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WATCH: Sahvir Wheeler weighs in on racial climate, Georgia campus environment

WATCH: Sahvir Wheeler weighs in on racial climate, Georgia campus environment

WATCH: Sahvir Wheeler weighs in on racial climate, Georgia campus environment

WATCH: Sahvir Wheeler weighs in on racial climate, Georgia campus environment

ATHENS Sahvir Wheeler is used to making split-second decisions on the court. As a point guard, it comes naturally, as last season he set the Georgia freshman record for assists.

Wheeler's vision and perspective proved just as impressive off the court during a live wide-ranging interview Monday night with DawgNation.

Wheeler seems wise beyond his 19 years. The oldest of six children, Wheeler eloquently shared what he has drawn from the past two weeks of social and racial unrest in our nation.

"One of the most important things is this is a time when the country has to pivot, and it has put a magnifying glass on our actions, our deeds and our approach with others in relationships in general," Wheeler said.

"It has come to question ourselves: What are we willing to tolerate? What is the catalyst of change? How are we looking upon other people from different walks of life, and how we can take a step forward in progression so everyone can be equal?"

Wheeler was still asking himself those questions on Monday, hours after Minneapolis police brutality victim George Floyd was memorialized in Houston.

Wheeler was cleared for the interview by Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean.

RELATED: How Tom Crean is building another winner at Georgia

"Absolutely, I'm comfortable with Sahvir doing this interview, it's an important time for him to be heard," Crean said, bucking the trend of controlling collegiate coaches who keep their players muted.

"There's no fear at all because I know his heart when you trust a kid's heart, you don't worry."

Return to Athens

The Georgia men's basketball team is still on hold, as far as when they will return to Athens for offseason conditioning.

Wheeler is eager to get to work with teammates, new and returning, with visions of an NCAA tournament berth next season.

But what of Athens and the UGA campus, Wheeler was asked, and his perception of the environment for young black athletes?

RELATED: Wheeler comfortable taking shot under pressure in final seconds

"I'm not entirely sure how the community will be when we get back, but from my experience as a freshman coming into my first summer at Georgia last year, the environment is so welcoming," Wheeler said.

"Everyone welcomes you with open arms, that was one of the biggest things that attracted me to Georgia. It's a family. It's one big family, and no matter where you are in Athens, guys recognize you.

"That can seem like a bad thing, but to me that's the best thing, just knowing you belong to a community and they accept you."

Wheeler said it goes beyond the sports community, where he sees athletes on a daily basis at the training facilities or the academic support center.

"Everyone supports UGA . you don't just want to be friends with only athletes, you want to branch out, make new connections and make new friends," Wheeler said. "Because at some point the ball stops bouncing and you still have another 30, 40 years of your life left to live, hopefully.

"So coming into Georgia seeing that was really big, and I've really enjoyed that."

Hoop dreams

Wheeler understands what fans see when they look at basketball, in terms of it being a program that has made just one NCAA tourney appearance (2015) the past eight years.

"I think the media thing is to look at the record, and see a .500 team and say they are so-so and they're not going to be as good.' " Wheeler said. "But we have to look at it overall. Coach Crean's first year he didn't have 16 wins, he didn't have six or seven wins in SEC play, you have to look at the progress.

"It's not going to happen overnight."

Wheeler said the Bulldogs weren't counting themselves out of this year's SEC tournament.

Georgia opened play in Nashville in resounding fashion with an 18-point win over Ole Miss before COVID-19 concerns brought sports activity to a halt on March 12.

RELATED: How the Bulldogs dominated Ole Miss at SEC tourney

"I know we could have done some big things in that SEC tournament," Wheeler said. "I do think we have the legit pieces to come back, and guys are experienced.

"We're going to surprise even some Georgia fans by how well we're going to do."

Leadership 101

Crean recognized the 5-foot-8 Wheeler as more than just a top 100 prospect in the 2019 class during the recruiting process. He also saw him as a leader.

Wheeler helped hold last season's team together with his upbeat nature and charismatic presence.

It will be important for him to apply the same traits next season, with Anthony Edwards gone to the NBA and another shuffle underway with seven newcomers.

Wheeler takes it upon himself to continue to grow and find new ways to bring his team together.

"My teammates come from all walks of life," Wheeler said. "We have some guys who come from outside the country, some guys have been from unfortunate situations, as far as their childhood growing up, and we have some guys from two-parent households.

