ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia men's basketball team kicks off its season Friday night with an exhibition game against Young Harris. This will mark the start of head coach Mark Fox's fourth season with the Bulldogs.
Fox hopes that his team will be able to relax playing in front of the fans.
"First time out, first time for this group to play under the lights, first time for our freshmen to play in front of their families and their friends here at Georgia.," Fox said. "Certainly we want to be able to just play in front of a crowd, relax and learn how to play in front of people. That's really not something we've done to this point yet."
Friday night also marks the first time Marcus Thornton will return to the Stegeman Coliseum court following knee surgery. The junior from Atlanta said that the main aim against Young Harris is to learn how to play together.
"We just want to establish ourselves as a unit, you look forward to putting everything together. I think that's the hardest part," Thornton said. "We just want to put it together as a whole, that's what we're probably looking forward to the most."
While Thornton will be returning to the Coliseum floor, for Georgia's four freshmen it will be a new experience. Guard Kenny Gaines said it is one that he is especially looking forward to.
"I'm really excited, it's really a dream come true," Gaines said. "I know a lot of people say that they're not really nervous and they're just ready to be out there and play but I am a little bit nervous. I'm just going to be trying to make sure I know all the plays offensively. Defensively I want to remember all the tendencies that we've been working on."
Under Fox the Bulldogs are 3-0 in exhibition games ahead of Friday's encounter. While saying he hopes his team adjusts to playing in front of people, Fox will also be looking ahead to the regular season opener against Jacksonville on Nov. 9th.
"We want to see if we can make some progress with what we're doing offensively and defensively," Fox said. "We'll play a couple of different line-ups to see how they work together and see how they perform. There are lots of things we want to look at the first time out."
Looking ahead to the regular season, Thornton said he believes this year's Bulldogs have the potential to improve upon last season's 15-17 overall record.
"I think we have a chance to be good. It's going to take a lot of different factors for us to be that but we have a lot of great pieces," Thornton said. "We have a team that loves to be around each other. I look forward to that and I look forward to competing with these guys."
On the sideline for Young Harris will be a familiar face to Georgia fans with the return of Pete Herrmann. Herrmann served six seasons as the Bulldogs associate head coach before being named interim head coach.
Fox is among those most looking forward to welcoming Herrmann to Stegeman Coliseum on Friday.
"When I went to Kansas State to be an assistant coach I took over the office that he vacated. I took over his desk there and then when he was interim coach here I stepped in and took over his desk a second time," Fox said. "He's a good man and this was a game that he really thought could help his team. Pete and I have had a good friendship and tomorrow can only enrich that."
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. and admission is free.
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