As Mark Fox looks back over the just completed basketball season, he does so with a lot of pride.
In just his second year, Fox led the Bulldogs to their first 20-win season in 13 years, posting a final record of 21-12, culminating with a trip to the NCAA Tournament where the Bulldogs lost in the first round to Washington.
Still, if you had asked Fox before the season whether or not he would have taken such a year, his answer would have been yes.
"Looking back if you had said we'd get into the tournament and win 20 games, I probably would have taken that," he said. "I know we lost lot of close games but we won more than we lost and the one thing about this group is we put ourselves in position to win every night. There are not many teams that are able enough to do that and for that I give us a great deal of credit - although it leaves us a hunger to do more."
Whatever the Bulldogs are able to accomplish next season, they'll have to do it without Trey Thompkins and possibly Travis Leslie.
Tuesday, Thompkins announced he will leave Georgia early for the NBA while Leslie will submit his name to the list of underclassmen, but will not hire an agent. Leslie will have until May 8 to decide whether or not he wants to turn pro or return for what would be his senior year.
"Travis is doing what he should do, find out what the NBA thinks about him and then he will make a decision with the right facts; make an educated decision," Fox said. "He's handled this decision very maturely, even as late as yesterday when he told me he couldn't come over because he's still working on a class project. I've been very pleased with how both those guys have handled the process."
Georgia began its spring drills Monday afternoon.
Fox said Leslie is participating, but it's a pair of rising sophomores who thus far have opened his eyes.
"Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams probably had the best two workouts of anybody we've got," Fox said. "It obviously makes us young up front but that's part of it, and we will work to make sure those guys develop as quickly as they can."
Getting five-star signees Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the fold is expected to ease some of the scoring loss felt by Thompkins' decision to leave.
Fox sounded like the Bulldogs could have used the Greenville, Ga. native last season.
"I thought one thing this team missed was probably one more perimeter shooter, who can make a basket and make an offensive play," Fox said. "I think he will give us some immediate scoring, but he's got to play on the other end (defense), too."
Along with Thompkins, the Bulldogs also lose seniors Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes. However, just because Georgia will likely be going with a smaller lineup, Fox said that might not necessarily be a detriment to what he wants to try and do.
"One thing we haven't been able to do since I came is play the style of defense that I want to play because we haven't been fast enough, quick enough or interchangeable enough to do that," Fox said. "Next year, there's a great chance we will look more like I want us to do defensively. We'll wait and see what (Leslie) does, but there is a chance we could do that."
Besides Thompkins and possibly Leslie, Fox said he does not expect to lose any players via transfer.
He may still add one or possibly two, as Fox confirmed Thompkins' exit leaves the Bulldogs with two more scholarships available for 2011 should Georgia decide to fill both this year.
Fox isn't allowed to speak about potential recruits, but former Tennessee signee Kevin Ware would be a possibility.
"A lot will depend on who is available and who we feel is best for our program," Fox said. "It's a long-term process so we'll make those decisions with that in mind."
Fox who recently began talking with athletic director Greg McGarity about an extension to the contract to the current deal that pays him $1.3 million per year through 2015, said he has no doubt the program is headed in the right direction.
He also intends to be at Georgia for a very long time.
"This is where I'm going to coach," he said. "The hardest thing I ever had to do was tell Luke Babbitt (Nevada AD) that was leaving because I told him I was going to be his coach and didn't keep my word. I only decided to take the Georgia job if they let me tell my team face to face. I know we've got a great challenge here, but it's also a great opportunity. I really feel we can do it here and I feel stronger about that than I did two years ago."
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