"So it's seeing what we all have in common, and seeing what can I do to better myself so I can serve them and make them feel they are a part of something."

The Georgia fans who set a new single-season attendance record at Stegeman Coliseum last season already appreciate what Wheeler brought to the floor.

Monday night's interview revealed Wheeler to be just as much of a leader in the UGA community.

DawgNation Georgia basketball

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WATCH: Georgia celebrates like crazy after Vandy win

Bulldogs score resounding win over No. 13 Auburn

UGA snaps four-game losing streak with Texas A&M win

Perplexing loss for Georgia basketball at Missouri

Georgia comes up short in hard-fought loss at Kentucky

Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, "been there a ton of times"

Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss

The post WATCH: Sahvir Wheeler weighs in on racial climate, Georgia campus environment appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • ATHENS Georgia football is focused on the 2020 season, but beyond that, the Bulldogs will be putting plenty more players in the NFL via the 2021 draft. Much of the offseason talk has been about graduate transfer quarterback Jamie Newman, who has been projected as a first-round pick. RELATED: How Georgia leadership group keeps team on track But Senior Bowl executive director and former NFL scout Jim Nagy says Georgia has another NFL prospect in the form of Tre' McKitty, a graduate transfer tight end from Florida State. 'Former Florida State TE Tre' McKitty caught 49 balls the past two years but he was still underused based off his talent, Nagy penned in a Tweet. 'He's an NFL guy.' Georgia is hoping McKitty is an immediate contributor with departed senior tight ends Charlie Woerner and Eli Wolf headed for NFL training camps. UGA signed highly-rated high school product Darnell Washington, but it can take freshmen time to learn a new offense. Particularly when there were no spring drills and the incoming freshman have not been able to work on football plays under the coaches' supervision. Redshirt sophomore John FitzPatrick is the leading returning pas catcher at the tight end position. He had just one catch last season that went for 22 yards against Murray State. RELATED: 3 things on Jamie Newman, while he's an impact player The 6-foot-5, 245-pound McKitty, a 3-star signees for the Seminoles out of the IMG Academy, was also offered a scholarship by Georgia coming out of high school. McKitty caught 23 passes for 241 yards last season. The season before, as s sophomore, McKitty had 26 catches for 256 yards. Former UGA coach Mark Richt, who offered McKitty a scholarship at Miami, told DawgNation how impressed he is with the new Bulldogs' transfer tight end. 'When we recruited McKitty at Miami, we thought he was a great player,' Richt said. 'He's very agile . has got good ball skills, and he's probably a better receiver than a blocker. 'But he's a willing blocker, and he's definitely a guy who can play.' Former Florida State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, who saw McKitty each day in practice, the past two seasons, also spoke well of McKitty. 'Tre' is the modern day tight end,' Barnett saod. 'The modern day tight end is a guy that is not necessarily a great run blocker he's a position blocker but he can run, and he can really catch.' Georgia players are in the midst of voluntary workouts, which consist of no more than eight hours per week of supervised non-football training. Kirby Smart and the UGA staff won't be allowed to oversee training until July 15. The Senior Bowl could play host to as many Georgia Bulldogs as it has had in quite some time with senior safety Richard LeCounte, senior middle linebacker Monty Rice, fifth-year senior Ben Cleveland and cornerback DJ Daniel all on the all-star game's radar. QB Jamie Newman isn't the only grad transfer the @seniorbowl expects to have a big impact on @GeorgiaFootball offense. Former Florida State TE Tr McKitty caught 49 balls past two years but he was still underused based off his talent. He's an NFL guy. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/YTPNRzobZG Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) July 3, 2020 Georgia football preseason stories Georgia football OL Jamaree Salyer weighty issue, eager to compete Richard LeCounte explains UGA has great chance for national title Jamie Newman on the clock, embracing UGA's elite defense D.J. Shockley shares take on UGA freshman QB Carson Beck Georgia projections, playmakers at receiver and running back Why Georgia must take advantage of new schedule more than others The post Georgia football graduate transfer TE Tre McKitty an NFL guy' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Every year the SEC shows once again that one of college football's most important arms races is the ability to acquire quality assistants. The energy and expertise these top lieutenants can provide can be invaluable on the field and in recruiting. With that in mind, here are the most important new faces in the league this year. 1 Todd Monken, Georgia offensive coordinator Monken is at UGA for a simple reason. His predecessor didn't get the job done. The Bulldogs offense was woeful in 2019 in the now-departed James Coley's lone season at the helm. UGA averaged just 30.8 points per game 7.1 points per game fewer than its 2018 average. Coley wasn't the only reason the offense sputtered, but few UGA fans shed tears when he didn't return. Now the pressure will be on Monken to add more punch to the offense a challenge made more difficult by the absence of spring practice due to the coronavirus lockdown. 