March 9, 2011

SEC Tournament notebook

ATLANTA - Heavy rain pelted down on the roof at the Georgia Dome roof during Georgia's shootaround early Thursday afternoon.

The noise was so loud, it caused senior forward Chris Barnes to cast his eyes upward.

"That brought back a lot of memories," Barnes laughed. "When I heard the rain I looked up at the scoreboard to see if it was swaying back and forth."

Don't laugh.

The last time Georgia's basketball played in the Georgia Dome was during 2008 SEC Tourney. For those who may have forgotten, that's the year a, F-2 tornado struck downtown Atlanta, including the Georgia Dome while Alabama was playing Mississippi State in the first round.

Of course, the Bulldogs went on to capture the SEC Tourney championship that season as Barnes and fellow senior Jeremy Price were freshmen during that remarkable journey, which saw Georgia win three games in a 30-hour span - including two in one day - before taking the championship and an unlikely NCAA Tournament Berth.
"That weekend, that tournament; that was crazy," Price said. "We played two games in one day - nobody in college basketball does that, then to be back in this building … it's wild."

Ironically, the locker room Georgia used Wednesday is the same one the Bulldogs were using when the tornado hit.

"We were walking out when they told us to get back into the locker room. We saw the two teams that were playing coming off the court before they were supposed to. We didn't know what was going on," Price said. "I had family texting me while we were out there, saying the scoreboard was swaying real hard and things were coming down. It was definitely surreal. It's kind of a blur now; I still can't believe it happened the way it did."

The sight of seeing the scoreboard sway and pieces start to fall off the roof was something Barnes said he will never forget.

"To look up and see the roof start to tear apart …," Barnes said. "It's something I'll never forget. The funny thing was, right up until that time, it was a beautiful day."

Although nobody hopes to see any tornados this time, Barnes and the Bulldogs would love to be able to come away with another tournament crown.

"It would be great," he said. "We've just got to play the way we're capable. We've got a good rebounding team and we can shoot the ball. We've just got to cut the turnovers and play the best we can."

Thompkins says he's ready

Although teammates say Trey Thompkins is still feeling some pain, the junior said Wednesday there will be no problems when the Bulldogs take the court Thursday against Auburn.

"It's a blessing to be here and as far as my foot goes it's 100 percent," Thompkins said during Wednesday's post-practice press conference.

It's been a difficult year injury-wise for Thompkins, who was out of a action for a month nursing a high-ankle sprain, and later fought through a banged-up knee, shoulder and his recent bout with an ingrown toenail.

But through it all, Thompkins was still voted by the league coaches to a spot on the All-SEC Team after averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

"Right now I feel I'm as healthy as I've ever been. Our training staff has done a great job of getting me out there and ready to play. But as far as frustration, I wouldn't say that," he said. "I'm a little bit disappointed in that I wish some things had gone a different way. But that's how things happen sometimes. I can't control that, all I can do is keep playing."

Depth perception no problem for Ware

Shooting in the vast expanse of the Georgia Dome can sometimes be a problem for players who haven't played in such venues, but Bulldog guard Dustin Ware doesn't anticipate any problems.

"It was definitely different shooting in a big arena," Ware said after his team's shoot-around. "But it's still the same court, the goal is still 10 feet, so it's the same old thing, just going out there and being prepared."

Ware leads the Bulldogs in three-point shooting and is third in the SEC with a .454 percentage (30-for-54).

Fox still wants tourney re-seeded

One of the questions many media and coaches have been asking themselves, is whether or not the SEC should re-seed the conference tournament once the regular season is complete.

Fox made it clear where he stands on the matter.

"I voted to change the format last year. I supported to change it a year ago and this year has not changed my stance on that. I really feel that we need to take a hard look at it. We've got great leadership in this conference and I think that if we do go to one division or re-seed the tournament, or both, that it has to be done the right way," Fox said. "It's not out of the picture to think that scheduling will change. If you go away from divisions, why should you still schedule divisions? I think there's a lot of things that have to be evaluated and that's for the leadership to handle. But I think it's probably time to take a look at it."

This and that

All of Thursday and Friday games will be shown on the SEC Network with contests Saturday and Sunday slated to be shown on ABC. … Marcus Thornton practiced with a wrap on his right arm Wednesday but said he will play against Auburn. … The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with Auburn 88-87.

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