It was a different Mark Fox that took the stage Thursday during SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.
There was a certain sound of confidence in the voice of Trey Thompkins as well.
This time a year ago, media attending the day-long event were wondering who this Fox fellow was, and whether or not he actually had any players who could compete in the SEC. This year, many of the questions posed to the pair had to do with how far they believe the Bulldogs can go.
"If you asked anyone in this room where you want to be picked, top or bottom? Everyone will say the top. If you have expectations, that means you're doing your job right," Fox said. "We like the fact that people believe in our team. That being said, a year ago, I told our team not to believe what they heard from the outside, because no one thought we would be any good. This year, people think we're going to have a better team, and I've been telling them the same thing. We still have a lot of games to play and work to do. I keep telling them if they keep doing what they are asked to do everyday then everything will take care of itself."
So far, the Bulldogs are receiving a lot of love.
Florida was the media's favorite to win the East with 110 total points (13 first-place votes), ahead of second-place Kentucky's 95 points (three first-place votes). But right behind was Georgia (72 points) and Tennessee (71 points), which were separated by just one point while Vanderbilt and South Carolina rounded out the top six.
Meanwhile, Thompkins was the choice of the media for SEC Men's Basketball Player of the Year with 18 votes. Ole Miss senior Chris Warren (one vote) and Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight (one vote) also received votes in the Player of the Year voting. Bulldog Travis Leslie joined Thompkins on the Preseason All-SEC first team.
"Expectations are a blessing and they have provided motivation for our team. Our team has worked extremely hard and we continue to work really hard to meet those expectations," Thompkins said. "We don't have goals, but we have high expectations of each other. We expect to play hard every play and execute. We expect to play hard on the defensive end and that's all we can ask of each other right now."
Naturally, Fox has high expectations for Thompkins as well.
"All college athletes were successful in high school. You can be successful in high school with work habits that aren't conducive to be successful at the next level," Fox said. "One thing we've tried to instill in Trey is a good player shows up every day and a great player show up everyday and makes everyone around him better. He's never acted like a player with a bunch of accolades. With us he's been a guy that shows up everyday."
Thompkins is obviously excited about what the Bulldogs can accomplish in their upcoming campaign.
If he didn't, chances are he would have said yes to the NBA last April instead of returning to Georgia for his junior campaign.
"I thought about going to the NBA a lot. It was a pretty nerve racking. I understood that our team had a lot to offer this year and we could be a great team," Thompkins said. "I didn't want to leave Georgia without being known as a winner. I wanted to help start something that is going to be great."
Fox believes there's a chance.
But there's still plenty of work to do; including getting better on the road.
"We had two issues last year that significantly hurt us on the road. One was our depth. We weren't deep enough on the perimeter last year. I think all three perimeter players averaged more than thirty minutes a game. We were worn down a little bit," Fox said. "Our depth is something that we've addressed and we'll be better. The other thing and most important thing is the ability to get defensive stops. We have to be a better defensive team. Last year, we had to sit in a zone, and this year we don't have to do that. We should be a better defensive basketball team and that should help us win."
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