2 Bo Pelini, LSU defensive coordinator An argument can be made that LSU's most important hire was Scott Linehan as a replacement for passing game coordinator Joe Brady who moved on to the Carolina Panthers during the offseason. Frankly, replacing Brady will be a tall task. It's unlikely LSU's offense comes close to matching the firepower Brady and quarterback Joe Burrow teamed up to provide last season. All the more reason Pelini who returns to his role as LSU defensive coordinator, a job he held from 2005-07 needs to establish a dominant unit. LSU is the reigning national champion, but defense was hardly the reason why. The Tigers were just 29th nationally in yards per play allowed last season. That number needs to improve this year. The good news is Pelini will have cornerback Derek Stingley at his disposal among the nation's best defensive players. 3 Mike Bobo, South Carolina offensive coordinator It was surprising to many that Bobo wanted to be the Gamecocks offensive coordinator after his tenure as Colorado State head coach came to an end. This is partially because some thought he might want to go back to his alma mater, UGA, and partially because some folks assume Bobo's new boss, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is squarely on the hot seat, and therefore could result in a short-tenured employment for Bobo. For what it's worth, UGA coach Kirby Smart has denied discussing a possible role for Bobo on his staff and Bobo has said he's excited about the challenge of rebuilding the Gamecocks offense. If Bobo's previous track record is an indicator, the rest of the SEC could soon be on notice. UGA was first in the SEC with 41.3 points per game in Bobo's last season as Bulldogs offensive coordinator in 2014. South Carolina might not quite match that feat this season, but a more experienced Ryan Hilinski at quarterback and the debut of freshman running back MarShawn Lloyd should enable Bobo to provide a major offensive upgrade. 4 Chad Morris, Auburn offensive coordinator Stop me if you've heard this before, but Auburn fans are curious if head coach Gus Malzahn will finally trust an offensive coordinator enough to delegate some authority. This has been a familiar story for the Tigers. The luxury of trust has been hard to come by for many in the role Morris will occupy under Malzahn. Two previous offensive coordinators left the Tigers for what appeared to be less attractive jobs. Rhett Lashlee became UConn offensive coordinator in 2017, and the freedom to run his own offense was cited as a reason for his departure. When Chip Lindsey left for Kansas (before eventually becoming head coach at Troy), it was widely assumed a tug of war with Malzahn had played into his decision as well. Will Malzahn grant to Morris what he's seemingly denied to others? One of the reasons pointing to yes is that Malzahn and Morris are long-time friends. Another is Morris' previous success as an offensive coordinator. Morris put up big numbers at Clemson prior to becoming SMU and Arkansas head coach, and was paid handsomely for his work. He, along with Malzahn, were the two highest paid offensive coordinators in the country in 2014 with a salary of $1.3 million. Morris will make less than that at Auburn, but will have a chance to prove to be a worthy investment for the Tigers. 5 Kendal Briles and Barry Odom Arkansas offensive and defensive coordinator New Arkansas coach Sam Pittman made quite a splash with his coordinator hires, and at least briefly calmed any concerns that might exist about his lack of experience as a head coach. Briles is a former Broyles Award finalist and Odom in addition to being known for producing stout defenses also provides a dose of SEC head coaching experience to the Razorbacks staff. For all the attention new Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has received, and for all the talk about what Mike Leach will do at Mississippi State, the first preseason for Pittman with the Razorbacks should be a warning that it could be Pittman, and not one of the new faces in the Magnolia State, who has the best debut season. The post The 5 most important new SEC coordinators appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS The Georgia football leadership group has helped steady the Bulldogs throughout the turbulent 2020 offseason, according to offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer. 'How we meet in our leadership group, it gives us a chance to hear different perspectives,' Salyer said in a recent Zoom video interview distributed to UGA donors. 