Transfer-heavy Georgia tips off campaign vs. FIU

NCAA Men's Basketball

Georgia will get another chance to see how it has been helped by the transfer portal when the new-look Bulldogs face Florida International on Tuesday in Athens, Ga.

The Bulldogs went 14-12 overall and 7-11 in Southeastern Conference play last season before losing all five starters. Four of the team’s starters transferred, including the two top scorers Sahvir Wheeler (Kentucky) and K.D. Johnson (Auburn). Georgia returns just five players from last year’s squad.

The team’s lone expected returning starter, forward P.J. Horne, sustained a season-ending knee injury last month. Horne played his first three seasons at Virginia Tech before starting every game for the Bulldogs last season, when he averaged 8.5 points and 3.4 rebounds to go along with a team-high 46 3-pointers.

Georgia will turn to an array of transfers this season.

Guard Aaron Cook, who averaged 4.2 points and 1.7 assists for Gonzaga last season, will be joined in the backcourt by Kairo Oquendo, who averaged 13.5 points at Florida Southwestern State. Forward Jabri Abdur-Rahim transferred from Virginia, Braelen Bridges arrived from Illinois-Chicago and graduate student Jailyn Ingram, who scored 1,334 points in his five seasons for Florida Atlantic, rounds out the frontcourt.

Ingram scored 19 points and Abdur-Rahim added 12 in the Bulldogs’ 76-65 loss at Charlotte in an exhibition on Oct. 24.

“We have a lot of new people, so people don’t know what to expect,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “I get it, but at the same time, it means nothing. We’ve been going through some very hard days and weeks of practice, and I love this team’s effort and determination. The togetherness and efficiency will come.”

Florida International went 9-17 last season, the Panthers’ worst campaign since going 7-24 in 2016-17. They finished at the bottom of Conference USA’s Eastern Division with a 2-15 mark.

Three of the team’s best players — Antonio Daye (Fordham), Dimon Carrigan (West Virginia) and Bernie Andre (UT Martin) — all transferred after the season.

The Panthers will rely heavily on guards Denver Jones, who averaged 19.1 points at Garden City (Kan.) Community College last season and Aquan Smart, who played sparingly at Maryland last season.

“Denver’s size, versatile skill set and aggressive mentality make him an ideal fit for our system and style of play,” Florida International coach Jeremy Ballard said.

Guards Dante Wilcox (4.0 points per game) and Petar Krivokapic (3.9 ppg) are the team’s top returning players, while the Panthers will hope freshman forwards CJ Kelley and Mohamed Sanogo can contribute immediately.

–Field Level Media

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