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David Edole

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Nicolas Claxton continues to grow in role at Georgia - Feb 2, 2019

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By Kelsey Russo, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For Georgia's Nicolas Claxton (211-SF-99), a lot has changed in a year. During his freshman season with the Bulldogs, he saw playing time and scored a handful of points per game. But he was not one of the team's leaders in any category.

Now as a sophomore, Claxton leads both the SEC and Georgia in blocks and rebounds. He has 186 total rebounds, averaging 9.3 per game, and 57 blocks, averaging 2.9 per game. He also leads the SEC in defensive rebounds, with 140 of his 186, averaging seven per game. As a sophomore, Claxton continues to be a key member of Georgia's starting lineup.

'That's something that (coach Tom Crean) is big on, just telling me to go out and change things up,' Claxton said. 'I feel like I've been a force defensively for us.'

Crean notices the continued improvement from Claxton on the court. He has started every game this season, and Crean said Claxton continues to play harder and for longer periods of time. Against Arkansas on Tuesday, he played for 29 minutes. He played the most minutes this season against Kentucky on Jan. 15, where he played 39. This season, he is averaging 30.5 minutes per game.

'I think that's a great key for a leader,' Crean said. 'I think, it's not about the experience because he is still very young, it's about understanding the game even better. And it's about understanding that the better he plays, the other players feel better with that, too.'

Claxton also adds success to Georgia's offense. He is the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 12.9 points per game.

Yet, with his demonstrated leadership and improvement, Crean is still looking for specific areas of his game to build consistency, specifically when moving without the ball and playing without fouling.

He wants players such as Claxton to be ready for anything on offense as well to score, move without the ball and be aware of what is happening on the court. He has to be prepared for physicality in the games, which will allow him to be confident in his abilities. This focus will help Claxton demonstrate leadership on the court.

As a sophomore, Claxton is still in the learning process. Claxton is able to contribute to the Bulldogs on offense and defense, but Crean said he is learning each day what he is capable of on the court.

Crean also sees Claxton's mental game growing stronger, a key component to having success on the court.

'He's being pushed to a high level, they all are being pushed to a level, he's being pushed to a level too because there is so much talent inside,' Crean said.

'And I think not getting frustrated with that, being able to work through the fatigue of that, being able to work through the disappointment of that, being able to overcome bad stretches - you know, don't let bad moments turn into bad days - I think that's the big thing for a team when you're trying to build a good team, is knowing there are going to be bad moments, but you can't let them override your thought process and how you keep improving during the day.'   

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