'It gives us a chance to be raw, because everybody has feelings. Everybody has things they want to get off their chest.' Indeed, it has been a challenging time filled with social concerns emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest. The UGA players returned to campus and have been going through eight hours of voluntary workouts per week since June 8. Coach Kirby Smart and his staff won't be allowed to supervise workouts until July 17. They have been permitted eight hours per week of virtual meetings. That communication means more than ever. ESPN analyst and Georgia football legend David Pollack recently noted during an ESPN radio interview that 'it's a different world' for coaches and players. 'The younger generation, they are way more inclined to speak their mind,' Pollack said. 'This is a generation that's media-savvy . social-media savvy as it gets.' That could, in turn, lead to grievances being aired if not managed internally. Pollack points out every program has malcontents, and now there are s ocial media platforms. 'There's people at every institution, and when I was at the University of Georgia, I can pick our 15 to 20 players who were very unhappy with the situation because they didn't play as much as they wanted to, they didn't think they got a fair shot, and they thought they were mistreated, blah-blah-blah,' Pollack said. 'All those kids now, and all those adults now, are going to have an opportunity to speak out and say they were treated unfairly and they didn't get an opportunity.' Salyer, a junior who appears to be in line for captaincy, indicated UGA's leadership group helps mitigate potential team issues. 'I feel getting in those rooms and having a lot of older guys having a chance to talk and get out their feelings (helps), and then Coach Smart being able to listen to us and understand what we're saying, and sometimes implementing it into his plans that he has for the team,' Salyer said. 'It's coming together and meeting together and having our ideas aligned, that helps us a lot.' Georgia football preseason stories Georgia football OL Jamaree Salyer weighty issue, eager to compete Richard LeCounte explains UGA has great chance for national title Jamie Newman on the clock, embracing UGA's elite defense D.J. Shockley shares take on UGA freshman QB Carson Beck Georgia projections, playmakers at receiver and running back Why Georgia must take advantage of new schedule more than others The post Jamaree Salyer: Georgia football leadership group keeps team ideas aligned' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS There is no question every Georgia football fan, coach, player and everyone else associated with the program is eager for the Bulldogs to begin the season. The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper over 2020 and left everyone yearning for a dose of normal that football season could provide if kicked off on time. The Bulldogs are in the midst of voluntary workouts, with Coach Kirby Smart and his staff able to begin supervising them on July 15. Georgia is scheduled to open the season on Monday, Sept. 7, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta against Virginia. In hindsight, playing the game on Saturday Sept. 5 would be much, much better. For that matter, a home game would have been even more beneficial. That said, it surely seemed like a good idea in January of 2017 for Georgia to open the season on a Monday night against Virginiawith the neutral site game. No one could have known then what we have all been dealing with now, some 2 1/2 years later. The SEC announced in August of 2019 that the Bulldogs game at Alabama would be on Sept. 19 this season. That set up the Bulldogs to play three games in 13 days. And that means Georgia will have two days less time to prepare for that showdown than the Crimson Tide. One could argue it's really three less days, since Georgia has a travel day built in with the game being played in Tuscaloosa. So here's the cautionary tale involving Georgia rival Tennessee opening on a Monday night. Three years ago, the Vols were in the same situation with three games in 13 days to open the season. It was a concern of the Tennessee staff then, and, sure enough, in hindsight there was some second-guessing. The Vols beat Georgia Tech in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 42-41, in double-overtime on that Monday night. But less than two weeks later, Tennessee was back on the road traveling to play Florida for a key SEC matchup. It was a showdown with the Gators just 12 days later that proved to break the back of previous Vols coach Butch Jones. Florida won the game at The Swamp, 26-20, on the last play of regulation. Tennessee's goal-line offensive package faltered, and the defense designed for the final drive of the game had more breakdowns than was typical for a Bob Shoop defense. Could two days more rest or preparation have helped or made a difference at one of those critical junctures? It's also fair to wonder about programs giving up home games moving forward in the near future. The school may lose some surface contract money, but it has become clear there's a value to have money kept in the home community. After all, those student athletes, head coaches and athletic department employees rely on the local hospitals, authorities and businesses. The recent trying times brought about by COVID-19 have magnified the importance of helping to build the home community, and not just taking from it. Georgia football preseason stories Georgia football OL Jamaree