ATHENS — Georgia may have moved on from not making the NCAA tournament. The question now is whether it will have to play in the NIT without its leading scorer.
Point guard J.J. Frazier has not practiced the past couple days because of what head coach Mark Fox called “a pretty significant sprain in his foot.” Frazier re-injured the foot in Saturday’s SEC semifinal loss to Kentucky, but he has not been ruled in or out for Wednesday’s NIT home game against Belmont.
“A little bit before the game we will make a decision,” Fox said. “He won’t come out of that boot until (Wednesday) afternoon, just to test it and see.”
Fox said Frazier sitting out practice was “not precautionary. He’s just not able to practice.”
Frazier leads Georgia with 17 points per game, and was named to the All-SEC tournament first team on Sunday, the only player not from Kentucky or Texas A&M to make it.
Fox said a decision hasn’t been made on who would replace Frazier in the starting lineup. They could go with freshman Turtle Jackson, who had nine points off the bench against Kentucky in his first extended action this season.
“We always felt like he could play,” Fox said. “There’s been a hard time finding his minutes, but he played very well, and hopefully it gives him more confidence as he moves forward.”
Georgia (19-13) will be looking to extend its season when it faces Belmont (20-11) on Wednesday night. Whenever a power-conference team like Georgia plays in the NIT after harboring NCAA hopes, the question becomes one of motivation.
For what it’s worth, two of the team’s other starters said that shouldn’t be an issue.
“We’re excited about getting our 20th win, which would definitely be key for three, four or five of us, being able to play on three 20-win seasons,” said senior Kenny Gaines, one of five upperclassmen on the roster.
Sophomore forward Yante Maten said he thinks the team has “accepted” its fate, and is now excited to keep playing. Georgia has won five of its past six, but that was while the team was trying to make a run to the NCAA tournament. What about now?
“That was definitely heart,” Maten said. “We were determined that we needed some wins, bad, and we were determined that we were going to do it. Hopefully we learned from that as a team and can play with that determination all the time. We don’t need to have our backs against the wall, per se.
“It’s still a win and go home thing.”