Overall rank: #11
Conference rank: SEC #2
A few more wins than last year and longtime Georgia coach Andy Landers might be ready to celebrate a milestone. Georgia won 23 games last year en route to an NCAA tournament appearance; if the Bulldogs win 27 games this year, Landers will have 800 victories at Georgia and be well on his way to 900 victories overall next season. Whether or not Landers can pull it off may be easier than you’d think, as Georgia survived offseason turmoil to come back strong. The Bulldogs are among the Southeastern Conference favorites thanks to a ton of returning talent.
2010-11: 23-11, 10-6
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost in regional semifinals to Texas A&M, 79-38)
Coach: Andy Landers, 855-280 overall, 773-259 at Georgia
Two players graduated from the Georgia roster. Jaleesa Rhoden, a 5-8 guard who was a redshirt senior last year, was listed on the roster but actually retired from playing due to injuries. If you listened to Georgia radio broadcasts last year, Rhoden actually was on the team covering the women’s games even though broadcasting was not her major (she served as an analyst). Porsha Phillips, a 6-2 forward, did play a ton of minutes and was a true double-double threat with 10.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. She also contributed just under a fifth of the team’s offensive rebounds (117 of 543), so the team needs to get some help in that department. Two other players left the team; 5-7 freshman guard Ronika Ransford and 6-4 freshman forward Arieal Johnson were dismissed by Landers in April for academic reasons. Ransford was dismissed outright while Johnson went on “indefinite suspension” but chose not to return.
Four players have replaced the two graduates and two dismissals, making it an even switch in terms of numbers. Two of the four players are junior-college transfers. Danielle Bennett is a 5-10 junior guard who played at Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College and averaged 16.2 points and 7.6 rebounds in her one season there. She played in 2009-10 at SIU-Edwardsville. Marisela Rodriguez, a 6-4 junior forward, leaves Garden City Community College for the Athens campus, and she averaged 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds as a sophomore. Krista Donald, a 5-11 freshman, can play all five positions if asked; she was a prolific scorer (2,456) and rebounder (1,470) during her time at Lake High School in Lake, Mississippi. Erika Ford, a 5-9 freshman from in-state Alpharetta, suffered a stress fracture in her left leg early last season but returned for the state’s 7AAAA tournament. She is Chattahoochee High School’s all-time leading scorer.
Who to Watch:
If your name is Jasmine, chances are you’re a go-to player on the Georgia roster. Two Jasmines, Hassell and James, will be ones to watch in 2011-12. Jasmine James, a 5-9 junior guard, was a second-team all-SEC selection by league coaches after leading the team in scoring and assists. Jasmine Hassell, a 6-2 forward, was the third-leading scorer at 9.6 points per game. Also keep an eye on 5-9 sophomore guard Khaalidah Miller, whose 9.1 scoring average ranked fourth on the roster.
The players Landers brought in are better than the ones being replaced simply because they can score. Injuries dogged Rhoden, while academics did in Ransford and Johnson. Simply put, all Landers has to do is replace Phillips’ double-double capabilities. He may have found the scoring, and if the Bulldogs can put the other intangibles together it could be an outstanding season in Athens.
Aside from two trips to Las Vegas for tournaments, all of the non-conference action takes place in Georgia. The Bulldogs have five games at home and trips to Macon and Statesboro lined up for games against Mercer and Georgia Southern, respectively. Georgia plays Tennessee, the SEC favorite, twice in January (the 5th and 29th).
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected starting Five:
Jasmine Hassell, Forward, Junior, 9.6 points per game last year
Jasmine James, Guard, Junior, led team with 118 assists
Khaalidah Miller, Guard, Sophomore, leading 3-point shooter (32.5 percent, 53-for-153)
Danielle Bennett, Guard, Junior, 16.2 points per game at Hillsborough CC last year
Marisela Rodriguez, Forward, Junior, transfer from Garden City (Kansas) CC