Salyer weighty issue, eager to compete Richard LeCounte explains UGA has great chance for national title Jamie Newman on the clock, embracing UGA's elite defense D.J. Shockley shares take on UGA freshman QB Carson Beck Georgia projections, playmakers at receiver and running back Why Georgia must take advantage of new schedule more than others The post Monday night opener could come back to bite Georgia football at Alabama appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia wide receiver George Pickens' introduction to many UGA fans was the viral video of a dazzling catch made in a preseason scrimmage last August, but there's apparently a lot more to Pickens than what can be contained in a YouTube clip. Which is not to say the haul was unremarkable. It was so impressive that it even drew a compliment from notoriously hard-to-please coach Kirby Smart. 'This is a special player and a great catch,' Smart said at the time. 'He's had several one-handed catches in practice. He's a talented player.' It was also the beginning of what turned out to be an eventful freshman season for Pickens one in which he led the team with 727 receiving yards and eight touchdowns and became Sugar Bowl MVP by matching a UGA bowl record with 12 catches in the Bulldogs' win against Baylor. However, not all the attention Pickens received in his first year with the program was positive. He was ejected late in UGA's 52-7 win at Georgia Tech for an altercation with a Yellow Jackets player which resulted in Pickens being forced to sit out the first half of the SEC championship vs. LSU. UGA's key leaders were quick to point out that Pickens had erred in allowing his temper to get the best of him. 'That's a huge learned lesson for him not to do something dumb like that,' UGA linebacker Monty Rice said after the game. 'He's a vital part of the team, a vital part of the offense You see how productive he is. He can help us a lot. He's just got to be smarter.' The video from Pickens' fight became just as viral as his miraculous catch had been. And it became easy for some to define him in simplistic terms on the basis of these images as a player that was frequently noticed, but not always for the right reasons. Yet those who know Pickens better say there's a lot more to him than meets the eye. Former UGA wide receiver Sean Bailey is one of those people, and Bailey probably has as much insight into what it feels like to be Pickens as anyone could. Pickens was an elite recruit the No. 4 wide receiver in the country and the 24th rated prospect for the 2019 class. Bailey was an elite recruit too rated fifth as a receiver and 47th overall in 2003. Bailey shared his opinion on Pickens last week on DawgNation Daily and those thoughts extend beyond what can be conveyed in a video. 'Probably the biggest thing that stands out to me about him is that he truly loves football,' Bailey said. 'He loves to compete.' Bailey explained he saw that aspect of Pickens' demeanor while attending UGA practices. 'I've had the pleasure to watch several practices,' Bailey said. 'There are a lot of elite guys that are able to turn it on and turn it off, but when you have a guy that has it turned on all the time like George does at practice He's aggressive even when he's not getting the ball.' Pickens has credited his work on the practice field for why he enjoyed success during his freshman season, and has said being challenged by Smart and former UGA quarterback Jake Fromm during those practices was crucial in his development. '[Fromm] pushed me every day. Coach Smart pushed me every day to be the player I am today,' Pickens said after the Sugar Bowl. However, Bailey says Pickens was doing plenty of pushing of his own. 'He was extremely vocal. And this is as a freshman,' Bailey said. 'He's in it. He's competing every down, and not just in the pass game, but in the run game too when his job is to block and be aggressive. 'He's going 100 miles per hour, and you don't see this a lot at this position a prima donna' position. You've got a lot of athletes that like to catch balls and like to score touchdowns, but they don't want to get their hands dirty. George will go get his hands dirty in a heartbeat. He gets excited. He's thrilled to do it. Bailey is speaking of the way some wide receivers get bad reputations as players who seek glory and attention at the expense of being team-oriented. Bailey says Pickens isn't one of those guys. Pickens would probably agree. The mentality that he plays the game with is one that seems to value the physical aspects of football more than the typical receiver would. Pickens' first season at UGA while imperfect stands as validation of that point of view. 'It was a great season to me,' Pickens said. ' You win some. You lose some, but I feel like every day, every practice, every walkthrough we just fought. I like winning that way instead of winning the easy way. I like fighting for the win.' It's possible to like fighting too much, and perhaps at times last season Pickens did. However, more often than not, Pickens' fighting spirit will probably serve him well. And it could lead him and the Bulldogs to even more success in 2020. The post Former UGA star explains why George Pickens isn't a prima donna' WR appeared first on DawgNation.