ATHENS — It appears that if Georgia gets its best player back this season, it won’t be until the SEC Tournament.
Star power forward Yante Maten has a “very significant” sprain, head coach Mark Fox clarified on Monday, and the odds are “very slim” he will make it back during the final two weeks of the regular season.
“It is a very significant sprain, so it’s a serious injury and I don’t think our medical people or myself have any expectation of Yante returning during the regular season. The odds of that are very slim,” Fox said Monday during the SEC teleconference.
Georgia (15-12 overall, 6-8 in the SEC) plays at Alabama on Thursday, followed by home games against LSU and Auburn, and a trip to Arkansas.
Maten was diagnosed with a right knee sprain, the team announced Sunday, after he left the game Saturday against Kentucky. While Maten left 95 seconds into the game, his team still played well enough to hold a two-point lead with 55 seconds left, before falling 82-77.
A junior, Maten leads Georgia in points and is second in rebounds. He is among the SEC leaders in those categories, too. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds, even accounting for the Kentucky game, in which he didn’t record any stats before the injury.
Fox, speaking of Maten’s loss, mentioned the Bulldogs having to “reinvent” themselves.
“We’ve, obviously, played fairly well without him the other night. We’ve played pretty well in the short stretch at Tennessee without him. So, it can be done,” Fox said, alluding to the victory at Tennessee on Feb. 11 when Maten fouled out with several minutes left.
“But, obviously, he’s been the most consistent player on our team, so we’re going to have to probably look at some things for the rotation, obviously, and how we play to compensate for the fact that he’s going to be out. Because we’re a different team without him. I think if you went into any game this year, one of the keys for the opponent would be to stop Maten. Well, that obviously is not an issue anymore because he’s not playing. We’ll have to get creative in how we play and try to give ourselves chances to win.”