There is a saying in basketball: you cannot teach size. Some people are just born tall. While size is not everything in basketball, it is important.
A tall player with long arms has the ability to contest jump shots, rebound the ball and shoot over defenders easily.
This is the type of player that UC Davis is getting as they add Georgi Funtarov to the roster. Funtarov, who played high school basketball at Vermont Academy, is a 6-foot-8 guard/forward combo.
He has the ability to help the Aggies in so many ways, including stabilizing some of UC Davis’ deficiencies. At 6-foot-8, he has the height and the wingspan to clear the boards, a need for the Aggies due to the loss of graduating senior Ryan Howley. Howley was UC Davis’ leading rebounder, averaging 7.5 rebounds a game this year.
Funtarov has shown the ability to rebound during his high school career, highlighted by his seven rebounds per game average in his senior year. Hopefully, he will be able to pick up some of the slack in covering the rebounding gap that Howley leaves behind.
While Funtarov is capable of rebounding the basketball, the biggest weapon in his arsenal is his ability to score consistently. Shooting an outstanding 47 percent from the field on his way to averaging 13 points a game in his senior season, Funtarov has shown the ability to post up with extreme efficiency.
Funtarov’s incredible touch allows him to be able to shoot from beyond the three-point line with precision and his size allows him to post up down low and score some gritty baskets.
“UC Davis is getting a talented and versatile forward who can score the ball from the perimeter, to the block, depending on his matchup,” said Funtarov’s former coach, Ashley Battles.
His inside-outside capability on offense fits well with the Aggies’ offense. UC Davis’ proficient three-point shooting, shooting 40.5 percent as a team this year, highlights one of Funtarov’s greatest strengths: his three-point shooting. He shot 40 percent from beyond the arc this season as a senior.
“We love Georgi’s size, ability to shoot the ball and his competitive nature,” said UC Davis head coach Jim Les. “His versatility to play inside and outside is a perfect fit for our system.”
The combination of All-American sophomore Corey Hawkins, junior Ryan Sypkens, junior Tyler Les and Funtarov should be an exciting and very deadly perimeter-shooting quartet. With Hawkins, Sypkens and Les already combining to shoot an excellent 44 percent beyond the arc this season, the numbers should only get better with the addition of Funtarov.
Generally, freshmen take a stretch of games to get accustomed to the athleticism and speed of the college game. Funtarov may enter ready to play.
Funtarov has a lot of experience playing in intense international basketball. He was one of the members of the Bulgarian under-16 national team, which won the 2009 European Championship.
He continues this international experience as he once again represents Bulgaria. This time he will be part of the Bulgarian under-20 team in the European Championships.
“The ability to compete with the Bulgarian national team this summer will be a tremendous benefit to Georgi’s development as a player,” coach Les said. “The coaching and competition are outstanding and will help prepare him for Division I basketball.”
Funtarov will not be the only new player who hopes to help the Aggies improve on last season’s efforts. UC Davis has been able to secure Brynton Lemar’s letter of intent. Lemar has also received quite a bit of recognition as he was bestowed the San Diego Player of the Year award as well as an All-California selection this year. The duo are joined by junior transfers Avery Johnson and Iggy Nujic, both of whom sat out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations.
The UC Davis coaching staff has done a solid job in recruiting various talents to replenish the holes left by the graduating seniors. Hopefully, we can look forward to Funtarov and the rest of the new players impacting the game in a positive way for UC Davis next season.
KENNETH LING can be reached at email@example.com.