ATHENS — Some quick notes on men’s basketball before the Georgia football team goes back out on Woodruff Practice Fields this afternoon.
Coach Mark Fox’s Bulldogs (4-3) resume play against archrival Georgia Tech (7-2) Saturday at noon at Stegeman Coliseum (SEC Network). Georgia has been off for final exams and will not have played for 11 days since a 74-64 win over Winthrop, when they face the Yellow Jackets.
Coach Fox and a few players were available for interviews on Thursday:
Saturday’s game will feature two of the best post players in the South as Georgia’s Yante Maten faces off against Tech’s Charles Mitchell. Maten, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore, has posted career-high outputs in four of the Bulldogs’ seven games this season. He had 24 points and 12 rebounds against Winthrop. Mitchell, a 6-8, 256-pound senior forward, is averaging 14.2 and 12.8 and recorded a double-double in every game this season.
“That’s certainly something people probably should talk about,” Fox said of the matchup.
I’ll be profiling Maten in advance of the game on DawgNation.com on Friday.
Kenny Gaines is back
Kenny Gaines, the Bulldogs’ dynamic scoring guard missed the Winthrop game with a knee injury. With his left leg now in a soft brace, Gaines has been able to practice with the team every day since workouts resumed and said he’ll be fine for the game.
“It was just a little injury, nothing too major,” said Gaines, a 6-3 senior who’s averaging 16.5 points per game. I had bumped knees with a player in one of the games and it affected me a little more than I expected. But I’ve been full go in practice every day, so I’ll be fine.”
Derek Ogbeide ready to step up
Georgia is also hoping to get more out of freshman forward Derek Ogbeide. The 6-8, 250-pound forward from Atlanta missed the first five games of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in practice. He played a total of five minutes in the last two games but appears ready to make a bigger contribution after the break.
“That obviously has been a real hurdle for us,” Fox said. “Derek has been maybe our most physical player. He’s a good player and not to have him has obviously forced us to adjust. But now that he’s back he still missed a month, and he hasn’t been able to practice. So there’s a lot of things he has to learn and has to experience. Derek is just getting started. Hopefully we can get him into a groove sooner rather than later; we just don’t know how long that’s going to take.”
Back to normal for Mann
The returns of Gaines and Ogbeide should provide some relief for Charles Mann. In addition to the absence of Juwan Parker (Achilles), the senior point guard has been forced to play all over the court for the Bulldogs. In fact, he played all five position in one of the Bulldogs’ recent games.
“And that’s just unfair to him,” Fox said. “He hasn’t found any rhythm because I’ve moved him around so much. But he’s so unselfish and been willing to do that and has not complained one time. I think he’s excited that we have more of a complete roster right now.”
The 6-5 senior is averaging 10.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Early wake-up call
Fox is still not happy with where the annual game with Georgia Tech is falling in the schedule. Once again, they’re having to play on campus when the students are home for Christmas, and he’s not real thrilled with that noon tip.
“Television dictated the start time. Television determines just about everything anymore,” Fox said. “It’s hopefully a time people can get to the game, but you never know. We don’t play a lot of noon games. But that’s what TV wanted.
“I am worried with the students gone. That’s an obvious concern. The thing is finding a date that works. Tech has the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which has been a little bit of a moving target. We have the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, which has been a moving target and has not moved into the New Year and bumped up pour start date. It’s just been hard to find a consistent date. The fact that we’re playing without our students in session is a little bit of a concern.”
It’s a critical game for the Bulldogs every year, but seems even more important this year. Tech has won the last four in a row under coach Brian Gregory.
“We’ve made a lot of progress with our program,” Fox said. “We’ve got to play better in this game than we have the past couple of years. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to play better than we’ve played.”