NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Georgia star Yante Maten looks ready to play, and he and his coach both believe he will play in the SEC tournament.
“Barrina any setback overnight, we hope to have him play,” head coach Mark Fox said after Wednesday’s practice, which was open to the media. “Obviously we don’t need a setback overnight, any swelling or anything like that. But he’s continued to make progress and it’s good to see him out there.”
Maten, who has missed the past four games with a sprained knee, said the pain was now “miniscule,” and “discomfort” more than anything. He said he didn’t know how many minutes he would play.
“I just know that like when I was healthy I’m going to do my best to help my team, any way possible,” Maten said.
A junior forward, Maten has missed the past four games after spraining his knee 95 seconds into the team’s loss to Kentucky. Georgia went 3-1 without him, but was routed in the regular season finale at Arkansas.
No. 8 seed Georgia (18-13) faces ninth-seeded Tennessee (16-15) on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, with the winner getting top-seeded Kentucky on Friday.
How many minutes would Maten play? Fox said there wouldn’t be any specific restriction, and that there also wasn’t risk of aggravating the injury. The decision to clear him was made after Tuesday’s practice in Athens.
At Wednesday’s practice, Maten was doing everything, though since it was a public viewing it was far from a full-fledged practice. He was wearing a brace on his right knee, but was cutting and moving without any obvious pain.
“He seems to be moving a lot better,” junior forward Juwan Parker said. “You talk to him and he said he’s moving better, feeling good.”
Yante Maten going to the rim during Wednesday’s practice. (SETH EMERSON)
When the team went through a half-court offensive drill, Maten wasn’t in the starting five: That was the same starting five as the previous few games, with Derek Ogbeide at center and E’Torrion Wilridge at power forward. (Turtle Jackson at the point guard, J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker rounding out the lineup.)
But Maten was with the next group that went in. Fox also indicated that the lineups may look different when the team plays Thursday.
“When you’re playing well and it’s taken from you, you want to get back to where you were,” Maten said. “You know, not everything in life you can control. You’ve got to do your best to get back to not just where you were, but better than you were.”
Maten said he also lobbied at halftime of Saturday’s loss at ARkansas to get into the game.
“I did a little bit,” Maten said, laughing. “I said I may not be able to be my old self quite yet, but I felt I could contribute in some type of way. But that’s any player who gets hurt. They want to get back on the court real bad.”