1939-41.
Georgia Tech (2-0) leads the overall series 103-92.
Crean was asked if he felt the outcome was particularly important to recruiting in this talent-rich state.
“We certainly want to win, but recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week situation, and it never comes down to one or two games,” he said. “It comes down to the development of your program and what do you do with the players. With that being said, Georgia Tech is obviously a game we want to win.”
Ranked the No. 2 recruiting prospect in America by the 247Sports.com composite, Edwards shocked the college basketball world by choosing the Bulldogs over one of the “blue-blood” programs like Kentucky, Duke or Kansas. It doesn’t appear to have hurt his stock.
The 6-foot-5 guard has been projected as a Top 5 pick in next year’s NBA draft. NBA insider Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports is reporting that 26 scouts representing 20 NBA franchises will be at Stegeman Coliseum for Wednesday’s game.
That was met with a shrug from Edwards, who is used to performing before such critical throngs.
“I just play for my teammates, play for my coaches, play for myself and do what I can while I’m out there,” said Edwards, who comes in averaging 19.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
Meanwhile, though he hails from an area of Atlanta not far from the Georgia Tech campus and his high school coach (ty Anderson) played there, Edwards said he received very little recruiting interest from the Yellow Jackets. But he claims to be neither hurt nor motivated by that.
“It just didn’t happen,” Edwards said. “Georgia Tech is a great place. … I chose UGA. That’s a that matters.”
As for the rivalry, Edwards said, “I’m going to be ready for it. We’re just going to try to not break the (winning) streak for the seniors.”
The Jackets are coming in with a decidedly different attitude. They desperately want to break their losing streak in the rivalry. Between NCAA probation and back-to-back losing seasons under fourth-year coach Josh Pastner, Tech wants this one badly.
Sophomore Michael Devoe, Tech’s leading scorer at 22.0 per game, told the AJC they’ve had circled throughout the offseason.
“For sure,” he said. “One of the top games on the ridiculous schedule that we’ve got. It’s going to be a huge game for us.”
The Jackets already have a road win over N.C. State to their credit. There's some question about the health of junior guard Jose Alvarado, who said out the last game and several practices with an ankle injury.
The matchup of Devoe versus Edwards will be one of great focus. But Pastner said doesn't expect any one player to be charged with containing the Bulldogs' star, who he said “ could step on an NBA court right now and score double-digits.”
What Edwards can do, however, is stop himself. After scoring 24 and 29 in Georgia’s first two game, Edwards had just six points in the Bulldogs’ last outing against Delaware State. But he also finished with seven assists in a game in which Georgia had 30 as a team.
That, Edwards said, was the plan.
“I told myself I was going to get my teammates more involved,” Edwards said. “I was going to try to get as many assists as I can and just play for them and be as happy as I could. In the locker room I was real happy for my teammates. Everybody was smiling.”
Everybody but Crean.
The Georgia coach wasn’t frowning, mind you, but he didn’t recruit Edwards to Georgia to be a point guard. While he loves Edwards play-making ability as much as the next hoops hound, he’d prefer to see him be a little more selfish when it comes to scoring.
© 2019 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution